Stink or swim

souvenior

You need souvenirs when you’re on vacation right? No, not her, you can’t take her back. :p

alam sensasi girls

I mean real souvenirs – and those souvenirs shouldn’t be your garden variety items which anyone can get so you’ll want to get something that reflects the culture of the place you’ve been too. Alam Sensasi has got it covered.

masks

Masks to scare people with?
Check!

sabah tea

Sabah tea?
Got it!

alam sensasi

“I was here” t-shirts?
Got ya covered!

You can even choose:

stink

S(t)ink

or

swim

Swim

Quite witty right? Right? Erm…can I at least get a sympathy smirk?

drums

Local drums?
They haz it! Large or small whatever rocks your boat.

gamat soap

There’s even Gamat (sea cucumber) soap that claims to cure just about any dermatological condition…

sabah pearl

…and other items like Sabah pearls. I was told these are pearls harvested from oysters from the seas around KK.

They even have more esoteric items like local gongs if you feel like lugging it back home with you.

That’s part of the local retail experience you get. Perfect for last minute souvenir hunting.

books and magazines

There is also the obligatory bookstore to save you from boredom during long haul flights (Kota Kinabalu International Airport flies to places like Korea and Taiwan, to name a few).

I love this local seafood store too. It’s called Dried, Frozen Seafood & Bird’s Nest Shop. Very straight to the point, they believe in pragmatic naming, none of that vague artsy fartsy creative stuff. ;)

dried frozen seafood and birds nest shop

It brings the fresh seafood of Sabah back from where you’re from. The best thing is that everything is flash frozen so you can bring it back!

sabah abalone

Sabah is famous for its fresh and cheap seafood – they have abalone going for RM 50 in packs of 2-4 (depending on size). That is REALLY cheap and I wish I bought some but my freezer is a little full right about now.

huge fish

There’s even large (HUGE actually) cuts of fish which you can bring back and claim you caught it while deep sea fishing in Kota Kinabalu if you’re so inclined. smirk

nice girl

This is the girl that was manning the Indulge & Win contest. She’s really friendly and helped me a lot in filling out the form.

I submitted my forms and now I hope I win. BTW, here’s a tip for you – the answer is 5 for the number of international airports MAHB handles. ;)

i with a cute chick

I’m with a cute chick. smirk

Dining at KKIA

tenom coffee black

REAL MEN DRINK IT BLACK!

asian delights food

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Eating in airports is usually a last resort. It doesn’t have to be though, airports have grown in leaps and bounds when it comes to food. It’s not just your usual fast food joints anymore with a 30% markup.

golden arches

…though the Golden Arches does have a presence here.

asian delights

Kota Kinabalu International Airport has a wide range of local and international food to suit all palates. Their F&B repertoir is quite impressive. I guess it’s coz of the unique nature of this airport – a lot of Koreans fly in, as well as Caucasians coming to conquer Mt. Kinabalu, brave the white water rapids after and go diving in some of the best spots in the world.

asian delights staff

I had a late lunch courtesy of Mr. Kay, who manages both Asian Delights and Jesselton Kopitiam. The former is located at at Arrivals while the latter at Departures. I managed to glean some interesting information from him – what the Koreans and Japanese prefer vs what Caucasians and the locals prefer.

asian delights interior

He also related a really funny anecdote about the sensitivity of the smoke detectors in the airport. It’s for safety reasons and that’s why they have two different outlets here.

asian delights eating

Asian Delights has proper cooked food while Jesselton Kopitiam doesn’t due to the regulations on cooking in the Departures area (what they call Airside).

tenom coffee milk sugar

Anyway, I had the famous Jesselton Coffee a.k.a. Kopi Tenom which is famous in Sabah. It’s rich and aromatic and it’s available at both outlets. Kao, I like. Give me this to Starbucks any day! (which also has a presence here)

curry chicken

This is the curry chicken. It’s one of the dishes that Mr Kay recommended. I like the thickness of the gravy. It’s unlike Malay curry – it’s cooked local style so it has uniquely Sabah flavors to it. I ended up scooping up the gravy with my rice. It’s really good.

