Photo: Eat and eat some more.

Things to see and do

Kota Kinabalu night market

Southeast Asia is famous for its night markets. In just about every town across the region as the sun dips the stalls start setting up and by the time night has fallen a bevy of food vendors are busy over hot woks and steaming tureens, cooking up spicy delicacies native to the district and country. For the novice, night markets can be a fun and friendly way to start trying to get your head around ... Read more about Kota Kinabalu night market .

Mantanani Island

I have met many a traveller at the airport who has just stepped off a twin-otter flight from the interior, their bags heavy with damp clothes that have been unable to dry under the canopy of the forest and their legs pock marked with leech bites; the residue of the rainforest lingers darkly on their faces as they collapse into their taxis and head straight for the nearest shower. I call this ... Read more about Mantanani Island .

Forget time at Lupa Masa

Just 15 metres from the Poring National Park boundary in Sabah, East Malaysia, the forest is alive with birds making their early morning ablutions. Resident-volunteer Graham stares into the forest and gestures to me with two fingers from his eyes outwards. I don't believe you can count a creature unless you've looked into their eyes, he says. That would make my count the morning after the night ... Read more about Forget time at Lupa Masa .

Sabah State Museum
Jalan Muzium
T: (088) 253 199

The main building houses a diverse, if a little dry, collection of archaeological artifacts, tribal items and zoological specimens. If you're more of a hands-on learner, cross the river via a swinging bridge to enter the tribal village with replicas of longhouses complete with warrior costumes and the skulls of defeated enemies. Included with the price of admission is entrance to the Sabah ... Read more about Sabah State Museum .

Gaya Street
Gaya Street

This street has been the best place in KK to shop and eat for more than 100 years, and is still going strong. The red gate at the start of Gaya Street is a nod to the Chinese traders who originally settled here, but today it's the tourist heart of the city with cafes, bars, backpackers hostels and boutique hotels. It's still a great place for Chinese food, and many of the noodle and dim ... Read more about Gaya Street .

KK  Heritage Walk
Central Kota Kinabalu
T: (12) 802 8823

This two and a half hour walking tour offers a crash course in local history and visits notable sites like Independence Field, Atkinson Clock Tower, the North Borneo War Memorial and Australia Place. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and throw in some fun alongside the lessons with a treasure hunt on Gaya Street. The price of 120 ringgit includes local snacks, coffee and a souvenir. ... Read more about KK Heritage Walk .

Central Market & Handicraft Market
Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens

The sprawling Central Market is where locals come to shop for dried fish, spices, fruit and other household essentials. It's very photogenic and the vendors are happy to pose with the catch of the day, but you'll likely leave empty-handed. The Handicraft Market (also known as the Filipino Market) is where you'll find every souvenir imaginable under one roof. The colourful complex is literally ... Read more about Central Market & Handicraft Market .

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Jesselton Ferry Terminal:
T: (88) 243 708

Manukan and Sapi have basic facilities including a cafe and store, but for other islands you'll want to bring your own snacks and rent a mask and snorkel at the jetty (10 ringgit, extra 5 ringgit for fins). It's also possible to scuba-dive around the marine park – we recommend Borneo Dream who has the best boat, experienced divemasters and a reasonable rate of 285 ringgit for two ... Read more about Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park .

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
25km from Kota Kinabalu
T: (088) 765 793

Lok Kawi's menagerie includes pygmy elephants, Malayan tigers, sun bears, crocodiles, hornbills, mouse deer, gibbons, big-nosed proboscis monkeys and, of course, orang utans. The surrounding jungle is green and dense and there's an adjacent botanic gardens (included with admission), but the setting still feels very zoo-like with some depressingly bare enclosures. For the little ones there is ... Read more about Lok Kawi Wildlife Park .

Monsopiad Cultural Village
Near Kampung Kuai Kandazon
T: (088) 761 336

Unlike the Mari Mari Cultural Village, guests are free to wander at their own pace around the replica longhouses, though a guided tour and dance show are included in the price. Don't miss the ‘House of Skulls' where the heads of legendary Kadazan warrior Monsopiad's enemies are still on display – the village is named in his honour. The village is open from 09:00 to 17:00 daily ... Read more about Monsopiad Cultural Village .

Mari Mari Cultural Village
30 minutes outside of Kota Kinabalu

A fact-filled guide will lead you through longhouses where Sabah tribespeople will share their fire-starting, blow-dart shooting and tattooing techniques and even let you jump on the traditional wooden trampoline. Visits are at set times of 10:00, 14:00 and 18:00 daily and take about three hours, wrapping up with a dance performance in full tribal costume and a meal. We were skeptical that ... Read more about Mari Mari Cultural Village .

North Borneo Railway

The North Borneo Railway is an attraction – not a practical form of transportation – and makes a 3.5 hour loop from Tanjung Aru Station, 15 minutes from KK, to Kinarut to see a temple, Papar town to see the local markets, then back to Tanjung Aru. At the time of writing, the train ran every Wednesday and Saturday. The fare is 290 ringgit for adults and 185 ringgit for children ... Read more about North Borneo Railway .

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Kota Kinabalu? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

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