City girl Irvin Hanni leaves her desktop behind as she flash packs across Sabah to discover the natural beauty of ‘Land below the Wind’.

“Hello!” That’s what kopivosian means in Kadazandusun language in Sabah 🙂 Finally, I am able to say that I’ve been to every state of Malaysia. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with Sabah, the heart of Borneo rich with culture and an abundance of things to do and explore.

A Sabah flag billowing in the wind.

And so with my trusty pink luggage and my travelling feet all itchy to start the journey, I boarded an early morning flight to Kota Kinabalu (KK). I even purposely skip breakfast to save my appetite for the very delicious Pak Nasser Nasi Lemak. Oh yes, the famous nasi lemak that’s only available on AirAsia flights. Sometimes I wonder if I only fly with AirAsia just so I can savour this scrumptious meal. Perhaps so 🙂

Upon landing, I checked into Gaya Hotel. Located right next to Suria Mall, the room was very nice and comfy plus I got a peek of the beautiful South China Sea right from my hotel room window!

My very first agenda in KK was to head over to Mari Mari Cultural Village. As the second biggest state in Malaysia, Sabah is known for having one of the most diverse backgrounds of cultures and ethnics. And what better way to get a hands-on experience than at this idyllic little village. There are five ethnic tribes at Mari Mari, namely Kadazandusun, Bajau, Murut, Rungus and Lundayeh.To be able to see how these people live their daily lives as their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago is quite an amazing experience.To top off my visit here, I tried my hands on the sumpit (a blow pipe made from rattan). Proud to note that I hit the coconut target on my very first try!

Clockwise from top; The entrance of Mari Mari Cultural Village, a Kadazandusun man making rice wine, a Bajau warrior in front of the Bajau longhouse, Kadazandusun girls cooking in bamboo sticks, inside the Murut longhouse and a Lundayeh man demonstrating how to make clothes out of tree barks.

The next day I drove out just a bit further to Kundasang, about an hour away from KK city centre. On my way, I stopped by the Pekan Nabalu Handicraft Market. With the cool crisp air and the scenic rainforest and mountains that surround this area, I had a really enjoyable shopping experience here buying souvenirs including little trinkets such as key chains and notebooks for my friends, an authentic tribal home decoration for my family back home and a lovely sarong for myself. Even though the prices are quite cheap to begin with, I managed to haggle even more–armed with a big smile and a cheerful “Kopivosian!”

Left: Some of the items on offer at Nabalu Handicraft Market; Right: The towering Pokok Pakis Gajah at Mt Kinabalu Botanical Garden.

As a city girl, I’ve never really thought of myself as a nature type of person, but I had a surprisingly really good morning at the Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden. It took me about 20 minutes to tour around this lush 5-acre garden, enjoying a leisurely walk amidst the rare flora that I wouldn’t have found in KL such as Podochillus (the world’s smallest orchid species), the kerosene plant, the different types of pitcher plants and many more.

I then continued my nature trail with a 10-minute drive to Poring Hot Springs. I knew I would absolutely love it here as attractions abound inside the park, including Butterfly Farm, Poring Orchid Conservation Centre, Tropical Garden, Poring Canopy Walkway and best of all, the Poring Hot Springs and Rock Pool.

Poring Canopy Walk and Rock Pool.

While at Poring, I got a tip from a local to visit Kampung Luanti Fish Spa, an off-beat attraction that’s rarely included in any guidebooks but has proven to be very interesting indeed! This place was developed by the villagers of Kampung Luanti themselves. Mind you, this is not like any other fish spas that have grown all over town, the fishes here are HUGE! There are three types of fishes–Kelar, Lampan and Buntol, with the biggest fish in the river weighing a whopping 3kg! Can’t help but to giggle in delight as these fishes nibble gently on my feet but the ticklish torture was well worth it as I left the place with a soft and smooth pair of feet.

Fishes nibbling on dead skin cells. See how huge they are?!

For my third and final day in KK, I decided that the best way to tour KK before flying off to my next destination was to participate in the KK Heritage Tour. I started my tour from Padang Merdeka and continued our walk through history visiting some of KK’s most significant landmarks, including the Atkinson Clock Tower, Malaysia Monument, North Borneo War Memorial, KK City Council, Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu Community Centre, Australia Place and ended our walk at the Museum Kopitiam, where a nice ice-cold coffee and Aztec cookies completely revitalized me for my next Sabah adventure.

KK Heritage Tour, clockwise from top: North Borneo War Memorial, KK City Hall, Atkinson Clock Tower and my KK Heritage Tour passport, all stamped out! 🙂

After KK, where to next? Sabah has so many other places to discover and explore. The choice was drawn to two; should I fly off to Sandakan and visit the oh-so-cuddly Orang Utans or to Tawau and head off to the beautiful islands of Semporna?

As I logged onto to purchase my low-fare tickets, I can’t help but smile excitedly in anticipation for my next leg of the trip. So where do you think I flew off to? Follow my next Sabahan trail on this blog, so stay tuned! 🙂


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