asian delights sambal chicken

Their other specialty is the sambal chicken. This one is spicy and very reasonably priced. The version with rice is priced at RM 12.90, as most main dishes are. We had just the dish alone with side orders of rice. He wanted to get me to try the beef rendang as well but I was so full at that point that I simply couldn’t fit anymore food in!

tenom kopi

The highlight of this place is definitely the coffee – be sure to try the famous Tenom coffee. It kept me awake the entire day!

cute chick

I went shopping after that (more on that tomorrow) for the Indulge & Win contest. How can I resist, especially with the awesome prizes (and the cute chick manning the booth). ;)

Jothy's Fish Head Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant

a.k.a. The Worst Fish Head Curry and Banana Leaf Restaurant in the Known Universe

jothys fish head curry banana leaf rice

Jothy’s Fish Head Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant is located in Api Api Center in KK, Sabah and has a lot of impressive stickers on its front window facade, including one that says “as seen in Lonely Planet”, which was the reason we headed there to eat in the first place. I place a certain amount of trust in the Lonely Planet brand.

jothys interior

The first clue that it might not exactly be the best place to eat when we walked in is the underwhelming crowd in the restaurant. We were the only ones there. I swear I could hear crickets chirping.

jothys banana leaf

Their banana leaf rice seems authentic enough…

jothys banana leaf rice

…but the taste did not live up to expectations. I tried every single one of the side serves and found them severely wanting.

jothys curry fish head

Their flagship signature dish – the curry fish head – was tough, overcooked and dry. It’s certainly not “the freshest fish head from the market”.

jothys curry fish head meat

I don’t know what kind of fish this head came from but finding meat is like looking for a needle in a haystack (or insert other cliched analogy here since there are a lot of fish bones in there).

jothys prawn

The fried prawns were not “succulent” as the menu claimed, but tough. I’m also highly doubtful about the “choice fish eggs fried to perfection” description as our fish roe had the same taste and texture of cardboard (not that I’ve ever eaten cardboard – it’s what I imagine cardboard would taste like).

jothys lonely planet

I find this unforgivable in a place known for it’s abundance of seafood. The bill was exorbitant too – the fish head curry alone was RM 50.

jothys herpes

It’s a tourist trap. Avoid it like a bad case of herpes.

Twinsky Seafood, KK with RM 15 abalone

twinsky seafood rock fish

Ask anyone* where the best seafood in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is and they’ll inevitably say “Ocean Seafood”. Don’t. Just don’t.

twinsky seafood

I’ve been there, done that, bought the motherfucking t-shirt and I stand here as witness that it’s a tourist trap.

twinsky seafood tanks

* Now’s probably a good time to say that anyone means hotel personnel.

twinsky fresh seafood

You wanna eat where the locals eat? Are you a traveller or a tourist?

twinsky choose

Ignore me if you’re the latter. However, if you’re a serious traveller, head on over to Twinsky Seafood where there is fresh seafood, much better than all the fancy air conditioned, scented napkins, attentive service restaurants.

twinsky live seafood

Don’t get me wrong, the good people at Twinsky Seafood has damn good service as well and the place is absolutely fucking packed when we went there. We didn’t even go during peak hour – that’s a testament (okay, okay, cutting down on Biblical references now) to how good their food is.

Go on a tour of the establishment and you can pick and choose the marine life that you want to consume.

digging gold

Would appreciate it if you kept the gold prospecting away from the fresh seafood.

rock fish

Aww…poor fish. Sucks to be you.

Alrighty then let’s get to the meat (no pun intended) of the post:

twinsky crabs

Crabs in hot and sour sauce. This is good and you get to choose the crustacean that you want.

twinsky sabah abalone

Sabah Green Abalone. It only costs RM 15 per abalone. (!!!)

sabah abalone

I told you seafood is cheap in KK right? The portions are larger than what you’ll expect in KL and it’s juicy and sweet.

sabah style abalone

Best dish ever.

twinsky sea fish

This is a sea fish that we ordered. Wait ah, lemme get my wallet to see how much it is.

mango appetizer

Chup! I forgot about the delicious pickled papaya appetizer.

twinsky seafood stone fish

Rock fish a.k.a. stone fish. It sounds a bit dodgy as Jerine pointed out (and she swore not to eat it at first) but when it was served…it’s magical. =D

twinsky seafood me

It’s cooked HK style with soy sauce (as all fresh fish should be prepared) and it tasted delicious. It was hard to the touch at the tank, yeah, stating the fucking obvious here, there’s a reason it’s called stone fish but after steaming…it’s the best thing that hits your palate. Smooth, silky with all the right tones.

stone fish

The entire meal costs about RM 250-300 – I don’t have the receipt coz Jerine paid for the meal.

