Welcome to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia!
A city surrounded by emerald rainforests and turquoise waters, Kota Kinabalu is perfectly placed off the beaten path. Nestled in the island of Borneo, which is full of amazing natural wonders, Kota Kinabalu is a nature lover’s dream, with unlimited access to breathtaking national parks and relaxing beaches. Worldwide locals can also enjoy the city’s fascinating culture and friendly people while avoiding the crowds of tourists who land daily at Kota Kinabalu Airport. This is an insider’s guide to Borneo’s top city, simply known locally as KK.
Religion and Culture in Kota Kinabalu
With religion being an integral part of Malaysia, you can experience the local culture by visiting one of Kota Kinabalu’s many mosques. However, one stands out as being dubbed as the “floating mosque.” Kota Kinabalu City Mosque may be the city’s second mosque, but it is the most picturesque. Beautifully seated on a serene man-made lagoon, its shimmering blue dome and towering spires appear to be floating when viewed at certain angles. Non-muslims are welcome to enter and explore its interior for free, except during prayer times, as long as they are sure to wear appropriate clothing.
Worldwide Local Tip: Kota Kinabalu has been recognized by Huffington Post in 2014 as one of the best places to experience the sun slowly disappearing under the horizon. Get comfortable in one of the many places to catch a dramatic backdrop--from the KK Waterfront to the Tanjung Aru Beach, you are guaranteed to see magnificent views of the sunset. You can also hop on a sunset cruise and relax on the water, enjoying the Kota Kinabalu weather as you wait for the sun to go down.
Learn about the Indigenous Malaysians
On the eastern outskirts of the city, in the heart of the remote forest, is a village that provides an exclusive insight on the life of the 5 indigenous tribes in the area. The Mari Mari Cultural Village organizes tours that take you away from the modern, hectic life of the city to a tranquil escape in the untouched nature. The village maintains the local culture, preserving a way of life that is slowly disappearing, from traditional performances to seeing the simple lifestyle of the tribespeople. Learning about the people of the forest is one of the most fascinating things to do in Kota Kinabalu.
Worldwide Local Tip: Tarap fruit is a local favorite and is native to the rugged island of Borneo. Savor the unique taste of the sweet and succulent fruit, which can be found aplenty from street vendors and markets.
Visit a Malaysian Market
Markets in Kota Kinabalu are stimulating experiences, with locals flocking to grab a good deal or taste delicious food. Donggongon Market is an open-air bazaar, a cultural hub in the city where you can find almost anything, from rare merchandise to local delectable delicacies. Experience the exhilarating rush of bright colors, aromatic smells, and the sound of locals chasing for the ultimate bargain.
Worldwide Local Tip: Let Kota Kinabalu turn your world upside down when you visit the Rumah Terbalik. Literally translating to “the upside-down house,” it is a peculiar building that has been flipped, standing with its roof firmly on the ground. This is a unique attraction, with only 5 similar structures in the world. Its inverted hallways and rooms will leave your brain confused!
Have a Wonderful Time in Kota Kinabalu!
More than just a gateway to dense tropical forests and enchanting mountains of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu is a hidden gem in the middle of Borneo. A sprawling metropolis, complete with a compelling mix of cultures and welcoming locals, this city is the perfect place for worldwide locals to get lost in.