BorneoByRoad Pt 2: Visiting KK, Kudat and the Tip of Borneo


The whole point of driving up to Kota Kinabalu, often reffered to as KK, was to enable us to drive to other destinations in Sabah which were not accessible if you didn’t have a car.

Two places which were in the list was the ‘Tip of Borneo’, also known as ‘Simpang Mengayau’, and the ‘Rumah Terbalik’ and Tamparuli Suspension Bridge.

Other destinations were not included because we had to rush back home on the 29th, as everyone in the car except myself, had to work on the 30th.

THE KLAGAN HOTEL, SABAH – Central to everything
The Klagan Hotel was selected for our ‘base’ throughout our stay at Sabah hugely because it was not too expensive, offered us a great view of KK’s version of the South China Sea, and was near to malls and night spots.

Obviously enjoying facilities left by its previous tenant, the Mercure hotel chain, Klagan Hotel was simple, chic and really clean.

Vied from Klagan Hotel, KK
View from Klagan Hotel, KK

Everything was perfect at this hotel, except for the breakfast which was a little lacking in terms of quantity, although it could beat Phuket’s Andaman Embrace Beach Resorts quality.

Parking was provided free, but going up and down the hotel just to get the ‘free parking stamp’ was a hassle.

A drive to Kudat, which also houses Simpang Mengayau @ the Tip of Borneo was one reason we decided to go by road to KK this time around. Kudat does have its very own airport, but the cost to fly there would be huge since you’d need to transit in KKIA first.

Cows are easily spotted on the road heading to Kudat
Cows are easily spotted on the road heading to Kudat

The good thing about driving to Kudat was the fact that the road was practically good, but be wary of cow or buffalo crossings which are quite prominent. One does not need any special skills while driving up to the Tip of Borneo’, but it would be highly advised to bring someone to check out signboards.

The lighthouse at Simpang Mengayau.
The lighthouse at Simpang Mengayau.

Along the way, little towns are located along, but most need you to drive in. Since our main intention was to go to the Tip Of Borneo, we skipped most towns and drove straight to our destination. Mind you that we only left KK at about 10AM, and was largely unsure how long it would take to reach our destination.

Kids seen along the road to Kudat.
Kids seen along the road to Kudat.

Anyway, thanks to good signage, we arrive at the Peak of Borneo sometime around noon although the poor road from the main Kudat trunk road to the place did make me wonder if I was on the right track. This was because the road heading into the Tip Of Borneo was in bad shape, and I figured a tourist attractions shouldn’t have such roads.

But the whole journey was so worth it when we alighted from the car.

The long sprawling beach at the Tip of Borneo
The long sprawling beach at the Tip of Borneo

There was a long sprawling white beach which seemed un-touched by civilization, with the breathtaking blue sea making it so beautiful, you’d feel like you are in paradise.

On top of the place known as the ‘Tip of Borneo’, you could observe the white beach while enjoying the strong and fresh wind blowing right into your hair from the South China Sea.  The sounds of water hitting the stones made the whole experience simply magical, to say the least as I felt I could stay here forever.

A group photo to mark we have arrived at the Tip of Borneo
A group photo to mark we have arrived at the Tip of Borneo

The Sabah government also did a wonderful job to mark the whole place with a great big globe, hence making it perfect for photo taking and camwhoring. There were a few tourist, but it was still bearable.  A nearby restaurant also provided good food although the prices were slightly higher than usual, and data connection was close to non-existent although all telcos had network connection.

I forgot how may upside down houses there are in the world, but one is definitely in Tamparuli, Sabah. The whole wooden structure has become an impressive tourist attraction since it opened, but truth to be told, there was nothing very interesting, except for being able to take photos with it.

View of the Upside Down house from outside.
View of the Upside Down house from outside.

In fact, the whole reason we went to the Upside Down House, known also as ‘Rumah Terbalik’, was to take photos, and it was really disappointing to know that you can only take photos outside of the house. Inside, cameras and smartphones are not allowed because the house is ‘privately owned’ and photography is not allowed. – not really the best reason to deny photo taking really.  Forget also about sneaking a shot or two using your smartphone since you will be guided into the house.

