Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kota Kinabalu

After eight months or so working in Macau I thought I was entitled to a break as did other Cirque-sters so Zaia had our annual 2-week dark which began on the 18th February. We wanted a nice, relaxing family holiday and discovered Air Asia fly direct to Kota Kinabalu (KK) in Sabah, Malaysia. Geographically Sabah is a part of Borneo, shared with Indonesia.

The one downside of our flight was that Air Asia only flies at night to Kota Kinabalu so our flight was scheduled to depart Macau at 8.30pm and arrive in KK at 11.20pm. We had never flown AirAsia previously but had heard of the flight cancellations, delays and lack of legroom (even moreso than your average flight).
Luckily our flight wasn't canceled (an artist at Cirque once had his flight canceled and only found out through another colleague who was on the same flight!) but was delayed by 30 minutes so we ended up arriving at midnight. Not so great when you have a 3.5yr old and a 8-month old who don't sleep when you ask nicely "Please sleep now little darling". Angie was very excited about the 'blast-off' of the plane so that probably contributed to her lack of sleepiness.
Ok, so we were running a bit late, no biggie really. Almost at the end of our journey - we can jump on a taxi and the hotel we've organised for our first night is only 10min away - so grab our bags, on a taxi and 10-15min later we'll be at our hotel. I've just got to get some Malaysian ringgit for the taxi from the ATM and we're set. Surely there is an ATM at KK airport...that was working...right?
Wrong! I kindly ask the lady at the hotels counter where the ATM is and she informs me that the ATM is shut for the night. An ATM...shut? Guess he's on the 9-5 shift? A Money Changer then? Nope...shut too...aaagh!
OKaaay.. so look at the wife... she not crying..must
Ok so Plan B - surely a taxi driver can drive us to ATM on the way to the hotel to get some cash to pay him. Well, the first few drivers didn't bite..but finally a nice Sabahan chap agreed to take us. The 7-eleven he drove us to also had an ATM that was 'resting' (this was a phenomenon I first discovered in Harbin where they shut down elevators regularly to rest them. Machines need to rest?). At that point I'm sure I was breathing chest-heavy, maybe panting is more the word? (the heat probably didn't help either). Next stop - a bank ATM - surely it's working....aaannnnd...yes!! And on the second attempt I remembered my PIN for my Australian ATM card and had a nice wad of ringgit in hand.

Malaysian ringgit - harder to get at KK airport after midnight than the proverbial...

First stop - Degalleria Hotel...huzzah! I decided to pick a hotel close (read-cheap!) to the airport/city for our first night considering we were getting in so late and the Degalleria got some decent reviews on Tripadvisor. We managed to get a semi-decent sleep in that first night, although the look on Angie's face the next morning may tell otherwise...

Looking towards the's a few doors down to the right...

The Degalleria was clean and reasonably cheap (150MYR - $50AUD, but we had to pay 50MYR for an extra bed, so 200MYR) and a great location in the middle of town. KK town itself really is that, a town and not a city. It is right on the waterfront and there some beautiful islands just offshore. The town also has some great eateries around where you can sample the local delicacies!

Our first meal in KK was breakfast and was a good one - I did some research beforehand and came across a small local eatery within walking distance from our hotel that is famous for it's Tom Yum noodle soup. It's called Seng Hing Coffee shop.

The Tom Yum was good - flavorsome, spicy and tangy. Angie's fried mee hoon (rice noodles) was good too with a nice smoky flavour from the hot wok. Aahh..Asian breakfasts...Breakfast of Champions! From there we just had time to head back to the hotel for a short rest (because eating is such hard work!) and I had time to go the money changer to exchange some HKD to ringgit before our search for Shangri-La!

The road to Shangri-la?

We stayed at the opulent Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort which is near Tuaran, about 40min by car north of KK. We chose Rasa Ria as it has some great facilities for children, a private beach and a nice big pool with a kiddies playground. We were there, after all, to relax!

Angie with her breakfast buddy

From our room on the ground floor there was a path leading into the gardens and pool. The private beach was only a couple hundred metres from our room. There were a large number of restaurants to choose from - A Coffee Terrace (where our breakfasts were each morning), a Malay-style buffet restaurant, a Teppanyaki place and an Indian restaurant. Being in a resort the restaurants weren't cheap by local standards but on par with what we would pay back home.
Pongo Kids club was a fave (both for Angie and mum and dad!) - a play centre in the resort where parents could abandon...i mean...leave their kids for an afternoon or three.

There was a nightly 'Lighting Ceremony' that re-enacted a traditional Sabahan ceremony. Angie was lucky enough to be the princess and was dressed in traditional Sabahan ceremonial garb complete with carry-on Prince! Poor Angie - the warriors were screaming and waving their fire swords all around their carriage - she was on the brink of running over to Mum and Dad but she lasted the ceremony!

Rasa Ria also has their own Orangutan rehabilitation centre. We found an orphan baby and brought her back to our room...

The holiday was great after the rocky start. It was just what we wanted - a nice relaxing break. Now, where to next?