Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kota Kinabalu From Higher Up

I was looking for a higher vantage point to take some pictures of KK Town Centre, and chanced upon a private timber staircase up the slope of Signal Hill. It is located behind Hotel Shangrila-La. The steps are part of a private garden which is fenced off, but the gate is not locked. It looked like it has been abandoned and is in disrepair.

Part of the steps are in very bad shape and look like they are about to collapse any time. There are several signs warning visitors to "Climb At Your Own Risk", and I would strongly advise anyone going to take the sign seriously. 

I managed to climb to the top of the stairs with no major mishap, though some of the steps couldn't take my weight and collapsed. Please be very careful should you decide to try this.

Once you are up there, you are rewarded with nice views of KK Town Centre. It was worth it !

The Hotel Shangri-La at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman.

The rickety steps up the slope.

Views from the top.

Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

Kota Kinabalu City is right next to the sea, and the waterfront is still being developed. Taking a walk from the Northern tip of the Town Centre, you will pass through many interesting places which are all worth a visit. The stretched of the waterfront in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel has undergone a facelift recently, and it now offers clear open views toward the islands. It is a pity that there are not many trees to provide much needed shade from the hot tropical sun.

Walking down further you will come accross the KK Central Market, where locals still shop for their daily fresh produce. A short walk from the Central Market is the Filipino Market where you can shop for dried seafood products, handicrafts and souvenirs. Inside the Filipino Market you will also find stalls selling iced coconut juice which is really refreshing on a hot day.

The section of waterfront in front of Grand Hyatt Hotel.

You can hire a boat here to go to the islands. The price is quite cheap, but these are fishing boats and not tour boats so safety may not be up to scratch.

The section of waterfront in front of Warisan Square was developed into an entertainment hub with restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs. The popular Port View Seafood Restaurant is also here.

The waterfront is a great place to relax and take in the views in the evenings. This is definitely one of KK's biggest assets.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kota Kinabalu Town Centre

Kota Kinabalu Town Centre is within a 10 min drive from the airport, so it is really convenient. Most of the hotels are in the town centre, and even some of the resorts such as Tanjung Aru and Sutera Harbour are just 5 min from the airport.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah and has a population of around 600,000. It is the 6th largest city in Malaysia. The residents are very mixed, comprising of the local Kadazan and Dusun Ethnic Groups, Chinese, Malays, Indians and also immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia.

KK Town Centre is small and compact. You can walk from one end to the other in probably half an hour. The town is laid out in a grid with main roads running parallel to the waterfront. It is an easy town to walk around, and there are lots of interesting things to discover as you will find out in my future posts. Over the years, the waterfront has been reclaimed to make way for new developments, and there is currently a major redevelopment under construction at the South-Western end of the town.

There are not many highrise buildings in KK Town Centre, most of the structures here are low-rise shophouses. One of the most popular building typology is a 6 to 7 storey shophouse or shop-office with courtyards or lightwells in the middle. The Api-Api Centre was one of the earliest examples of this typology and remains very popular till today.

The Api-Api Centre. Now painted in green. It used to be bright orange.

Wisma Sabah - one of the early local landmarks. There are many tour agents here.

The Grand Hyatt KK - one of the first 5 star hotels in KK.

The Centre Point Shopping Centre - one of the biggest in KK, now overtaken by OneBorneo, a huge development about 1/2 hour drive from KK Town Centre.

The heart of KK Town. Shophouses predominate.

Some new developments still following the shophouse typology - the Wawasan Square near the Waterfront.

Kota Kinabalu New Airport

Kota Kinabalu is getting a new airport, and it's a good one. Unlike Sarawak where most of the airports look like carbon copies, this is an original design which mimics the aerodynamic forms of aircrafts. The new wing is built right next to the old airport, and the old airport is also being renovated at the moment. When completed the size would be more then doubled. 

Landing at the KK Airport is always an exciting experience, as it is right next to the sea. The moment you step into KK you can feel the resort atmosphere. It's probably due to the proximity of the sea, and there is also something in the air.

The old airport building being renovated.

The aerodynamic forms are carried through to the entrance canopy and interiors.

The new airport definitely offers a much better experience when travelling to KK.

Top Five African Safari Destinations

Any vacations in Africa will not be complete without going on a safari to experience the wild animals and the peace and tranquillity of the bushveld.

But there are literally hundreds of national parks and wildlife areas in Africa that you can travel to. And some are definitely better than others when it comes to providing the potential for a great safari holiday.

In my experience, and in the general consensus of the wildlife tour industry and other sources such as the first hand accounts of safari trips in the travel diaries at African Safari Journals, here are the top five safari vacations in Africa:

1. Tanzania - Serengeti

During the annual migration, when the wildebeest and zebra pack up and leave their grazing areas to find fresher ones, the Serengeti is an astonishing place to be.

It's a very good safari vacations in Africa destination at other times of the year too but the migration has been ranked by many as one of the wonders of the natural world.

Hard to beat in the safari stakes.

2. Kenya - Masai Mara

If you want to see the big cats, this wildlife park is hard to beat. Lion, leopard and cheetah abound and they are relatively easy to spot because of the grassland vegetation which means you get unrestricted views for miles around.

Another big plus is the fact that going off-road is allowed as long as you are not making new trails of your own. This is one of the few vacations in Africa parks that still allows this and it is a big advantage because the animals will rarely oblige you and stay next to the major roads.

The only downside here is that because of it's popularity there are a lot of people around so if you want to spend time in isolation with nature this is not the place to go.

3. South Africa - Kruger National Park

For sheer variety of species no other place in Africa can come close to the Kruger Park. And because it is so large (larger than Wales) it has a number of different ecosystems that you can pass through in your search for animals and birds.

