Central & Handicraft Markets

Central & Handicraft Markets

Markets 'R Us

More on Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu’s Central and Handicraft markets are both worth checking out for a taste of local life and to see how many mass-produced souvenirs can be stuffed into a single space.

Travelfish says:

Located on Kota Kinabalu’s busy waterfront is the sprawling labyrinth of the Central Market. This extravaganza of colour and smells is a great place to explore. Bursting with dried fish, fragrant spices, exotic fruit and other household essentials, it’s where locals come to shop.

So many “I wonder what that is!” things to see. : Sally Arnold.
So many “I wonder what that is!” things to see. Photo: Sally Arnold

Try some seasonal fruit — if you don’t know, ask the vender to show you how to eat it. Unusual things we spotted include neat bundles of what looks like dried grass, which are a traditional remedy for skin problems, and strings of white oblong beads that are a yeast for producing the local rice wine. It’s very photogenic and the vendors are happy to pose.

As well as the central fruit and vegetable area, the vast complex merges into a wet market, dried fish market, and handicraft market. The northern outside area morphs in the evenings into a lively night food market brimming with fresh seafood and other tasty treats.

Torch ginger and lime leaves. : Sally Arnold.
Torch ginger and lime leaves. Photo: Sally Arnold

Outside, rows of tailors work on pedal-powered sewing machines — the place to mend those jungle-torn trousers.

The Handicraft Market, which is also known as the Filipino Market, is where you’ll find every mass-produced souvenir imaginable under one roof, and probably very little that you’ll want.

Always, fish. : Sally Arnold.
Always, fish. Photo: Sally Arnold

Other than local pearls, most is imported from neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines.The treasure trove for some is stacked to the rafters with souvenir T-shirts, stuffed toy orangutans, sarongs, do-dads and what-nots, with most sellers offering the same items. Though competition is stiff, the sellers are easygoing and you won’t feel pressured. We have three tips — bargain, bargain and bargain.

Contact details for Central & Handicraft Markets

Address: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu
Coordinates (for GPS): 116º4'24" E, 5º58'59.98" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: Free

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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