Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kota Kinabalu trip – Prologue

Since the open of Asean capital skies policy, other than SIN-KL routes, budget airlines are also flying to Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. These routes used to be dominated by SIA, Silkair and MAS. With budget airlines Tiger Airway, Jetstar and Airasia entering the market, airfare to these destinations are becoming more affordable with return trips costing less than S$100. =)

I just couldnt resist the cheap airfare when there are promotions. I saw this Jetstar promotion way back in Feb and was attracted to the $18.88 per way to Kota Kinabalu (more often called "KK") since Penang and Kuching are already in my radar this year.

I was chatting with Chew Hiang and I asked her whether she is interested in going to KK. In the past, I used to associate KK with Mount Kinabalu until I read a blogger's trip to KK. I realised that other than climbing Mount Kinabalu, there are other activities such as snorkelling and river rafting which interest me. Initally Chew Hiang wanted to climb Mount Kinabalu but the cost is ~ S$500 - $600 which deterred some people in the group so we settled on snorkelling and river rafting. This group comprise of me, YQ, Chew Hiang, Fredrick, Chew Hiang sis - Chew Yen and her bf Ricky. One month prior to the trip, my sec friend cum Kenneth ex-colleague Luxiang join us while Fredrick will be pulling out due to his studies.

Although the promotion airfare is S$18.88 which is inclusive of taxes, it does not apply to every single date during the promotion travelling period. The best airfare which I can find is S$18.88 which departs on 15 Jul and S$26 for the return leg on 18 Jul. However there are 6 of us and this rate is only applicable for the first 3 passengers, I have to separate the booking in order to get the best rate. In total, I made 4 bookings for 6 people which average out to $61.11 per pax. Usual jetstar airfare is $48 per way. All of us are on jetsaver light which only allows 10kg cabin baggage except Chew Hiang who is on jetsaver. She is concerned on the toiletries as there are restriction on the capacity of a cabin baggage. I didnt know until now that payment for Jetstar airticket can be make by SAM machine, Sing Post and 7-11. There would be no facility fee charged for payment made by these mode. However payment has to be done within 48 hours after booking otherwise seats will be released. As Luxiang's ticket was booked at a much later date, it cost almost twice of our ticket at $125.95.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, another Malaysian state in Borneo. Sabah is known as "the land below the wind" because of it's location just south of typhoon prone Philippines. KK was formely known as Jesselton 亚庇. It was destroyed almost totally during World War II with only three buildings standing - Land and Survey Building, General Post Office and Atkinson Clock Tower.
Map of Sabah

Even though Tune Hotel is the cheapest in KK at ~ RM55 a night, I didnt choose Tune Hotel this time round as it is located at 1Borneo which is ~ 30mins away from KK city. There are plenty of backpacker lodge at KK city and we choose Lavender Lodge which is located near Sedco Square as it has numerous good reviews by forummers in Tripadvisor. An ensuite deluxe double room cost RM80 ~ S$33 per night. The response from Lavender Lodge is quite slow as it took few days for them to reply. =( The good thing about Lavender Lodge is that they provide complimentary airport pick up service if the guest stayed for more than 3 nights. Hence, we are eligible for this offer.

The most popular river rafting in KK are Kiulu river & Padas river. Kiulu river is class 1 - 2 while Padas river is class 3 - 4. Kiulu is suitable for families with children or for those who cant swim as the rapids are calmer. I choose Padas river as the rapids are thriller hence a higher adrenaline rush. There are quite a number of travel agency which offers Padas River Rafting package. A forummer in Tripadvisor recommended me this travel agency Kota Sarang Travel & Tours. The person in charge Eileen quoted me RM200 per pax after discount, the original cost is RM220. I choose Kota Sarang Travel & Tours as email correspondences from Eileen is quick and we are able to pay the full amount when we reach KK. Other travel agencies require deposit or full payment to be make in advance. Furthermore Eileen mentioned that they can help us to take photos using their cameras and is free of charge.

Itinerary for the trip:
Day 1: Arrive @ 12.55pm, Kota Kinabalu City attractions
Day 2: Snorkelling and island hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Day 3: White Water Rafting at Padas River
Day 4: Gaya Street Sunday Market, Depart @ 1.35pm

Budget for the trip is S$300 ~ RM690:
- RM120 for accomodation
- RM10 for transport
- RM70 for snorkelling
- RM200 for river rafting
- RM190 for meals
- RM100 for shopping & souvenirs

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