Why drink and drive when you can indulge and fly?

arrivals

I must admit, I usually go to the airport just in time to catch my flight. I never even notice most things there – it’s just a transit point for me to get to my destination.

alcohol

I might grab a beer before the flight and I’ll definitely get cigarettes and alcohol if I’m flying international. That would be the extent of my airport experience. smirk

probiscus monkey

I was at Kota Kinabalu International Airport for an entire day last Saturday. I flew in on the first flight and flew out on the last flight back to KL. Here are my experiences while I was there:

The Terminal

Dining at KKIA

Stink or swim

kk view

This is the furthest I’ve ventured from the airport. The concept of this trip is supposed to be like The Terminal where you live inside an airport. I can definitely see that happening – there are toilets for your showers, food outlets for your dining needs, and perhaps you can even work part time. Heh!

famous amos

If, for some reason a civil war broke out in your home country while you’re mid-flight and your passport isn’t recognized anymore, I can safely say that yes, you can survive and even enjoy living in an airport.

kufong theraphy centre

Anyway, enough about that. KKIA has more offerings that I ever thought existed…like this massage place called Ku Fong Therapy Center. I went there to check it out coz I’ve been running around the entire airport and it was pure bliss.

herbal foot spa

The herbal foot spa involves submerging your feet into water mixed with herbal powder and cleaning it. You’ll also get a full massage up to your thighs – very nice after a tiring day. smirk

The foot scrub treatment is a pedicure of sorts. It lasts a full hour and it totally invigorated me for more exploration.

massage

Stephanie was kind enough to offer me a complimentary back massage for 30 minutes but unfortunately I had to turn her down since I had a limited time to shop.

cosmetics

Shop? Huai Bin? Yes, you heard me right. There are a lot of duty free items that everyone can get – perfumes and chocolates are available for purchase even if you’re flying domestic.

jack daniels

Naturally, I went for liquor filled chocolates. I’m a huge fan of these things – they’re not chocolates per se but pralines. Mmm…

chanel

Perfumes and chocolates in duty free costs A LOT less than what you’ll find in retail. It’s a good reason to grab some when you’re at the airport. My friend asked me to buy a bottle of Chanel for her.

cafe de jesselton

I headed over to get some food next – there’s some awesome coffee to be had at Jesselton Kopitiam at departures with a GREAT view of the runway.

jesselton kopitam interior

That’s the best part – you’ll see if your plane has arrived just from that coffee shop.

jesselton kopitam tenom kopi

Mr Kay was very kind – he noticed that I loved Kopi Tenom so much that he gave me some for my trip back!

jesselton kopitam crew

It was good talking with him about how F&B in airports work and the clienteles’ different preferences in food.

runway view

The view of Kota Kinabalu from the terminal is breathtaking. I’ve been here twice – once to conquer Mt. Kinabalu and the other time just to relax at the islands.

travel and tours

Hey, if you find it appealing you can always head out one of their tours!

bonia

I bought quite a lot of stuff at the airport, including a jacket from Bonia that I thought looked really cool on me.

handicrafts

I also got chocolates (for myself) and perfumes for friends.

ck collectors bottle with speakers

I really like this limited edition CK one/be that comes with built-in speakers (!!!).

giant fish

The Malaysia Mega Sales is also running now so you get twice the bang for your buck! There will be additional rewards and prizes from now until the 16th of September. Spend a minimum RM 250 and get an entry to Indulge & Win Contest + a RM10 on the spot voucher which you can use immediately. If you’re a Mastercard holder you get double the chance to win (2 entry forms) in the Indulge & Win Contest. Spend RM 350 using MasterCard and get all those and an additional nifty Recycle and Indulge green bag! All purchases made using a Mastercard will get 20% off!

curry chicken

No worries if you’re not a Mastercard holder – you’ll still get the RM 10 voucher to spend as you like! Plus you get 15% off everything too!

indulge till you fly form

The entry form is for the Indulge & Win contest which starts from now until 6th January 2011. Just spend RM 250 and above on anything at the airport (spas, shopping, dining) at KLIA, LCCT, PIA, KIA, KKIA or LIA and win fantastic prizes. You must submit the form with a maximum of 3 cumulative receipts totaling RM 250 on the same day. Mastercard owners will get twice the number of entries!

sabah pearl

Now to the prizes!

They’re giving away 10 pairs of First Class Indulgent Holiday Packages comprising of:

- Two (2) first-class return air tickets to Cape Town, London or Sydney
- Three-nights complimentary stay at one of the following five-star hotels
   – The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town
   – The Landmark Hotel in London
   – The Blue Hotel in Sydney
- Top-of-the-range local holiday experience at any one of these destinations
   – Full-day Safari at Fairy Glen, Cape Town
   – Afternoon tea at Langham, London
   – Seaplane tour of New South Wales Coastline
- Every package consist of indulging dining and spa experience

indulge till you fly girl

OMG! Wish me luck coz if I win I’m going to choose Cape Town! :)

indulge and win entry

Get more details about the Indulge & Win contest here.

You know you want to join. How can you resist? smirk

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). ;)

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. :)

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! :)

Parasailing @ Pulau Sapi, KK

parasailing me jerine

Parasailing! KK is well known for its water sports and we took a trip by boat to Pulau Sapi. The first thing we did was parasailing.

parasailing setup

It costs RM 180 for two people – tandem on a single chute. Jerine paid for the parasailing experience – cheers! I wanted to go diving but she doesn’t have a PADI license so I figured we might as well do something together since we’re on vacation.

parasailing boat

Anyway, back to parasailing – it involves the boat driving out to open water and the operators setting up the chute. You strap yourself into this harness and the entire trip gives you 15 minutes of pure pleasure.

parasailing the kiss

Eh, wrong photo – this is supposed not what it seems okay. It was decided that in the interests of science, we would see if it’s possible to express affection while the boat speeds along and you’re up in the skies! Just a friendly…er, peck on the lips. ;)

parasailing tandem

You can ask the operator to customize the experience to your tastes – we went for full speed, full height and a full dip into the water until the shoulders.

parasailing dipping in water

It’s a lot of fun – unfortunately, we couldn’t go full throttle coz of the winds (parachute = wind resistance) but it was damn enjoyable.

parasailing tandem jerine

The experience is like nothing else – you just need to trust the harness and let go while being up, up, up in the air before dipping into the open waters of the seas.

However, being adrenaline junkies, we felt that it would be better if the boat had gone faster but with the wind conditions it’s perfectly understandable. One last note:

BEWARE OF JELLYFISH!!!!!111

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