Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kota Kinabalu - Tambunan Highlands

The Tambunan Highlands is about 1 1/2 hour drive from KK Town. It seems to be the forgotten backyard of KK, as not many people go there. There are a couple of attractions here - a Rafflesia Centre and a Butterfly Park, but not many resorts.

To me this area has great tourism potential. The drive from KK is very scenic, and the weather is naturally cool all the time due to the altitude. Imagine waking up to find that you are high above the clouds, the air fresh and cool, and the worries of the world far far away.What a great escape that would be !

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eating in Kota Kinabalu - A Noodle Buffet

On the last day in KK, we were looking around for a place to have lunch and ended up in Tanjung Aru Resort. Tanjung Aru was the first 5 star resort to be built in KK. After so many years, it is still one of the premier resorts in town. I guess quality will never go out of date.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the place had been given a facelift since our last visit many years back. The coffee house has been transformed and is now called Tatu Cafe. Design-wise it follows the current modern cleanline approach with an open kitchen concept. Buffet is obviously the main thing here, with the buffet counters taking centre stage. 

They were having a special "Noodle Buffet" which was interesting. Basically you get to pick and choose your own ingredients, pass it to the chef and he will cook it up in the way that you like. Of course we opted for that, even though the kitchen was going to close very soon. We had to work fast !

We ordered up some fried noodles first. 

Followed with fried kueh tiaw (flat rice noodles) with duck and celery. Yummy !

Fried beehoon (vermicelli) with seafood.

Beehoon soup with prawn dumplings.

Dessert selection was a bit limited, but after all the noodles we were already stuffed so can't complain.

Definitely an interesting experience should you want to try something different in KK.

Eating in Kota Kinabalu - Lunch at Raintree Cafe

We bumped into this charming cafe while wondering around KK Town. It is at Warisan Square - one of the latest developments in KK. The full name of the outlet is actually Raintree Furnishing and Cafe, as it is also a shop selling furniture and home furnishing. 

I always have a soft spot for places with lots of interesting knick-knacks, and Raintree is filled to the brim with very nice artifacts. The menu here is a mix of Asian and Western fare. They also operate as a bar at night.

The cosy decoration and the relaxed ambience make this a great place for a short break. On my last visit I ordered the Nonya Spicy Chicken which came withh plain rice and a side dish of pickles. It was very good - the spicy paste made from fresh ingredients and the chef obviously took great care in preparing the dish. The pickles made a nice accompaniment to the spicy sauce.

Oh, the coffee here is pretty good too !

Kota Kinabalu - Tanjung Aru Water Village

There are many water villages in Kota Kinabalu. In fact these are one of the first things you notice about KK when you arrive. They are essentially squatter villages built over waterways and the seafront. As in many cities in developing countries, squatters are very much a part of the local population. 

I visited one of the villages commonly known as Tanjung Aru Water Village. It is built on the seafront - sandwiched between Tanjung Aru Resort and Sutera Harbour. The Government of KK have not tried to evacuate the population here so far, and I hope they never will. In fact the Government have even helped to provide piped water and electricity to the villages, which is commendable.

Despite what most people think of as squalid and unhealthy, squatter areas serve a basic purpose of shelter for those who cannot afford normal housing, and over time these have developed into communities with their own culture and identity. There are even those who choose to live here not out of necessity, but because this is their lifestyle choice. The water villages are fascinating places to visit.

Sutera harbour is a stone's throw away.

The village is separated from the mainland by a canal.

The houses are built on stilts and connected with wooden plankwalks. Notice the TV antennas and satellite discs - necessities of modern life even at the squatters. 

Kota Kinabalu Hotels - Nexus Karambunai Resort

Nexus Karambunai Resort is located at the Karambunai Peninsula, about 30 km from KK Town. There is only one resort at the whole peninsula, so it is very private and exclusive. The resort has over 3,000 acres of compound. The beach stetch for miles and is quite spectacular - facing the South China Sea. Next door to the resort is an 18 hole golf course.

As we had never been to Karambunai, we decided to go for a visit. When we arrived there, it started to pour. Luckily we had already made it into the lobby before the torrential downpour. 

The design of the resort is not ground breaking - but once you enter the lobby you will be awed by the impressive pitched roof. This lobby roof design is one of the most dramatic I have seen among tropical resorts, including those in Bali. 

Once you arrive at this resort, you don't really want to go out again. This is a place designed for relaxing, just come here to chill out and forget about the outside world for a while. 

There are many dining options at the resort and I don't think the guests would ever get bored with the food. Most of the outlets are quite pricey though. As we arrived late in the afternoon, we were a bit hungry and decided to order a snack. The fish and chip was really nice - made with fresh local fish and served with an amazing freshly made tartare sauce.

For our next visit to KK, we have decided that we must stay here for a few days. Even if you don't intend to stay here, it is worth a visit. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eating In Kota Kinabalu - Breakfast at Bonjour Cafe Novotel

The Bonjour Cafe at Novotel is really nice, in fact one of the most beautiful dining rooms I have seen in KK. The breakfast is served here, and it is up to the usual 5 star hotel standard - which is a bonus considering this is essentially a 4 star hotel. In fact I would say it is even better then some of the established premium hotels in Kuala Lumpur. 

The design of the cafe is very modern and chic. Wooden fins which rise from the benched seating to the ceiling gives it a really classy touch, and the lighting perfectly accent the design elements.

There is a wide selection of fresh and cooked items, cereals, breads and fruits. In fact you could spend a whole morning here.

I would stay at Novotel KK again just for the breakfast.