It is one of the best managed parks in Africa and the accommodation and infrastructure is superb.

4. Botswana - Selinda Reserve

Seasoned safari travellers rate this reserve in north Botswana extremely highly and they return to it again and again, drawn by the very high concentration of wildlife, high standard of accommodation, service and exclusivity.

5. Zambia - South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa is a diamond in the rough, just waiting for enough exposure to bring it to its rightful place at the crown of vacations in African wildlife destinations.

Ayurveda Honeymoon Tour Packages

Ayurveda honeymoon tour packages are the latest craze among young tourists visiting Kerala. Honeymoon with Ayurveda packages receive tourists to a one of a kind travel experience, where they experience abundance and fullness of life.

Welcome to a land where the lifestyle of people is their best defense against diseases, a land so blissfully blessed by nature and a land where you can keep your peace of mind while staying away from mental turbulences, tensions and worries.

Newly weds or people looking to refill their life with youthfulness, and people keeping a youthful charm in their minds can come to Kerala to an Ayurveda honeymoon tour. Ayurvedic packages for honeymoon tour are so unique and new that it is not copied anywhere else.

Ayurveda package honeymoon tours mostly include a stay in a luxurious Ayurvedic cottage or in a luxurious houseboat, where the couple receives Ayurvedic healthy diet, medicated oil massage and directions for a healthy life. Visitors take home golden words of healthy, blissful living. Receive advice on everything from healthy lifestyle, food habits, daily yoga practice, meditation and requirement of keeping minds happy, fresh and lively.

Not many Ayurvedic resorts in Kerala offer specialized Ayurveda honeymoon tour programs. The resorts in Kerala that offer Ayurvedic honeymoon trips provide world class living environment, usually in a calm, serene location. Visitors to Kerala utilizing Ayurvedic honeymoon packages also closely watch preparation of healthy food.

Honeymoon Ayurveda packages also come with plenty of opportunity to explore serene backwaters, hill stations, beaches, cardamom hills, tea plantations, coffee plantations, wildlife, boating, trekking, and fishing among many lively locations and activities.

Ayurveda honeymoon packages are both thrilling experience and is the where you will be more dedicated to your health, happiness and enjoying life meaningfully. Ayurveda honeymoon packages can be rightly called holistic healthy Ayurveda yoga tour programs.

Come to Kerala, the land blessed so abundantly by God with blissful environment, and the science of life called Ayurveda. Come and take away all your heart can take and prepare to return to this land so often

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


My brother from Singapore gave me a block of dark chocolate recently. It was from a Spanish specialty chocolatier called Chocolat Factory. The packing is very unique and modern - looking more like an art box then chocolate. Once you open it up, the chocolate is wrapped in a nice grease-proof paper, and the chocolate block had a "bite" which is part of the brand image. The small bite you see at the corner is a real bite - I couldn't wait to try before taking the pic.

The taste of the chocolate is really intense - like 10 blocks of chocolate had been condensed into one. It also had floral notes which are quite unique. I guess this is the "terroir" which people have been talking about in artisanal chocolate - like in wine where you can taste the different regions where the grapes are grown.

I can never claim to be able to differentiate between different "terroir". All I can tell is whether something is bad, good or great ! I can honestly say that the chocolate from Chocolat Factory is great, and can't wait to try their different products. They have a shop at the new Changi Airport. 

Eating in Kuching - Breakfast at Fresh Food Court

Fresh Food Court is located at the 7th Mile Bazaar, a small town centre outside of Kuching City. It is very popular and usually packed at breakfast time. There is quite a large population in the surrounding area, and even people from Kuching City come all the way here for the food.

The most popular item here is the Kolon Mee - dried noodles. They serve the traditional version here with char siu and minced pork. The noodle is cooked just right and the flavour is nice and simple, augmented with a generous amount of lard. 

The char siu and Chinese sausages here are also very good - one of the best in Kuching. The char siu taste is very intense, and the meat tender. The sausages are quite special, with the right combination of lean meat, fat, liver and seasoned to perfection.

Another item to try here is the "Kong Pia" - a Foochow baked bun which is deepfried before serving and stuffed with minced pork cooked in soy sauce. The taste of the Kong Pia is a bit like the bagel, with a chewy doughy texture. You can also eat it plain, or stuffed with char siu or sausages.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eating in Kuching - Dinner at Ten Ichi Japanese Restaurant

There are not that many Japanese restaurants in Kuching, and Ten Ichi is one of the oldest around and still one of the most popular. I guess the reason is you can always count on the food to be of a reasonable quality, and the pricing is quite reasonable. It's part of the Lok Thian restaurant empire which includes several Chinese, Thai and Asian restaurants.

The decor of the restaurant is simple, but people come here mainly for the food. I ordered the Shokado Bento, which came with grilled salmon, unagi and some side dishes. It was really good, the salmon cooked just right, and the side dishes providing different textures and flavours. I especially liked the tofu with minced pork which was light and flavourful.

My wife had the Tenderloin Beef Course which came with grilled beef cultlets, vegetables and miso soup. The beef was good, but the vegies were a bit bland and not too well presented. For the cost you would expect a bit more effort on the presentation and ingredients.
We ordered garlic fried rice which is always a hit with the kids, and a Torirotsuyaki which is deepfried chicken in teriyaki sauce. It was quite tasty and the kids liked it. The potato salad on the side was also very good - cold and refreshing which complemented the meat well.
For dessert we ordered Tempura Ice Cream. Good, but nothing special.

All in all Ten Ichi is a great place to satisfy your craving for Japanese food, and they also have a full selection of sashimi and sushi. Recommended.