Monday, October 31, 2016

5 days & 4 nights in Kota Kinabalu, when you have kids

This is a long overdue post. In fact, this post is almost 2 months overdue. So many things happen in the past 2 months that I couldn't actually calm my mind down to actually properly write things. But I did promise myself I would at least update once a month, so here goes. 

Bukti kehadiran ke Sabah :-)
I have always thought of heading to Sabah some of these days. It's the only region in Malaysia I have yet to reach after all this years. And where else best to start getting to know her, but Kota Kinabalu. So I planned one right after Aidiladha, because the kids and the uni had a full week break, and I wanted to get Sofiyah's an infant rate only for the flight (She turns 2 at the end of the year). Many things were running through my mind when I make those plans or itineraries  (mostly I made plans, but eventually whether it became a reality depends on everyone else haha), which were evident from what happened throughout the trip.

Day 1/Night 1 (13 September 2016)

We started our trip on a low key. Abah dropped us at KLIA by 2 pm. Our flight was after 4 pm. The return flight tickets for the 6 of us was RM1700 (around RM350 for adults and RM300 for kids, RM 30 for infant). I'm not sure of the usual rate, because the tickets were bought during a MAS promotional period. Anyway, I purposely bought a late evening flight, because I wanted everyone to have a good night sleep before any plan the next morning. This would also be Sofiyah's first flight and I wanted to 'tire' her down before the flight so it would be easier to wind her down during the flight. Sofiyah was initially very excited but eventually, once the flight took off she slept through the 3 hours flight. Wonderful girl! :-) I, myself was still suffering from a stomach bug throughout the whole day. Probably all the korban beef was getting to me from the day before. 

We safely arrived by 7.30 pm. We bought some dinner at the OLDTOWN WHITE COFFEE Restaurant at the terminal and later got ourselves an airport taxi which cost us around RM45 if I remembered correctly (I'm sure it's not more than RM50) I booked a hotel through one of those online booking sites, Traveloka. I eventually settled for Hotel Grandis which, was actually attached to the Suria Sabah shopping complex for RM300 a night. Quite pricey, I think, but I wanted it to be as close to Jesselton Point Jetty as possible. And it is the only hotel within a 5 minutes walking radius to the jetty. Furthermore, since this would be our first trip to KK with the kids, being close to a shopping mall would really help when we're desperate for some sort of familiarity and convenience (mostly food, of course haha). We checked in the Hotel and got settled into our room by 9.00 pm and cleaned up for our first night in KK.

Semua pun nak dipicitnya ;-)
A few minutes after take off, lulled to sleep like a baby that she is :-)
Day 2/Night 2 (14 September 2016)

It’s a brand new day in KK. I was still suffering from a mild stomach bug, but I still head to breakfast with Aliyah (We always ate in turns if the boys and Sofiyah were fast asleep). Don't feel like eating much, plus the Grandis' breakfast spread was rather bland and kinda limited. The plan of the day was to go Island hopping to any of the islands nearby. All my online research have advised visitors on getting to the islands early. But as always, the first night on some 'foreign' beds will always get everyone slow on their feet. Anyway, we managed to get everyone ready to head to Jesselton Point by 10.30 am. Since it's only a 5 minutes walk from Grandis, we saved some time and transport money there. But because we were late, there's only a couple of boat trips left. And knowing how unpredictable things can be with the kids, we only opted to go one Island instead, the biggest of the lots, Manukan Island. The return boat fare cost a total of RM126, about RM31 for adults and RM22 for kids, not inclusive of the Sabah Parks Conservation Fee. The fees were RM3 for adults and RM0.50 for kids, which you'd need to pay when you first set foot on any of the islands gazetted within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. 

We were off to Manukan by 11.45 am and arrived by noon. This would be Sofiyah's inaugural boat trip too. It was fun watching her trying to avoid getting saltwater on her face :D. We didn't make any plans to get wet, so I didn't really packed for such occasion haha... And looking at how people snorkeled and swam under the hot scorching sun, we think we made the right decision. The important thing was to ensure everyone had a proper hat and sufficient snacks and water. We roamed around the island for awhile, let the kids played with the sand on the beach under the shades. I can't really comment about the other islands nearby, but Manukan was kinda full with people. It was clean, but the beach and water fringes were full with all sorts of woods and stuff. Not the place to be if you are here for a proper getaway. There are beautiful wooden holiday villas situated on the island, but am sure the rate is the 'no need to ask' kinda rate huhu... After some ice creams break, we cleaned up in time to hop into the 2.00 pm boat back to the mainland. Then we dropped by the Suria Mall for a late lunch before we walked up back to the hotel. Truly the convenience of Grandis' location was undeniable. 

One selfie before we are off back to KK ;-)
Later in the evening I booked for a trip to Marimari Cultural Village, situated in Inanam, about half an hour away from KK. Initially I wanted to book through a tour agent, but I discovered that it's way cheaper to book direct with the the Village. The whole trip cost RM570 for 4 (Luqman and Sofiyah not counted), RM150 for adults and RM135 for kids, inclusive of return transfers to the hotel, a guided tour, a cultural show and lunch.

