Kota Kinabalu, Day 0, Night 1: Of rainforests, heaven and stairs

The trip was special in more than a few ways. It was my first personal out of the country trip, (My India trip was work-related.) and Hanna’s first as well (She’s a DOST scholar. Go figure.).  It was also the first Kaladkarin trip with Ish and Alex both as OFWs. Jan, on the other hand, needed a break from toxicity at work, more than anyone else. We were all excited. Period.

First stamp!

On the day itself, our flight got delayed for an hour so we had to wait for a longer time than expected. As such, we had lots of time to kill. I think had the best airport food I had ever. Come to think of it, I don’t really eat at airports because of the usually exorbitant price. We had a mid-afternoon flight though, and the two of us had not eaten lunch yet. Enter Seattle’s Best’s grilled chicken with cream cheese and tamarind sandwich. Yum I tell you. Yum.

Airport food!

Forget about that bottled pomegranate green tea. Cough medicine, anyone?

Hanna also gave me this while we were waiting:

I support the open web.

Orange. Baller band. Supporting the open web. Need I say more? Yey!

At this point I was already thankful I brought my laptop to the trip. (Author’s note: I tagged along Q so I can write blog posts about the trip after every day. Obviously, that didn’t happen as planned.) After lunch, and walking around the terminal, we still had two hours before we start boarding. The solution: Grown Ups on my HD. (The film wasn’t Adam Sandler’s and the other guys’ best by any means, but it was a funny way to spend waiting time.) Interestingly enough, just after the movie was finished, the plane was ready to be boarded. It was almost an hour past 4.

The trip was fortunately uneventful, except for the usual CebuPac in-flight game. Funny how the lady seated next to us answered incorrectly when asked what movie the line “Akala mo lang wala, pero meron, meron, meron!”.  Everyone knows it’s “Bata, bata, paano ka ginawa?” and not “Tanging Ina”. (Di ba?!? Haha!) Hanna slept for the entire flight while I busied myself with Angry Birds. An hour and a half later, touchdown Truly Asia. We were at Malaysia.

Ok, first off, Terminal 2 of KKIA isn’t really noob-traveller friendly. I was looking for arrows on where the arrival gates are, and I didn’t see any. (On second though, that would’ve been impossible. Maybe we just missed it. Me = noob.) It was incomparable to KLIA by any stretch of the imagination as well, although it was significantly better than our local regional international airports. Anyway, we just ended up following the crowd alighting from the plane. Sore eyed Jan was already waiting for us as her flight flew out of Manila on time and I think we waited for about an hour until Alex and Ish’s plane landed. It was half an hour before 9.

The name of the driver who fetched us escapes me right now, but I do recall that he was as pleasant as they come. He was quick to point out every city landmark we passed by during our short 15 minute trip from the airport to Gaya St. where our inn, Xplorer Backpackers, was located. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take pictures of some places we passed by that only Pinoys would get what’s actually funny. (Titijaya? Masterskill? Hehe.)

Awesome backpacker’s inn @ KK

We got Rafflesia 6!

We may not have seen an actual rafflesia, but we stayed on a room named one.

The manager (or owner, Ish?) was one of the most accommodating folks I’ve met working in the hospitality business. His name is Alban and he was all smiles and was always ready to assist, even with tasks like making local phone calls. If only for the AMAZING service, Xplorer Backpackers is worth every Ringgit spent. It helps that there’s no shortage of common restrooms in the inn. That’s always a plus on my book. If it isn’t obvious still, I highly recommend the place. (Thanks Kian for the recommendation!)

We finished checking in at almost 10 PM already and we were all famished. Serious, serious hunger. Good thing there was some sort of hang-out place a block away from the inn, and there were a lot of food choices to pick from. We chose this restaurant called Rainforest Café because Jan remembered reading some good reviews about the place.

The menu. Sorry, bad lighting.

Turns out the reviews were accurate. I’m not sure if we were just really hungry, but we thought the food was great, save for the one Ish had. We got charged for house water, though, a first for me. I had the penang fried kway teow, some sort of flat noodles stir fried with veggies and seafood. (Yum!) Hanna had what we suppose was KK’s version of spaghetti, fried mee mamak. (It was a bit sweet for my liking.) Alex and Jan shared some battered fish and shrimp (Perfect!) while Ish had a lackluster shepherd’s pie. (Who eats shepherd’s pie in KK anyway? Haha!). Oh, Alex also had this beef dish that was deceptively mild at first, but would eventually be mind-blowingly hot after. In Tagalog, “traydor”.

Penang fried kway teow. Bad lighting again. Rawr.

Fried mee mamak

Deep fried fish and shrimp. You can’t go wrong.

After the late dinner, we walked around and saw this pub downtown called Upperstar Pepper Grill and Bar, just across the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu. The group being composed of Alex, Jan and Ish, it wasn’t surprising that we had to grab a drink to cap the night. We had a bucket of Heineken, and two rounds (read: pitchers) of cocktails. Too bad I wasn’t able to take a picture of the bad-ass Long Island Iced Tea. It was more “Long Island” than “Iced Tea”.

Heineken!

Upperstar, by the way, had these ceiling artwork that made me feel guilty about drinking. It was architecturally cool, though. The pub was seriously decked out. It was a better version of our Sidebar.

Imagine going out and drinking, and seeing this imagery.

Another one. I have to admit, it’s nice.

A bit buzzed and excited about how the rest of our weekend will unfold, we decided to call it a day. It was past 2 AM. And yes, some of us had to climb this ladder inclined to almost 70 degrees to get to bed. The family room we got was sort of a loft, by the way. Fun!

The dreaded ladder

***

X-plorer Backpackers
Address:
1st Floor, 106/108, Jalan Gaya,
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Telephone: (6) 088 – 538780
Mobile: (6) 012- 8375858
Fax: (6) 088 – 538781
Email: info@xplobackpackers.com
URL: http://xplobackpackers.com/

Rainforest Cafe
Address:
Lot 48, Jalan Pantai,
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

***

Up next: the day we never thought would come (read: the day we gave up on snorkeling).

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