Yoyo Cafe

yoyo cafe

YoYo Cafe is a bubble tea establishment at Centerpoint, Kota Kinabalu. There is no particular reason for its popularity – you can ponder all you want and analyze till your brains hurt and still be hard pressed to figure out why people throng to this place like bees to honey. This is exceedingly puzzling because:

a) The bubble tea they serve isn’t the best nectar that ever crossed my lips
b) They have a very limited selection

yoyo bubble tea system

YoYo Cafe serves bubble tea and bubble tea only (except for the odd iced confections recently added to their menu). They have an intricate system of ordering where you choose the items you want, pay at the cashier, get a number and wait for your number to be called.

We were there on a weekday and the average wait is 15 minutes. I’ve waited longer the last time I was in KK.

yoyo bubble tea jerine

I ordered the Yoyo Ice Special (not realizing it comes in a bowl) while Jerine had the Chocolate Bubble Tea with pearls. Hers tasted pretty good actually.

Thus, as the Eighth Mystery of the World – here’s YoYo Cafe, no reason or rhyme, it’s just packed with people wanting a fix of bubble tea.

yoyo cafe ice special

A word to the wise: Carrying around a bowl in your left hand and a spoon with your right while walking isn’t as fun as it looks.

Pulau Sapi, KK

pulau sapi

Pulau Sapi is one of the islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I’ve been to Pulau Manukan so this time I wanted to check out Pulau Sapi.

pulau sapi sutera harbour marina

We were staying at Magellan Sutera Harbor so just a short stroll leads us to the marina where we can catch a boat to the island.

pulau sapi boat

The trip took only 10 minutes due to the high speeds at which the boat was travelling – it costs RM 50 per person and you don’t even need to travel all the way to town…

pulau sapi view

…one of the perks of staying at Sutera Harbour. This is the view of the resort from the sea.

pulau sapi welcome

The boat takes you right to the jetty at Pulau Sapi – there are schools of fishes that you can literally see swimming beneath the crystal clear green waters!

pulau sapi fishes

Mmm…tasty! Er, I mean what a beautiful sight!

pulau sapi food

We slept in so by the time we got to Pulau Sapi, we were FAMISHED. We each ordered two portions of lunch. Heh!

pulau sapi beach

Things we did:

Parasailing

Snorkeling

Contemplated whether to cook this monitor lizard in BKT

pulau sapi couple

Watched lovers oblivious to everyone else on the beach – including his exposed intergluteal cleft (known as butt crack in human anatomy terminology)

pulau sapi buds

Laughed at some of the Engrish signs

pulau sapi after snorkling

Chilled by the beach

pulau sapi tourists

Pulau Sapi is not as commercialized as Pulau Manukan and although the island is smaller, it is a lot more tranquil – after a huge group of tourists on a conference left anyway. :)

Snorkeling @ Pulau Sapi, KK

snorkeling

This person does not have a PADI license so we can either go for the sea walk (closed) or snorkeling. I have a wealth of underwater photos taken which I’m rather proud of, mostly due to the awesome marine life teaming around the islands of Sabah.

rainbow fish

This rainbow fish is actually quite delicious but it’s off limits – you know the drill, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

coral

I was submerged for a good 45 minutes swimming around and snapping photos of the corals and fishes around them.

marine life

Jerine on the other hand, can’t swim to save her life.

jerine can't swim

The best thing about Sabah is that the aquatic lifeforms is very tame and not afraid of homo sapiens at all.

underwater photos

Hell, some of them even tried to bite my fingers. >.<

I took a lot of underwater videos too – this is the best of the batch. I only have one word to describe snorkeling in Pulau Sapiserene. :)

Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh, KK

yu kee bak kut teh

Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh is arguably the most famous BKT place in KK. It’s located at Gaya Street. There are two BKT outlets there but the original is the best – you can see the difference with your naked eye, the locals flock to this place like bees to honey.

yu kee bak kut meat

Yu Kee BKT is always packed while the other…well, it lacks in that department. Jerine also mentioned that she can smell Yu Kee from meters away while the other stall is odorless. She means that in a good way of course, the distinctive aroma of herbs from well cooked BKT.

yu kee bak kut stall

I like Yu Kee coz I went there to eat straight out of rehab…it was the best meal I ever had considering the crappy food they serve inside. The difference between Kota Kinabalu Bak Kut Teh is that they serve you with small bowls of stuff instead of a huge melting (clay)pot.

yu kee bak kut teh intestines

Pork intestines

yu kee bak kut teh liver

Pork liver

yu kee bak kut teh ribs

Pork ribs

yu kee bak kut teh legs

Pork leg

yu kee bak kut teh balls

Pork balls (not the testicular kind, it’s like fish balls but made of oink)

yu kee bak kut teh lean

Pork belly (lean)

yu kee bak kut teh mystery

Mysterious part from a pig – I don’t know what this is

Tofu (no photos coz I DON’T LIKE TOFU!)

yu kee bak kut teh yew char kueh

Yew Char Kueh in BKT soup

yu kee bak kut teh spread

It was a pretty decent dinner but you want my honest opinion? It is the best Bak Kut Teh in KK and I remember loving it the last time I had it. However, those were different times when even an extra piece of chicken was much appreciated. Now that I have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it barely warrents a post.

yu kee bak kut teh us

It cost RM 72 for our meal. Do check out Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh if you’re in KK but for good ol’ BKT, go to Klang.

Huge monitor lizard

monitor lizard pulau sapi

Monitor lizards roam freely about Pulau Sapi. I saw a huge entourage of people feeding it random stuff during our trip there, all at a safe distance.

monitor lizard eat

They must be tourists coz if they were locals they would know that monitor lizards don’t attack unless you directly threaten it.

monitor lizard

It was a good diversion though. Jerine promised me to bring me to this monitor lizard bak kut teh which I am rather looking forward too. I’m a big fan of exotic meat.

Experience the 5 feet monitor lizard! Kinda taller than you Aud! ;)

Wiya Chicken Rice, Kota Kinabalu

wiya chicken rice

Wiya Chicken Rice is the oldest and most established nasi ayam outlet in Kota Kinabalu. I remember eating their pyramid shaped chicken rice with gusto, savoring every single delicious grain of rice and morsel of chicken when I first got out of rehab a couple of years back. I was determined to patronize this outlet again when I went to KK last weekend.

wiya chicken rice meal

We took a cab down to Segama for the chicken rice (BTW, KK taxis rips you off when you depart from a nice resort, going back is always cheaper) coz I REALLY wanted to eat it during the first day we arrived in KK.

wiya chicken rice stall

Wiya chicken rice was just as I remembered it – packed and busy, with heaps of people waiting for their acclaimed pyramid shaped chicken rice.

wiya chicken rice crowd

Actually, the sole USP of the place is their rice which wouldn’t look out of place in Egypt. It’s actually very simple – they have a pyramid shaped scoop.

wiya chicken rice pyramid

I’m not sure what it does for the taste, or whether the pyramid shape gives it mystical properties, but aesthetically it looks good and the rice is just like I remembered it – soft, fluffy and full of oily chicken essence so you can taste the rice.

wiya chicken rice chicken

The chilli sauce at Wiya Chicken Rice can hold its own against most other similar establishments too.

wiya chicken rice char siew

We also ordered a plate of char siew – take my advice and avoid this. In the words of Jerine: “This char siew doesn’t have any taste to it”. It’s true. It’s bland and dry. Just pass on that, you’ll thank me for it.

wiya chicken rice pyramid rice

However, their chicken is pretty succulent and the flavorful rice more than makes up for the char siew disaster. It costs RM 20.40 for the both of us inclusive of drinks.

wiya chicken rice us

It’s the favorite of locals and travellers alike for all the good reasons – they serve awesome chicken rice in a King Tut package! :)

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