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One of the two main access points to Malaysian Borneo (the other is Kuching), Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the state of Sabah. Known locally by its initials, KK was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt as a series of unappealing concrete buildings on a grid plan. While far from the prettiest of southeast Asian cities, it's a place you’ll need to spend time in while sorting out the permits and guides needed for various adventures around Sabah, and is not entirely devoid of attractions. Start by taking the KK Heritage Walk then climbing Signal Hill for a sunset view across the city. The Sabah Museum is worth stopping by as is the State Mosque, ...

One of the two main access points to Malaysian Borneo (the other is Kuching), Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the state of Sabah. Known locally by its initials, KK was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt as a series of unappealing concrete buildings on a grid plan. While far from the prettiest of southeast Asian cities, it's a place you’ll need to spend time in while sorting out the permits and guides needed for various adventures around Sabah, and is not entirely devoid of attractions. Start by taking the KK Heritage Walk then climbing Signal Hill for a sunset view across the city. The Sabah Museum is worth stopping by as is the State Mosque, a good example of contemporary Islamic architecture. KK’s night market is one of the city’s highlights, where you can indulge in all the hawkers’ delights, while the Handicraft Market is ideal for local souvenir shopping. Short trips out of KK can be made to the interactive and fun Mari Mari Cultural Village; Monsopiad Cultural Village with its room packed with the skulls gathered from the victims of Borneo’s infamous head-hunting tribes; and Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, which is home to orangutans, rhinos and plenty of other animals.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in north Borneo on a small inlet of the South China Sea
  • Language: Bahasa Melayu and English
  • Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May to October is the less rainy season in this tropical destination