The don't before entering the house
The don’t before entering the house

Anyway, if you are in Sabah, or KK, and you have some time, it is a worthy visit as they explain how they placed everything, including a flat-screen TV, sewing machine, a couple of sofas, a fridge and more, ‘upside down’.

The upside down toilet. The only place you can take a photo with.
The upside down toilet. The only place you can take a photo with.

Outside, you can even see a red Perodua Kancil parked nicely upside down, with an upside down toilet and garden, made specifically for photo taking purposes.

The next stop was the Tamparuli Suspension bridge which was made popular by an old Kadazan/Dusun folk song known as ‘Jambatan Tamparuli’.

The bridge seems to be not maintained, but from a far, it looks really cool, and long.

The famed Tamparuli Suspension Bridge
The famed Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

Getting on it is another thing as it was shaky.  Wires which hold the bridge seem to be not maintained and rusty, and while the locals jumped up and down while crossing the bridge, I didn’t because I feared it would break.

Something I spotted on the mountain behind Tamparuli town. It's really tiny, and this is using 40x optical zoom.
Something I spotted on the mountain behind Tamparuli town. It’s really tiny, and this is using 40x optical zoom.

Anyway, like the ‘rumah terbalik’, this was just another destination for photo taking.

KK WATERFRONT – Fun, but needs to be refreshed
I’ve been to KK Waterfront numerous times, and I have to say that it thumps the Kuching Waterfront when it comes to night entertainment. The short KK Waterfront is lively with bars and pubs lined up nicely, making it the perfect place to hang out and chill out with friends.

I remember fondly how I sat there for hours when I was in KK for a course a few years back. It was simply the best place to sit with a bunch of friends while enjoying the night sea breeze.

Unfortunately however, the tenants here have decided to erect a tent over the waterfront, and this has somewhat made the whole place look less appealing, while at the same time making it a little bit hotter than usual. A few shops are under renovation when we came, and the place does seem less lively than I remember.

Models of the Tamparuli Suspension Bridge =P
Models of the Tamparuli Suspension Bridge =P

Drinks and food are priced slightly higher here, but it is okay if you think about the view and the feel of the place.  nonetheless, the council needs to address the KK Waterfront promptly if it wants it to return to its glorious days because the place does seem rather gloomy if compared to when I last came to KK.

Like anywhere in the world, dining at a foreign place is difficult if you are not familiar with it, and we were experiencing just that during our short trip to KK. We were all non-Muslims, and we wanted to find non-halal food.

A typical shop in Gaya Street
A typical shop in Gaya Street

The best place to find non-halal food in the city is at Gaya Street. The street which becomes a market during the weekend has a few rows of Chinese shops for you to pick from.

Food varies from one shop to the other, but we settled for one selling Bak Kut Teh and Koloman for our stay. Prices were higher than Kuching, but that was largely expected.

If you have a local with you, there are other shops outside the KK City Centre which offer better options, but since we were short of time to explore, we decided to just eat at Gaya Street.

Murals or Street Art. Kind of cool. Only KK has them centralized and seen, as far as I know.
Murals or Street Art. Kind of cool. Only KK has them centralized and seen, as far as I know.

At the end of gaya Street, there’s this abandoned building which houses some pretty cool gratifies.  I know it’s vandalism, but I really think the city hall could turn this into an official landmark or tourist attraction! Perhaps in the future.

CONCLUSION OF KK – Still awesome, still wanting to come back
Well, there is actually much more that KK has to offer, but since time as not on our side, the few places had to be skipped.  Regardless, KK or Sabah is still a wonderful place to explore, and I’d really love to be able to return to the ‘Tip of Borneo’ in the future.

Perhaps, I wouldn’t drive from Kuching no more, but I’d like to return.  So that wraps up Part two of the #BorneoByRoad14 trip, and there’s one last tale to tell in the journey back to Kuching, from KK.

In case you want a teaser, well, here’s telling you that we tried to make it within 24-hours from KK to Kuching by car, and to know if we did it, wait for the next post!

p/s: I tried to include as little ‘group photos’ as I could here, but unfortunately, we took too little scenery photos, and way too many group photos.