Spend An Extra Long Weekend In Kota Kinabalu For Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year public holiday is poised to provide room for another longer weekend.
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 1st February, with the following day also gazetted as a public holiday. Ideally, this means that applying for leave on 31st January will give you a whole five days away from the office.
Although this holiday destination is in Malaysia, you need to add the cost of a plane ticket to get here from Peninsular Malaysia. For this, be prepared to add another RM600 – RM900 per pax for the round trip ticket to your budget for this vacation in East Malaysia, depending on when you book your ticket as Chinese New Year season is a peak travel season.
Since you are going all the way across to the South China Sea, it’s best to spend more than a day or two on this holiday. Although your expenses for food and accommodation will increase as well, its well worth the trip. If you are able to share transport and accommodation costs, its possible to bring your total expenses for a 5-day visit in at under RM1000
***Travel SOPs to Sabah***
- Apart from being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, all guests flying to Sabah (including Sabah citizens) are required to present a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR or RTK-Ag test result that is valid for 3 days prior to departure, before being accepted for boarding.
- Travellers 12-18 years old must have received at least one dose of the two-dose Covid-19 vaccine, and children under the age of 12 to be accompanied by fully vaccinated parents or guardians.
- For non-Malaysians, those allowed conditional entry are spouses or dependents of Sabahans, permanent residents of Sabah, essential service workers and their dependents, visiting investors under invitation by the state government, temporary pass holders, Malaysia My Second Home – Sabah visa holders and higher learning institute students who meet the requirements.
- Non-Malaysians such as diplomats and expatriates including dependents currently residing in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Labuan, non-Sabah MyPR / Entry Permit Card / Entry Permit holders endorsed in the passports are allowed to enter Sabah for social visits without requiring special entry approval. However, they must have a valid immigration pass or passport to enter the state.
- Other non-Malaysians who are still not permitted to enter must file an application to the Chief Minister’s Department to be considered for a special approval. Visit hednp.sabah.gov.my to get a list of sub-categories allowed to apply for entry into Sabah.
For the latest and complete travel SOPs to Sabah, click here.
So let’s say you’re going on a five day trip. Here’s a roundup of the top sights in Kota Kinabalu.
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.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
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.
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.
Another two full days of sightseeing and excitement await you. 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.