I must start by saying Sabah is one awesome state!!!! It is sooo underrated I want to cry!!! You can do everything in one state!!! You can climb up Mount Kinabalu (4,095 metres above sea level!!), you can dive around Sipadan Island (top 5 dive site in the world), you can stay in a longhouse (there are 32 ethnic groups!), check out Orang Utans and proboscis monkeys (I call em dickface monkey), just to name a few.
A couple things that I recommend:
TIP OF BORNEO. I've had locals laughing at me for wanting to go there. Land of rocks and wind, they say. Thank god I went anyway. And staying at Tampat Do Aman definitely made the experience worthwhile.
Tip of Borneo is literally what it is. It is were the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea meets. Being there at sunset is breathtaking. At Tampat Do Aman, which is run by Howard Stanton, a friendly British chap married to a Rungus girl, you can rent a bike and bike around the area. There are at least 3 private, pristine beaches in the area. Absolutely untouched. GORGEOUS.
I would camp out there the next time I go back. Howard also conducts survival classes in the jungle, which I didn't get a chance to try but would love to.
At night, the stars littered the sky. Down below, the water sparkled with tiny bright blue dots. I think they were plankton or smtg. And then, I swear this happened. I was looking up at the moon, on the beach...you know how the moon is always "following" you? This one, was following us, and then it just accelerated and overtook us!!!! Unbelievable!
Anyways back at Tampat do Aman, it has a longhouse type room as well as little huts with tents in them. The toilet is very eco-friendly. It looks like a toilet but it there is no flush. So once you've done your business, there is a bag of dirt for you to "bury" your end product. As for the shower, it does not have a roof and it opens out to the jungle. There isn't any hot water but the combination of refreshing cold water and the view made it an awesome shower. I didn't want to get out!
It was an awesome experience, not to mention the local Rungus community which was very friendly and welcoming!
Next, SEPILOK Rehabilitation Centre/Rainforest Discovery Centre/Proboscis Monkey Labuk Bay (I heard there will be a rehab centre for sun bears - the smallest bear species, soon)
I stayed at Sepilok Jungle Resort for RM30 a night in a mix dorm-style room. The resort is run by a local Hakka family. The stay was good but the food and laundry was extremely overpriced. It was really close to the Orang Utan rehab centre though.
And the KINABATANGAN RIVER CRUISE.
I have heard great reviews for Uncle Tan's package (lodging and tour). I was told the price was reasonable and the experience was well worth it.
I did go up the river, but I wouldn't recommend the package that I took which was overpriced and wasn't all that great.
Up this river, if you're lucky, you'll get to see pygmy elephants, crocodiles, orang utans, Macaque monkeys, and all sorts of birds.
And of course any of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The marine park is a cluster of islands comprising Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug, all only 10 - 20 minute speedboat ride from the city of Kota Kinabalu.
I went to Pulau Sapi on recommendation and I loved it!
I also called boatman Idrus (016-8472129) to bring me around Pulau Gaya to check out the seagypsy community. It was an interesting experience to see how they live.
Back in Kota Kinabalu city, I went to Top 10 Restaurant in Donggongon. They serve all kinds of exotic meat from snake (python), crocodiles, bats, and one dish to try is Hinava.
It is a Kadazan Dusun dish, also known as pickled Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri). This is an absolutely delicious combination of spanking fresh fish, red chillies, shredded ginger and sliced shallots, the whole lot drenched with lime juice which 'cooks’ the fish. The beer is very cheap as well. RM3 for a can of Red Horse beer (produced by San Miguel). They have at least 10 different kind of imported beer. I must warn you though, during dinner, you can see rats and roaches hanging out there as well. ;)
I had couchsurfed in KK so I cannot recommend any hostel but I met a couple people who stayed at Borneo Beachhouse. It is near the airport and no complaints so far.
There is also the MONSOPIAD CULTURAL VILLAGE in KK. Nestled besides the Penampang River are the many traditional buildings that make up the Monsopiad Cultural village, a living museum located 16 km or about half an hour away from the KK City Centre. Monsopiad was a fearsome warrior who lived in the village of Kuai nearly 200 years ago.
At the village, there are Kadazan dance performance, a quick tour/guide about their traditional games and..... their alcoholic beverages. There are Tapai/LeeHing and Talak for you to try, which was the highlight of the tour, to me at least. They also sell Tapai in bottles.
And Qbar on Thursdays! Please do not go there if you're uncomfortable with your own sexuality. We were entertained by a bunch of cross-dressers lip-synching to the likes of Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey. I must say they were really good!
And then there is Kuching. To be honest I didnt enjoy the city much. But if you do want to give the city a chance, I recommend staying at Singgahsana Lodge for RM30 a night in a mixed dorm. And I DO NOT RECOMMEND doing the river cruise for RM19. Take the Tambang(river taxi) for RM0.50 and walk around the Malay villages. Much cheaper and better way to see part of the city. The next time I go back to Sarawak, I'll definitely hit the Mulu Caves. I also went to ANAH RAIS longhouse which was about an hour away, and I felt it was overpriced and overrated.
I did liked the Sarawak Cultural Village. Tucked away at the foothills of legendary Mount Santubong, 35 km from Kuching is Sarawak's fascinating cultural showcase, which is also the venue for the World Harvest Festival and the Rainforest World Music Festival, an internationally renowned festival.
This living museum depicts the heritage of the major racial groups in Sarawak and conveniently portrays their respective lifestyle amidst 14 acres of tropical vegetation. It is a good way to see Sarawak's ethnic diversity at a glance.
I didn't get a chance to see Bako National Park... so another one my list to check off.
So there! My little Borneo experience.... there is definitely much more to see... I'll be back soon!!!!