Travel Diaries: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

in at June 30, 2016

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There is a sense of normalcy, at last. Elections season is over. Friendships have been restored, campaign posters no longer deface the streets of Manila, and my heart is lighter upon letting go of misplaced anger – over headlines and 140-character sentiments. April and May have been unimaginably full: making my new blog live, speaking in a Blogger’s Conference, getting back to my freelance photography and writing jobs, and devoting time for fellowship. It took me a month to process my thoughts and actually make time for this space. Thankfully, I am more available and no longer glued to my 5-year-old dying laptop – slowly begetting one idea after the other – shamelessly singing Jessie Ware songs inside an empty church on a weekday.

I allow myself to daydream once in a while. My body refuses to stay still and wait for worlds to get lost in. Then, I have to remind myself that this is my reality: sometimes dull and uninspiring yet always abounding in grace. When I look for places I can fully devote myself to – sometimes, people’s hearts – I don’t find the wait too exhausting. My photographs become reminders of purposed moments and meetings, which are even capable of changing me.

Early in January, Hannah and I booked a spontaneous trip to beautiful Kota Kinabalu after months of submitting to the so-called wanderlust. Last April, we experienced three days of unbelievable joy. I expected little from a place I hear nothing about but now, I can recount every moment I was in absolute awe of His creation. From post-midnight walks within the small neighborhood to vibrant Sunday morning strolls in the street market…remembering the beauty and character of Kota Kinabalu keeps my soul beaming.

Where to go?

  • Klias River Cruise: A 2-hour ride away from the city brings you to Klias River Cruise, home to the endangered proboscis monkey and fireflies. Here, we found ourselves wet from the summer rain and admiring the grandest sunset my eyes have ever seen.
  • Kinabalu Park Botanical Garden: The Botanical Garden in the midst of the park is a great escape from the city’s heat and humidity. Bask in the flora and fauna and revel in glorious solitude.
  • Desa Cattle Dairy Farm: Our spirits were high upon arriving at the cattle farm – the most surprising part of our trip. We were overwhelmed by boundless pastures and mountain ranges. Don’t forget to enjoy a delicious carton of fresh milk or yogurt before leaving.
  • Gaya Street Sunday Market: A perfect place to get local products for pasalubong – art works, clothing, and antiques – the Gaya Market is open from 6 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon.
  • IMAGO Shopping Mall: With beauty stores such as Sephora, Sassa, and Watsons, Imago is the best place to spend your hard-earned money. Padini Concept Store is also a favorite for cheap, trendy clothing and apparel!

Where to eat?

  • Kedai Kopi Yee Fung: For less than P100, the Yee Fung Laksa is a must-try.
  • Oldtown White Coffee: I am still dreaming about the White Curry Pan Mee! The 24-hour restaurant – renowned for their coffee – remains my favorite food destination in Kota.
  • Fish Market: A seafood paradise for locals and tourists alike, the night fish market is an experience of its own.
Elisa Aquino

Elisa Aquino is a portrait photographer, life(style) writer, passion blogger, and beauty rookie from Manila, Philippines. This platform exists to document her daily musings and to showcase the life-changing power of grace to transform women from ashes to beauty.