Photo: Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu.

Gaya Street

Our rating:

Gaya Street, the oldest street in Kota Kinabalu, has been the best place to shop and eat since the early 1900s. In its early life, known as Bond and Dunlop Streets, the area was filled with Chinese traders, and it’s still buzzing today.





Gaya Street was all but razed during World War II, with only a couple of structures remaining, including the old general post office, now Sabah Tourism Board. The first permanent modern shophouses were completed in the early 1950s and as the town grew, the city’s oldest hotel, The Jesselton, was added to the landscape.

A popular spot. Photo taken in or around Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

A popular spot. Photo: Sally Arnold

A red Chinese-style gate at the start of Gaya Street is a nod to the traders who originally settled here. 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 sum restaurants are generations old.

Since early times, a weekly tamu (market) was held in Gaya Street. Highland farmers and immigrant traders would meet to barter their products. The traditional continues today and every Sunday Gaya Street is closed to traffic from 06:00 to 13:00 to become Kota Kinabalu’s busiest street market.

Nope, we are not sure what it all is either. Photo taken in or around Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Nope, we are not sure what it all is either. Photo: Sally Arnold

It’s a great place to rub shoulders with a cross-section of the local population. Under shady trees and umbrellas, hawkers offer everything from predictable tourist tat to the unusual and sometimes bizarre. Stalls worth seeking out include the numerous ubat kampung stalls — selling traditional medicines that range from colourful bundles of sticks, and snake oil to the not so PC, dehydrated seahorses and mystery animal parts.

Try the readymade bright yellow bottles of jamu (traditional tonics). Huang Poh Lo, the epitome of multicultural Malaysia, is an Indian man skilled in Chinese and Arabic calligraphy. He does a roaring trade, with queues of lovesick young Chinese waiting for romantic messages to be ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Gaya Street
Gaya Street
Admission: Free

Location map for Gaya Street

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