Swimming with Kimono Dragons

Trip Start Feb 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Sunday, August 15, 2010

The climb down Mount Kinabalu was tough, and we were more than relieved to be back in the city in a comfortable Hyatt bed. When you live in densely populated cities, especially in Asia, small luxuries like a bathtub you can stretch out in are divine. I could have stayed in that room for 2 days and been happy as a lark.

The city of Kota Kinabalu is not exactly a bustling metropolis, rather a relaxed backpacker's hub for people on their way to the mountain, rainforest, or river. You can walk the length of the city in about 20 minutes. There is, however, a marine park in the South China Sea just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, only 15 minutes by ferry. After a good 12 hour rest (no kidding), we visited the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. There are 5 islands to choose from, with Manukan and Sapi being the largest and most frequently visited. Manukan has a resort also owned by Sutera, so the presence of this place naturally makes it a tourist hub. We steered clear of this island and Sapi, which is the top choice for locals on a weekend, hence, not a place you typically find peace and quiet on a Saturday. Camping is available on both Sapi and Mamutik, with tents and snorkeling gear for rent on both islands.

We passed a lovely day in Mamutik and though the island was small, we didn't feel it was overcrowded, even on a Saturday. There's a path for hiking through the jungle and even a seafood buffet on offer for 55 MYR. Sabah is acclaimed for its fresh seafood, which you should definitely sample when on holiday here. My favorite part of the day came when we saw the monitor lizard. Daniel kept mistakenly referring to it as a kimono dragon, which made the story even better!

We first saw the beast on top of the rubbish heap, but then, as we were lazing on the shore, we heard shuffling around us. Suddenly, the lizard waddled out of the jungle and into the water, seemingly oblivious to the crowd of foreign species crowding around it. It glided along the boast much more gracefully than it crossed over land, and after a short dip, it made it's way back into the jungle. There were also some adorable little beach birds on the island.

The remainder of our stay was filled with bargain priced massage sessions and even a night on the "town." A few bars are scattered along Jesselton Point, and many locals gather on the pier to have coffees, desserts, and shisha pipes. This being a primarily Muslim nation, they don't drink too much alcohol, though it is sold in Western style bars. Shenanigans, the pub at the Hyatt, is actually a top nightlife destination in town.

3 days and 3 massages later, it was time to go home. Another great trip to Malaysia. Incidentally, our legs were still sore when we boarded the plane. Perhaps next time we'll do some actual training before climbing a mountain.
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