I met Kat sometime ago online when I discovered she’d written a post about her time in Goa, India – a place dear to my heart. Her blog Kat Pagi Mana which translated from Malay mean ‘Where is Kat going to’, is full of inspiring stories of her adventures across the world – particularly around Asia as she lives and works in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia. This week, she explores close to home and discovers the natural beauty of Sabah.

Over to you, Kat…

FotorCreatedWhat do you look for in a holiday?

I’m both a beach lover and culture/sight-seeing kind of person.

Where did you go?

I went to Sabah in May 2014. Sabah is one of the two states (the other is Sarawak) of Malaysia located on the island of Borneo.

SDK-7Why did you choose this destination?

I wanted to see more of my own country, Malaysia – and Sabah is renowned for their pristine tropical rainforest, Mount Kinabalu (the highest mountain in South-East Asia), wildlife and diving. Since a few airlines were offering cheap fares at that time, I thought to myself: ‘Why not?’

Who went?

My friend Su came along. At that time, Su had just returned from India and she still had ‘travel fever’, so when I asked if she was interested to join me on this trip, she immediately said yes!

SDK-16Where did you stay?

We didn’t want to stay in a luxury hotel because we knew that we would be spending most of our time outside. So we chose affordable 3-star hotels to stay – clean and comfortable for us to take a shower and to sleep.

In Kota Kinabalu, we stayed at Hotel Dreamtel while we stayed at the Ibis Styles Waterfront in Sandakan town. Dreamtel and Ibis are 3-star hotels which are located strategically in the city/town centre – a few minutes walk from the main attractions.

Dreamtel was very clean and comfortable but Ibis was going through a renovation as they were about to change management to Accor, so some parts of the room were looking weary and needed a new coat of paint. Having said that, Ibis was great at $40 a night and especially with a beautiful view of the waterfront. Both hotels were booked via Agoda.

SDK_3Are there plenty of activities for families?

• In Kota Kinabalu, a family can take a short 15-minute speedboat ride to Manukan Island – the second largest island in Malaysia’s first marine national park called Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Kids can play and swim at the beach.

• Or a family can spend time on a Sunday morning at Gaya Street Sunday Fair or enjoy a beautiful sunset at Tanjung Aru beach in the city where the sky turns dark with streaks of bright orange and red. Truly amazing colours!

• In Sandakan, a family can hire a private taxi to visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. These animals are endangered species and it’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to see and learn how the centres help to rehabilitate, conserve and promote their wildlife.SDK-9

There are indeed lots of fun activities available for families. In fact, Su and I did those activities while we were there! Malaysia is a tropical country, so always remember to use sunscreen, wear a hat and keep hydrated.

Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?

We loved our time in Sandakan. We had an amazing day of seeing wildlife and learning how the centres rehabilitate and conserve the endangered animals for the future of Sabah. Although they don’t receive as much as funds as they would like from the Malaysian government (the centres receive quite a lot of donations from the public),
I admire the way Sabah promotes awareness and education to the public about the importance of saving our animals.

Was it good value for money?

Absolutely! The food, accommodation and excursions are all reasonably priced.

KK_9Which photo is your favourite and why?

My favourite photo is sunset at Tanjung Aru beach in Kota Kinabalu. We wanted to catch a bus to the beach, and we were informed that the bus stop was in front of City Hall and the fare was MYR1.50 (45cents). However, we learnt that the route has changed (temporarily) after waiting for the bus for about 20 minutes. Because we didn’t want to miss the sunset – it was already 5.45pm – we decided to take a taxi to Tanjung Aru Beach for a fare of MYR15 (USD4.55) I said to Su, I hope this sunset is worth the $15! Luckily, we had no regrets!

Useful tip: The taxi drivers tend not to use the meter so you have to bargain for your fare. But the drive from the city centre to Tanjung Aru is standard at MYR15. Alternatively, you could choose to stay at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort which is just a stone throw away from the beach.

Would you recommend to a friend? Would you go back again?

Since that trip, I have had been recommending Sabah to family and friends. Yes, I would love to go back there again, and next time I would go to Semporna where the sea colour is aquamarine green – the perfect place to enjoy the clear waters and snorkelling.

KK_19What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?

The must-have three items are my DSLR camera, phone and a book. There are a few more items that I would bring along on my trips but, if I happen to forget them, I will be okay, although I may gripe for a while!

What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?

I have had travelled to 16 countries and 34 cities, and Ladakh in North India is my favourite place in the world so far. Ladakh is dominated by mountain ranges especially the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges, and its population is majority Tibetan-Buddhist. I reckon it’s the forbidden and mountainous terrain, sheer remoteness of the landscape, numerous wind-swept Buddhist prayer flags, and friendly Ladakhi people that made me fall in love with the region.

If you would like to be featured on Holiday Snapshots, please email me at ting@my-travelmonkey.com and I look forward to including your travel stories.snapshots