Monday, 29 March 2010

Kota Kinabalu

I had ordered breakfast in my room for 6.30 a.m. It arrived promptly and the smiling young man set it up on the balcony. I'd learnt that the hotel operated a shuttle bus service into Kota Kinabalu but I didn't know what time it started. The concierge in the Garden Wing reception confirmed that the first bus was 9.00 a.m. I decided to explore the hotel a little and then catch the first bus.

On the way in from the airport the previous day, I'd spotted the North Borneo Railway which, until a couple of years ago, operated a tourist steam train with a 'Vulcan' 2-8-2. The railway closed for reconstruction and the concierge confirmed that it remains closed. Although I'd seen some rolling stock lying around the previous day, the railway certainly didn't look like a going concern.

The Shuttle Bus turned up on time and there were perhaps ten passengers. There were no delays and the coach stopped at the Centre Point Shopping Mall after about 45 minutes. There was lots of cars looking for places to park along roads near shop premises. The cars seemed fairly casual about how and where they parked but every 100 yards or so there was a parking attendant, identified by a Yellow High-Visibility jacket and a pad of printed tickets. So almost as soon as a car had found a space, the parking attendant was there, collecting the parking fee.

I considered trying to find the railway but I realised it would be a long walk and it had started to drizzle so instead I turned off past the minbus station and went inside one of the older shopping complexes - 'Plaza Wawasan'. After wandering around in there for a while, I emerged onto a quieter street with shops and tall apartment blocks. Then I cut across to the waterfront. There's a whole series of bars and restaurants catering for tourists. Visitors seem to be mainly from Japan or Australia as the travelling is not so hard for them. There are a fair few Germans, as well.

Further along there's the Phillipino Market. There are quite a few Phillipinos in Sabah. Many of them came in the 1930s to work on the fishing fleets. When you go to the Fish Market, you can see why. There's a remarkable selection of fresh fish.

Some of the Phillipinos live in the 'Floating Villages' visible a few hundred yards away from the waterfront, surrounding an offshore island. The population of these villages is around 10,000. I took a tour of the villages by water in a small boat with an outboard. Then we landed at one of the two floating schools which provide places for around 2,700 children.Pictures here.

On the way back, the rain became torrential. I wandered around the shops trying to keep dry but the damage was done so I took a taxi back to the Rasa Ria Resort.

The rain had eased so, when I'd recovered from the morning's exertions, I went down to the beach for a swim in the South China Sea. The water, I was relieved to find, was quite warm and once you're in the water you don't notice the rain. There was one couple in the designated 'Swimming Zone'. They left and I was on my own for a bit. As I was leaving, a mother and child arrived for a swim.

I settled for an evening meal in the Coffee Shop, which had become quite full by the time I'd finished. Then, I went back to my room to start packing ready for a 7.00 a.m. pickup the following day.