28th May 2016 - 30th May 2016 - Borneo
Kota Kinabalu, Gaya Island
In 1882, the British North Borneo Company set up a trading settlement on Gaya Island. It was destroyed in 1898 and rebuilt on the mainland in 1899, named Jesselton in honour of Sir Charles Jessel, a manager of the Chartered Company. Later on, this settlement was rename as Kota Kinabalu, or KK to the locals. After WWII destroyed the Sabah capital of Sandakan, the British ruling government decided to make KK the capital city. The war greatly damaged the town and left just two buildings standing, one of which was the Atkinson Clock Tower, the first place we visited on our one morning in KK. Named after FG Atkinson, who died of malaria at 28, this wooden clock tower was built in 1905 and is possibly the only tourist attraction in KK. There is a hill, with an observation pavilion we could climb, but neither of us fancied that as we were struggling to walk properly and stairs were a nightmare! Instead we went and wandered round the market then went and found a coffee shop and enjoyed the air conditioning.
Soon, it was time to head to the jetty and catch a boat over to the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. This park, of which two thirds is water, is also the location of 5 islands, the largest of which, and our home for the next three nights, is the aforementioned Gaya Island. Here we had booked into a nice resort with infinity pool, small beach, coral reefs, water based activities, Marine Ecology Research Centre and hiking trails for those feeling active. We weren’t. We were planning lots of pool time! The rooms were small bungalows on stilts over the water, either facing the lagoon or the mangroves. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a bungalow with steps taking us down directly into the sea. Taking a short walk round the resort, we could see many different species of fish, plenty of birds and even one wild boar. We also took a walk round the MERC building where they were breeding giant clams.
The bar provided a free drink each night and so we would visit there before dinner, which was taken in one of two restaurants. The first night we tried the Macac restaurant which advertised itself as “Western fusion food with a distinctly Malaysian twist” whilst the second night we visited the Alu-Alu restaurant serving Chinese seafood dishes. All seafood was live in tanks at the entrance to the restaurant which meant you could specifically pick your dinner, a slightly intimidating prospect for two people who like seafood but are out of their depth when presented with it swimming in front of them!! The final night we went back to what we knew and stuck with the Macac restaurant.
The rest of the time we spent chilling at the pool, sitting on our private balcony or, on one occasion, taking a kayak out around the lagoon. Our final night coincided with the Sabah Harvest Festival. The Almighty Creator saw that his people were starving and so he sacrificed his only daughter, Huminodun, and her body parts were scattered all over the land. Out of the soil grew rice and every year the local Kadazandusan tribe celebrate this with a two day festival including the drinking of Liang, a rice wine and the drinking of particular foods. To celebrate, the bar, alongside its usual free drink, were providing everyone with a sample of Liang as well as a small portion of drunken chicken soup and a marinated raw fish, similar to ceviche.