Kota Kinabalu, a Photo Essay

The last 14 days, I’ve been in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo. It’s a good chance to practice my photography skill. All of these photos are taken with Sony RX100 and converted from RAW using Capture One.

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Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the Sabah State. One of the three Malaysian states in Borneo island. The other state is Sarawak and Labuan.

Do you know that there are three nations in just this island?

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It’s a cool little Malaysian city. The city center doesn’t have a very high skyline. But, that doesn’t make this city boring. Quite the opposite. Small city like this has a better identity than big cities, as culture assimilation is more prominent in big cities.

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In the south of the city, around 300 meters from the shore, there is a hill. On top of that hill, there is an observatory platform, which is a great way to observe Kota Kinabalu skyline.

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Speaking about culture, there are three major ethnics in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, and Indian. When you go to the Peninsular Malaysia you can observe that.

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However, here in Malaysian Borneo, only Malay and Chinese are the majority. In my days here, I almost couldn’t find any Indian.

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The reason is because the Indians were brought from the South Asia by the British East Indian Company to the Peninsular in the colonial time to work in rubber plantation. The British had never brought them to the Borneo.

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The Chinese here are different from the Peninsular. Whereas it composed of Hokkien and Cantonese people in Peninsular, here in Borneo, Hakka people are the majority. I don’t find this surprising, as I’ve always heard that the Chinese in Indonesian Borneo are also Hakka, so I could infer that.

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Kota Kinabalu is surrounded by two great natural sanctuaries.

First, in the south, it’s the mighty Mt. Kinabalu. It’s the tallest peak of Borneo island.

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Second, in the north, it’s the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It consists of several islands, and the home of many reefs and sea creatures.

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Many activities could be done here. There are more than enough dive shops there in the city center alone. For two tanks boat dive in the Marine Park, it costs around RM 280, or about USD 70.

In fact, this is one of the more famous diving spot in the SEA. Many people come here to get their certification, or just to explore the reefs.

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One best way to spend an afternoon here is to walk the promenade. Sea breeze in a super humid climate is very welcomed.

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It’s also the best place to catch the sunset.

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One thing I observed while being in Kota Kinabalu was that the food price is more expensive than in Peninsular Malaysia, even compared to Kuala Lumpur, the capital. Considering Kuala Lumpur is a big modern city, this doesn’t make sense.

I interviewed some locals: Sabahan and Peninsular Malaysian. They said the same thing: all the goods here are brought from the Peninsular. So, it makes sense that everything is more expensive, as they have to factor in the shipping expenses. Even more so with imported goods: they have to pay double shipping expenses!

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Just next to Kota Kinabalu’s promenade, there is a fresh fish market. Starting from just before sunset, it becomes lively with all of those bright lamps.

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Pick the type of the fish, tell the seller how many gram do you want, then negotiate the price. That’s the protocol here.

No deal? No problem. Just walk ten feet from where you are, and start all over again. There are tens of those seafood stalls here. So, the competition is very healthy.

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It all without a downside though.

Be prepared for hyper humid weather here. Rain could only do so much with it. But thankfully, there are a handful of shopping malls in 500m radius from the city center. Those are great places to wick the sweat away.

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All in all, Kota Kinabalu is up there in my favorite city list. I like this city, albeit spending two weeks in the city would be a bit overkill.

It seems the general trend for me: I love all of those Malaysian cities I’ve visited.