STOPOVER | BORNEO
My stopover... Borneo
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Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to where the wild things are in Borneo, writes Petra O’Neill
Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it’s affectionately known, is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Compact and modern, it has restaurants, cafés, shops and a lively waterfront esplanade, where in the evening, you’ll find hawker stalls cooking up a feast in giant woks. On Sundays, Gaya Street becomes a fresh produce market. Sabah Museum and Atkinson Clock Tower are close by and also worth a visit.
There is no shortage of day excursions. My daughter Nicky and I went snorkelling, visiting three of the five islands at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, located 30 minutes away by speedboat. The North Borneo Railway is a treat. Reviving the tradition of steam locomotives, it has five restored carriages. With the windows open, we waved at locals as we passed by lush tropical scenery, paddy fields, mangrove swamps, beaches and villages. Several stops were made to explore Chinese temples and markets.
At the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, a short drive north of KK, we splurged for a few days, cocooned in paradise. There were several orphaned orangutans who would swing down from the jungle canopy of the nature reserve for their daily feed.
Tanjung Aru, with a pleasant beachside setting, is worth a detour for the great buffets at the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort. Activities also include white water rafting, visiting hot springs, cycling, viewing the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, or hiking Mount Kinabalu. Instead, we headed east to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, then travelled upstream by boat along the Kinabatangan River, to view crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants. Borneo is one of the most dramatic and exciting destinations you will ever experience, and Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to where the wild things are...
Gaya Street becomes a colourful fresh produce market on Sundays
The North Borneo Railway revives the traditions of steam locomotives Orangutans swinging from the jungle canopy were a frequent sight Petra enjoyed tasty hotel breakfasts overlooking lush tropical scenery
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