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Chapter 2

[Updated] Spend An Extra Long Weekend In Kota Kinabalu For Chinese New Year

Federal Territory DayWeekendWeekendLeaveChinese New YearChinese New YearLeave LeaveWeekendWeekend

The Chinese New Year public holiday is poised to provide room for an even longer weekend; especially if you happen to work in a Federal Territory.

This would make for a great time to explore Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton. It’s exotic, historical, Instagram-worthy, and far away enough from the bustle of daily life for you to properly unwind.

Chinese New Year begins on 5 February, with the following day also gazetted as a public holiday. Ideally, this means that applying for leave on 4, 7, and 8 February will give you a whole nine days away from the office. Ten days if you also get Federal Territory Day (1 February) off as well.


But let’s be reasonable, you want a couple of days to just sleep in. So let’s say you’re going on a five day trip.

Budget for a 5-day trip
Flight tickets (return)RM620 (AirAsia)
Transport, Food, & ShoppingRM800
Lodging (4 nights)RM980 (mid-range hotel)
Overall costsRM2400

The city of Kota Kinabalu is rather spread out, and you’ll end up having to travel quite a bit to see the sights. In this case, you’ll need to budget a little extra for transportation costs. Also, the activities are not necessarily cheap, seeing that many of them are located outside of the city centre.

It also serves as the main gateway for the more adventurous tourist heading to conquer Mount Kinabalu but that is a story for another long weekend.

Kota Kinabalu in 5 days


Your first day in town should be taking it easy. Take a walk around and enjoy the sights before diving into everything KK has to offer.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Jesselton Point Waterfront: A walk along this famous boardwalk is the perfect way to start your holiday. There’s a variety of stores and cafes along the jetty, giving you the opportunity to relax and watch the ferries and boats as they ply the waterfront.

Gaya Street (Chinatown): Mainly known as Gaya Street, there has been an effort from the local council to rebrand it as Chinatown. It’s mainly known for the Sunday market, but there’s still plenty for tourists to see among the numerous cafes and restaurants.

Tues, Wednesday, Thursday

Three full days of sightseeing and excitement await you here. It all depends on what you’re into at this point, but here are some thoughts about what you should look into. Many of these are a located outside the town, so they may become whole day events if you decide to look into them.

Signal Hill Observatory/Atkinson Clock Tower: This is a good place to start your KK adventure. The Signal Hill Observatory overlooks most of the town, and you can see all the way out to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park on a clear day. Perfect for getting a feel for what you’re about to get into.

While you’re up there, you might as well also pay the Atkinson Clock Tower (the oldest structure in Kota Kinabalu) a visit.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: Encompassing five islands off the coast of Sabah, the TAR Marine Park offers a wide range of activities. Play on the white sandy beaches, go snorkeling among the marine life, or even spend the night at one of the many chalets. The more adventurous can even try camping out for a couple of nights.

Kiulu River (white water rafting): At 15km long, this is the longest white water rafting trip available in Borneo. It takes up to two hours to navigate the medium strength rapids, and is considered safe for beginners. A barbeque is served at the finishing line as a reward for braving the rushing waters.

Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve: Not technically located in Kota Kinabalu, the Klias Forest Reserve is roughly 100 km southwest of the city centre. The one day safari covers wetlands that are home to various species of monkey, lemur, tropical birds, and nocturnal fireflies.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Monsopiad Cultural Village: This traditional Kadazan village is a great place to catch up on your local culture. Get a feel for what the people of Sabah are like, their food, history, and about one of their most famous warriors. Monsopiad was renowned as a headhunter, and his descendants maintain his former home as a museum for visitors. The exhibits are very real here, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Tanjung Aru Beach: Maybe you’re not interested in heading out to sea to look for marine life. Instead, head over to Tanjung Aru beach to take a break and play in the surf. The area is popular with tourists looking to watch the sunset as well. Cafes and restaurants can be located along the beachfront, giving you plenty of opportunity to take those snapshots for social media.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Petagas War Memorial: The memorial is a good place to spend a few moments to reflect on life before going back to the grind of daily life. This monument commemorates the failed Jesselton Revolt, where a group of rebels attempted to free the city from Japanese occupation in late 1943.

The entire rebellion was eventually executed by the Japanese, but their names are recorded here for future generations to remember those who were willing to die for their freedom.

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