Welcome to Borneo!
It took a little longer then we thought, but after a flight from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur, a 4 hour layover, and another 3 hr flight on the fantastic budget airline Air Asia we found ourselves in the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah; Kota Kinabalu.
To be honest, KK doesn't have a whole lot going on except that it is the gateway to the rest of this incredible island. We only stopped for the night to lay over before heading east into the hills to tackle the real reason for our jaunt to Borneo; the vaunted Mt. Kinabalu.
We were pretty hungry when we arrived so after dropping our bags at the hostel; we headed out for a bite. The first thing we noticed as we walked out into the city after spending several weeks in Vietnam, aside from that it was hot and muggy again, was how quiet and peaceful it was on the roads. KK was blissfully void of the incessant buzz of a million motorbikes and the irritating beeps of their horns. What's more; traffic came to a full stop when the light turned red allowing for the safe, albeit less exciting, street crossing of pedestrians! It was all a little strange.
We hit the food court at the mall down the street; but before you go judging and assuming we grubbed down on calzones, pizza and baked zitti from Sbarro I have to tell you that this food court ain't like your local!
For one, there isn't nearly the variety; it's pretty much local food or bust and except from KFC and McDonalds it is pretty well free of any chains. Secondly, instead of being served by pimple faced teenagers in stupid uniforms as you would at the food court at home, these food stalls are run by legit local families. Several are set up like buffets, others have a proper menu. What is constant is the food is good and cheap. Perfect!
We picked one that looked to have at least a few vegetarian options and we got some stir fried veggies, a plate of Malaysian fried noodles and I took down a roasted chicken leg with rice. With drinks it set us back a whopping 18 Ringgit or US$6.
In the morning we had breakfast at the hostel and spent a little time online booking some post Mt. Kinabalu activities and accommodation then once again hit the mall to pick up a few supplies for our hike including some trail snacks, gloves and a run into the pharmacy. Our purchases at the pharmacy included the following: athletic tape, band aids, altitude sickness pills, ibuprofen and of course a tub of Tiger Balm. The pharmacist looked at the collection of items: "Climbing the mountain, huh?"
And that's it; in and outta KK quick like! A two hour minivan ride would take us East and deposit us in the shadow of Mt Kinabalu...let's see how we go!