|Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton, is the capital of Sabah. Located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo facing the South China Sea and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park on one side, and with Mount Kinabalu in the background, Kota Kinabalu sprawls for kilometres along the coast and towards inland. Kota
Kinabalu is named after Mount Kinabalu, situated about 90 kilometres east-northeast of the city. The meaning and origin of the name Kinabalu is uncertain. One theory suggests it means "Chinese widow", where Kina meaning "Chinese" (person) in Kadazandusun language, and balu meaning "widow" in Malay language. This theory derives from a folk tale about a Chinese prince who came to the mountain in search of a giant pearl which was guarded by a dragon at the top of the mountain. While he was here, he married a local woman but later returned to China and left the woman heartbroken. Alternatively, it is also argued that Kinabalu or Akinabalu is the name of the dragon which guards the giant pearl itself. Another theory suggests that the term is derived from the name Aki Nabalu meaning the "revered place of the dead", in which, Aki means "ancestors" or "grandfather", and Nabalu being a name for the mountain in the Dusun language. Finally there is also a source claiming that the term originated from Ki Nabalu, where Ki meaning "have" or "exist", and Nabalu meaning "spirit of the dead". Kinabalu National Park is located about 90 kilometres from the city, and besides this, it also features a number of tourist attractions in and around the city itself. The city is also one of the major industrial and commercial centres in East Malaysia besides Kuching in Sarawak. These two factors combine to make Kota Kinabalu one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
- Mount Kinabalu is South-East Asia's 4th tallest mountain. You can climb to the top of Low's Peak (4,095.2m above sea level). The height of the mountain is often given as 4,101m but recent satellite imaging has proven this to be incorrect. The mountain is sacred to locals. They believe that spirits of their ancestors inhabit the top of the mountain. Previously, a chicken was sacrificed at the peak every time a climb was made but these days this ceremony only happens once a year when only seven chickens are needed to appease the spirits. Mount Kinabalu is known to be one of the most accessible mountains in the world. No specialized mountain climbing skills are required to ascend it. The trail that most tourists use is described as a 'trek and scramble'. Locals begin climbing the mountain from the age of 3 and the oldest person to reach the peak was 80 years old. However, how much one enjoys the climb depends strongly on how fit you are and how well you acclimatise to the thin air at the higher levels. Nevertheless, the mountain can be a dangerous place, especially during the rain or when there is mist. On average, every year one person gets into severe difficulty out of the estimated 20,000 people who attempt the climb. The higher slopes can be very slippery when it rains and dense fog reduces visibility to a few feet. Climbing weather is best around the month of April while November and December brings rain. The temperature ranges from a comfortable 20-25 degrees Celsius at the main park to something approaching freezing near the top (depending on the weather). Bring clothing appropriate or else you will get cold and be miserable. If possible, climb during the full moon as it helps illuminate the white rope that marks out the climbing path.
- Atkinson Clock Tower - built in 1902 in memory of Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton, as KK was then called. He died of a tropical disease in the same year at the young age of only 28. The tower is on a hill beside Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, just a few minutes away from the city centre.
- Sabah State Mosque - located on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. City Mosque is an example of contemporary Islamic architecture. It was built in 1997on an area of 2.47 acres at Likas Bay. The prayer floor can accommodate from 9,720 to 12,000 people at one time and houses 3 madrasahs.
- State Museum - A quick guide to KK's history.
- Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market is next to the waterfront. Formerly known as "Pasar Filipino" or Filipino Market, it is always synonym with pearls, local handicrafts, home decorations and even crystals lately. Don't forget to bargain for good prices, the attendants here are very friendly and they will always greet you with warm smile. You can also find souvenirs such as key chains, t-shirts with Sabah themes, carved wooden statues, batiks and sarongs, rattan handicraft and floor mats, Islamic calligraphies, brooches etc. Some of the items are imported from
Austria and others from neighbouring Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea, and there is little actual Sabah handicraft available, but it is a very colourful place that will stay in your memory as a 'souvenir' from Sabah..
- Gaya Street Tamu: KK's Sunday Market - Originally named Bond Street, Gaya Street is located in the Kota Kinabalu Central Business District has been the centre of business for over a hundred years. The wooden shops with nipah roofs are long gone but here is where generations-old family businesses are still thriving passed down from father to son. Every Sunday morning, the length of Gaya Street is closed off to traffic to make way for the Fair. Shop for anything under shady trees and over-sized umbrellas, like batik sarongs, fruits and flowers, arts and craft, footwear, antiques and souvenirs, cakes, even pets and herbs! This is the best place to experience the cross-section of the local population when entire families enjoy a Sunday outing. The Gaya Street Fair is on every Sunday from 6.30 am to 1.00 pm.
- Double Six Monument. The Double Six Monument is located in Sembulan, marking a significant tragedy in the history of Sabah. On June 6th, 1976, an airplane carrying Sabah’s fifth Chief Minister, Tun Mohd. Fuad Stephens and six other State ministers crashed, killing all on board. The Double Six monument was erected on the exact spot of
the fatal crash.
- Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre. Situated just two kilometres north-east of Kota Kinabalu City at Likas or ten minutes from the KK City Centre, the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (KKWC) formerly known as Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary (KKCBS) covers 24 hectares (60 acres) of mangrove forest . It is at once an educational and recreational centre. Commonly sighted birds here include the migratory species from as far as Northern Asia, Siberia and Northern China like the sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, egrets and herons as well as canopy birds such as collared kingfisher and stork-billed kingfisher. To date almost 80 species of birds have been identified at the sanctuary. For serious bird watching, wear colours that blend into the environment. You may rent binoculars for RM5.00.
- The Tun Mustapha Tower (officially known as Menara Tun Mustapha), is the tallest building in Borneo. This 30-storey circular glass sculpture is located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It is named after
Tun Datu Mustapha, a former Chief Minister of Sabah. The building used to be known as Sabah Foundation Building (Bangunan Yayasan Sabah). It is home to the '@mosphere' restaurant, which slowly spins to provide a complete view of Likas Harbour. It makes one rotation per hour.