Kota Kinabalu, in the state of Sabah, Malaysia, is a popular beach getaway. Because I had a few days off and Air Asia had some cheap tickets I decided to go there with a girlfriend for a little beach getaway. I love living in Asia and being able to make little beach getaways to places like Langkawi, Bali, Nha Trang, and Rilay Beach. Hell, even Phuket is fun for a dew days. I quite like Langkawi as a beach getaway; with the main beach 5 minutes from the airport, lots of nice beachfront lodging available and duty free booze, it’s perfect for a weekend getaway. So, having had good beach getaway experience there, I went over to east Malaysia looking for a similar experience but I was sorely disappointed.
Our experience was mediocre at best. First of all, KK, despite being on the seaside, has basically nowhere to enjoy it. Huge industrial zones choke up swaths of oceanfront real estate, there is no real beach to speak of near the downtown area and everywhere you go there are hordes of Mainland Chinese tourists. We couldn’t find any decent nightlife, most of the restaurants were designated tourist ripoff places with very average food. The hotels were very unromantic city hotels or even worse, crappy shopping mall hotels like the ripoff Tune Hotel (owned by Air Asia) that charges extra for towels, air conditioning, TV, and doesn’t even have hooks to hang your shit on. We spent one night there as it was highly rated on TripAdvisor by retarded Malaysians who must think it’s normal to have to pay for towels at a hotel. Any money that was saved was immediately ripped off by the local taxi drivers.
A special note on Malaysian taxi drivers: they are without question the worst bunch of ripoff artists in the taxi business in southeast Asia with the exception perhaps of the Phuket tuk-tuk mafia. Any vacation to Malaysia must include a taxi rip off budget. I have been ripped off more times by Malaysian taxi drivers than in all other countries in the world combined. These fuckers are shameless, from the scammers parked outside of KLCC in Kulala Lumpur, to the unabashed gougers in KK. For example, the Kota Kinabalu airport has 2 terminals. To go from one terminal to the other, they have no shuttle option, but instead you must take a RM30 taxi. That’s as much as it takes to go into town (about $10 USD). The day I first arrived in KK, I was ripped off by a taxi driver in KL to the train station who doubled the fare claiming there was going to be “very bad traffic la” (there wasn’t any bad traffic), the $10 airport terminal transfer taxi scam, a 50RM 15 minute taxi ride, and a 80 RM for the 10 minute each way round trip taxi to dinner from our pay-extra-for-towels-and-tv hotel.
That’s not the only way they rip you off in Kota Kinabalu. The main tourist attraction (and the only nearby nice beaches) are the local Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is 5 islands off the coast nearby. Take out your wallet to pay to ride with a bunch of other tourists to the island of your choice where you can share a small beach with a bunch of Mainlanders. Just don’t stay too late, the last boats leave at 430 or 5, so forget about that nice sunset walk on the beach you were planning unless you shell out way more than it’s worth for one of the very underwhelming two hotel choices on the island chain. I inquired about a night there (it was an off night, Sunday) and they graciously offered us a reduced rate of RM 800 for a standard room (USD $250). Compare this to $10 beach side bungalows in Vietnam, Cambodia, and even Thailand and you will see how bad of a deal Kota Kinabalu really is.
Anyways, no need to let this article drag on further, just avoid Kota Kinabalu. Incidentally I saw no real hot chicks when I was around and the nightlife was awful. Kota Kinabalu: give it a pass.