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 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 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.

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

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.

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 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

sabah seafood

There is a popular seafood center in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah which
serves a lot of live seafood. It’s notable due to the way the live
seafood offerings is presented – the customer is presented with a huge
array of see-through aquariums that hosts a variety of (still alive)
marine life from green lobsters to huge oysters and a lot of swimming
fish in the middle.

sabah frog

We decided to go for something a little unorthodox – frogs.
It tickled me to no end to see large frogs jumping around a container
for the benefit of the customer. I choose three large frogs to be
cooked. Poor frogs. ;)

sabah eel

The proprietor of the stall also recommended their eel.
The eels were swimming around lazily in their aquarium and the eels are
rather long, sinewy characters which looks rather like snakes with
water as their habitat instead of land.

sabah eel you

I also chose an eel for our consumption. Poor eel. ;)

sabah mussels

There were also local oysters on display, which were flat, solid
looking objects. I also choose a couple for our table but the
proprietor accidentally served it to another table, and that other
table unknowingly accepted, so we forgot about it, since it would take
a long time to prepare another batch.

eel dish

Here’s a closer look at the eel dish. This was cooked Japanese style
in BBQ sauce with a touch of hot chilli (Sabah style) and it tastes
great! The eel came out hot and oily and it does get a little cloying
to eat too much eel, so small portions are the key.

eel close up

This is a close up shot of the eel. The (poor) eel has been sliced
into bite-sized pieces – the dish bears a distinctive resemblance to
the live eels, except that it’s been chopped up. ;) The colorization
and shape (round) of the eel is still visible though.

frog dish

The frog dish was prepared with the WHOLE frog, which is great for
presentation purposes. This dish was cooked in a very bland sauce,
allowing the natural sweet frog meat taste to shine though.

frog meat

The Chinese call frogs tien chi which translates to “sweet
chicken”. It’s an euphemism for frog. The frog dish has parts of the
frog still visible – there’s the much lauded frog legs, a little frog
thigh here and there, the body of the frog. It’s frog.

frog leg

This is the best part of the meal – the frog was wonderfully
prepared, leaving the sweet, tender and juicy frog meat to shine
through. Hop on, frog! ;)

pulau manukan

Manukan Island or Pulau Manukan is a 20 minute boat
ride from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It’s one of the more popular islands in
Sabah due to the attraction of its white sandy beaches and rich hued
waters teeming with marine life. The abundance of corals and
availability of water sports makes this a premier destination for
island hopping in Sabah.

manukan island jetty

Manukan Island is part of the chain of islands that makes up Tunku
Abdul Rahman Park in Sabah, Malaysia. The island can be reached by the
jetty at Kota Kinabalu city. The boat ride costs RM 15 and can
accommodate 10 people, so if you’re in a group that’s less than the
quorum, be prepared to wait a while until 10 people sign up.

manukan island heading

The boat that takes you to the island is a modern speed boat and it
easily navigates through the clear waters towards the island of your
choice. The boat had a mixture of travelers from all over the world and
the early morning skies were perfect as we headed towards Pulau
Manukan. Snorkels can be rented from the boat operator at RM 10.

manukan island boat

The boats that are allowed to dock at Pulau Manukan has to be
registered with Sabah Parks and it’s required to meet safety
requirements e.g. life jackets must be worn during the journey. The
waterfront of Kota Kinabalu zips by as the boat departs and there is a
constant wind from the speed of the boat billowing at you. The boat
occasionally runs into waves so splashes of water into the boat are
pretty common.

manukan island docking

The lush green island soon comes into view as the boat slows down to
dock at the Pulau Manukan island. The natural beauty of the island is
apparent – calm, green waters with a diverse amount of fishes swimming
around and white, sandy beaches at the fringe with deep green lush
trees lining the island.

manukan island friendly fish

The rich marine life on Manukan Island is apparent as we disembarked
from the boat – the high tide submerges the lower part of the jetty and
people can be seen feeding the fishes with pieces of bread. The island
is a protected zone so no fishing or harming of the marine life is
permitted. This makes the fish breed with abundance and they’re quite
friendly and unafraid of human contact.

manukan island bouys

Pulau Manukan has chalets for overnight stays but most people come
here just to relax and enjoy the natural offerings of the island on a
day trip. The red buoys bobbing around the perimeter extending 100
meters out from the beach are designated swimming areas. There is a lot
of boat traffic outside that demarcation and the speed boats carrying
island visitors frequently passes very close to the line so it’s a good
idea to keep inside the perimeter.

manukan island pier

The Manukan Island pier is a wooden catwalk hovering over the
vibrant green waters and the natural tranquility of the island is
palpable as you walk towards the beach…

manukan island welcome

There is a “Welcome to Pulau Manukan” sign at the end of the pier and a RM 3 conservation fee is to be paid at the booth before entry to the beach is permitted.

manukan island chalet

The chalets nested in lush greenery greet you as you first step on
the beach. The polished wood chalets look perfectly in place on the
island, due to the matching theme and decor of the architecture.

manukan island lets go

I did not waste any time in hitting the beach as the warm sands and
appealing shade of water looks too tempting to resist. I donned my
snorkels and started to float and swim around, appreciating the
wonderful diverse and unique marine life in the waters.

manukan island snorkelling

This is me in the snorkels. The water on Pulau Manukan is incredibly
calm and hosts a wide variety of fishes. I wish I had an underwater
disposable camera to show the readers of sixthseal.com the incredible
scenes that I saw while snorkeling:

There was friendly little swordfish swimming at the top of the water, skimming over my snorkel masks every now and then.

There were many different multicolored fishes which come over
and take bites out of pieces of bread that you offer then, occasionally
nipping at your fingers.

There were sea cucumbers of all sizes, lining the seabed…

There were starfish and corals of mind-boggling variety and complexity.

Since I didn’t have an underwater camera, I had to snorkel out into
the waters to retrieve select pieces of marine life so I can take
photos of them:

manukan island starfish

This is a starfish taken from about 30 meters out to sea. It’s an unusual blue color with a brown underside.

manukan island sea cucumber

OMG! My thing fell off! ;)

manukan island corals

This is a piece of the ubiquitous dead corals that wash out onto the
beach. I couldn’t very well lug one from the seabed, so this would have
to do.

manukan island guard

There are lifeguard posts located at the beach for drowning swimmers (though most non-swimmers I saw were wearing life vests).

manukan island beach

The beach at Manukan Island is beautiful – the scenic islands surrounding it are easily visible from the shore.

manukan island waters

The tranquil waters of Pulau Manukan…perfect for snorkeling…

manukan island reading

Reading a good book by the shade of a tree on the beach…

manukan island girls

These are two travelers that I met while I was on Manukan Island – very friendly people, they were snorkeling as well.

manukan island bombs

This is a WWII memorial at Pulau Manukan…there were bombs and
shells on display by the beach, which were presumably recovered on the
beach after the war.

manukan island fishes

The fishes in the water are clearly visible through the calm, green waters…

manukan island leaving

…and all too soon, it was time to depart the island.

Pulau Manukan in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is a great place to relax and unwind. It’s a great island…

manukan preview

I just came back from Pulau Manukan (Manukan Island) off the coast
of Sabah – we managed to squeeze in a visit to the renowned beaches at
KK AND a climb up Mt. Kinabalu this trip.

Here’s a little preview before the writeup – I met these two
friendly girls (they’re travelers as well) at the beach while
snorkeling this afternoon. I took several photos of them…naturally,
there will be more in the Pulau Manukan writeup.

Cheers! :)

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