Day 3/Night 3 (15 September 2016)

We all had breakfast early and got ready to leave for Marimari. The Village had a tour van picked us up promptly 9.30 am. We started the tour with our guide, Ben around 10.30 am and spent the whole day there and finished the tour of the Village by noon in due time for the cultural dance recitals. And with lunch thrown in later, I'd say the whole Marimari experience was well worth the price we paid for it. In my opinion, the guide’s explanations, the demonstration, the free samples and the real placing with 'lived-in' tribes kinda environment gave Marimari its own uniqueness. If you have money to spare, Marimari is a must experienced trip. Not to mention, the whole village's setting is beautiful and felt authentic. The place was clean, shady and had proper walkways for strollers. We definitely had a lot of fun. Aliyah even joined in one of the cultural dance recitals. Lunch was of a traditional kampung menu and was actually rather fulfilling, which actually make for a happy camper for everyone by the time we head back to the hotel. 
Trying out the Madu Kelulut

Couldn't get the video here, but as you can see, Aliyah was really into the Magunatip dance :-)

One for the camera!
Initially, the plan was to drive to the Mount Kinabalu National Park the day before we leave for KL, Day 4. I was thinking then if we were to drive all the way up to the park on our last day in KK it would be rather risky considering that we might missed our flight home. But after 2 full days on our feet it was getting rather tiring. So as with any trips with kids tagging along, there's a need to be as flexible as possible. At first, we were considering whether we should just spent the night in Poring. But thinking it would be such a last minute change of plan, plus Poring is a few hours drive away, we then declared Day 4 to be shopping day instead. I booked the rental car for Saturday/Day 5 from KK Leisure Tour & Rent a Car. The company has an office at the KKIA so it'd make it easier for us to simply dropped the car at the airport before the flight. That means we could check out from the hotel, drive our way up to the park and later head straight to the airport. Considering we had a 10.00 pm flight out of KKIA, I think we have more than enough time to reach back the airport. 

Later in the day, the kids got to grace the Grandis' roof-top pool and watch the sun set. And for dinner, we got to try out all the fresh and rather considerably well-priced seafood from the Sinsuran night market, a 15 minutes walking distance from Grandis. Anyway, apart from the convenient location, there's nothing much to boast about Grandis. The room was the right size, but the water heater and the toilet's waterworks was somewhat problematic. And at least for our room, the wifi was terrible, not to mention the bland choice of breakfast spread. We will definitely be staying elsewhere for our next visit.

Can you see the plane?

Day 4/Night 4 (16 September 2016)

I let everyone sleep in, while I planned what to buy as souvenirs.We had breakfast, let the kids rest awhile and later we had a KFC lunch and starts packing for tomorrow. Around 6 pm the KK Leisure sent a driver to pick me up and drive me to the airport to get one of their rental cars. It was a SAGA sedan for a rental of about RM190 per day. It had the smell of durian, probably because it's in season then. Anyway, I went with Aliyah and afterwards head straight to the Philippines Market to get a few more souvenirs and head back to the hotel. That's almost RM300 worth of souvenirs and snacks, inclusive of all the pearl brooches and the famous kuih cincin and amplang.   

Rambang mata Aliyah :-)
Day 5 (17 September 2016)

Earlier in the morning it was raining rather heavily. I had timed the day's plan, and I knew that if we didn't leave before 11 am, we'll never make it back to the airport in time to return the car and catch our flight. Anyway, after checking out, we managed to be on the move by 10.30 am and drive straight to Tamparuli and all the way to the Kinabalu park. The weather had cleared by the the time we reach Nabalu. The view was excellent. and the windy spring weather graced us when we arrived at the park. There's some fees to be paid to enter the park, RM3 for adults and RM1 for kids. You'd have to pay more, for the permits and what not if you are climbing the mountain. We're just there for a look-see we walked around for while, snapped the beautifully surrounds of the park and the Mount Kinabalu, of course. 

Then we drive further up to Kundasang town, a short distance away from the park. Subhanallah. Great to be here. Again wonderful cool weather. Even sampled some of the fruits of Kundasang, including durian. Then we dropped by the Masjid Jamek Kundasang for solat at 3 pm. The water was freezing haha... Then right after solat we drive back down to KK, straight to the airport. I think there's just too many place there we had to simply give a miss because of the limited time. The drive took almost half a day, and all in all I think we spent not more than 2 hours there. Next trip, we'll definitely stay somewhere nearby Kundasang, so we could try out some of the activities up there.

Had some coconut on the way...

My cutie pie wanted to try out the Durian too :-D
Masjid Jamek Kundasang
After filling up the car's fuel tank, I dropped everyone at the departure level before returning the car by 7.00 pm. We checked in, dropped our baggage. But we do have time for dinner and solat before we got to board the plane. So it was more than enough time not to get anyone stressed out before the flight. Alhamdulillah, we arrived safely by midnight, to be picked up by my brother. 

The next day, I was still wondering about KK. A week of disappearance feels rather good. It was a great place to visit again. And the kuih cincin is to die for. Sedap giler!!

And the fact that other people at work still find ways to get things done, even without you around.....that makes life more meaningful, isn't it??..

As the Ancient One used to say to Dr Strange: "This is not about you..."

No it is not. 

It's about going on holiday and making sure everyone else is on board and happy in the end. :-)

AT: This post took almost 5 hours to write. Ever wonder why I find it difficult to update post regularly...sigh...

And oh yes, the whole trip cost more or less RM4,500 inclusive of all the food for 5 days. I think for a 5 days, 4 night trip for 6, it was rather alright. It came to about RM750 per person. I'm sure I could do so much better in the next trip, now that I know what to expect from KK :-)