Kota Kinabalu in 3 Hours

I was just browsing through old travel photos and I can’t help but be amazed at how my daughter has grown. Travel played a huge part on who she is now. Travel has shaped her, opened her eyes to different cultures, people and environment. I’ve been traveling with my daughter ever since she turned 5.  If we include local trips, her first legit travel would probably be when she was a month old… to Baguio!  She’s now 12. But Adventurous MG has only been online December of last year and I’ve only been posting religiously last month. So imagine the years of travel I’ve been planning to write about.

MG (6 years old) at Sapi Island in Sabah


Here she is now at 12 during our Singapore trip (June 2016)

Was it worth all the early morning flights, the missed buses and trains, unpredictable weather and people and all the sacrifices to catch up on lessons and activities in school? Yes! The world is the bigger and much better classroom anyone could hope to experience and learn from.

Nothing beats travel with your loved ones.

Back to my backlog…I’m going to start with Kota Kinabalu.  Why KK?  It’s the first out of the country trip with my father, son and daughter — the 3 most important people in my life!  It still remains the most memorable vacation.  It was a fun, educational and meaningful 6 days only because I was with family!

Our cab driver/tour guide showing us key sights of the city.

Let me start with our tour of the city which I chose to DIY.  In Kota Kinabalu, tourism is already at its peak with plenty of travel agencies including hotels offering tours to the city, Mt. Kinabalu hike, Firefly with dinner tour, cultural shows and even zoo visits. But I got a cab driver to take us to different landmarks within the city proper and we only paid 90RM for 3 hours versus 90RM per person if we booked through a travel agency.   I saved 270RM in the process.

Atkinsons Clock Tower



Firing up our city adventure is the Atkinson Clock Tower.  It is one of the city’s oldest standing historical landmarks. Built more than a century ago, its antiquity would make anyone feel a bit nostalgic.  Tourists pay respects to this tower as it stands as a silent witness to the finest and darkest days of Kota Kinabalu.


Signal Hill Observatory



The view from the Signal Hill Observatory

Not far is the Signal Hill Observatory which is nestled in the highest point of the city. Just a few minutes drive from Padang Merdeka is a view deck that offers the most idyllic spot for overlooking panoramas of the Kota Kinabalu, the South China Sea and the other outlying islands.


City Mosque 


Worship area. Guests are not allowed to step on the carpet.
Proper and modest attire is required when visiting a mosque. No shorts, no sleeveless shirts or tank tops. Attendants can provide robes and are free of charge.

Creating a floating perspective at Likas Bay, Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is one of the best examples of Islamic architecture. Its vast perimeter shelters three madrasahs (Muslim schools) and accommodates around 12, 000 Muslim worshippers at any given time. It is an enormous house of worship.

University of Malaysia



Stunningly cuddled on a hill facing the South China Sea at Sepanggar Bay is the University of Malaysia. It is among the largest, most beautiful and most sought after universities in Sabah.


Mustapha Building

Mustapha Building


Another historical emblem in the heart of the city is the Mustapha Building. It houses a gallery that pays tribute to a visionary leader and one of Sabah’s first Head of State – Tun Mustapha. A showcase of interesting information and assorted memorabilia are all exhibited to commemorate Mustapha’s legacy.  Plus this whole building makes a 360 degree rotation per hour.


Puh Toh Tze Chinese Temple



one of 10 gigantic deities

Not to miss is the intricate architecture of Puh Toh Tze Chinese temple. Found on its overwhelming façade are the ten gigantic statues of deities. Reflecting the rich multiculturalism of Sabah.


Sabah State Museum

Vintage cars

Our final stop is the Sabah State Museum. It could be the last destination but absolutely not the least place to enjoy. Filled with various historical and cultural items, this museum outstandingly immortalizes the richness of Sabah’s early way of life.

Getting through this urban sprawl is another amazing reminiscence that my family and I will surely cherish. Kota Kinabalu truly offers an enlightening milieu of architectural, cultural, and historical landmarks. It is a laid-back counterpart of bustling Kuala Lumpur or Penang.  It is indeed a city that captured our hearts. I can’t wait to go back soon and see what’s new and get a taste of Sin Kee’s Bak Kuh Teh again and go out of the city center and explore Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Spring.


Not fond of DIY tours?  You can join one of these tours, and don’t forget to compare hotels, vacation rentalsrooms, or even homes for your trip before you go. And never leave home without Travel Insurance!

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  1. […] now I’m in the mood to write about Kota Kinabalu again.  In fact, I just wrote about a DIY Kota Kinabalu city tour you can do in under 3 hours.  Since it’s 6 years ago, I’m finding it hard to recall […]

  2. […] TIP:  You can see most city sights in Kota Kinabalu in 3 hours. How?  Find out HERE! […]

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