If you only have 12 hours in kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia’s largest city you need to set your expectations straight. No climbing of Mount Kinabalu, and no diving off Sabah’s underwater gems. With twelve hours you have to be greedy and very selective. For me, the easiest sell of KK is its proximity to the beaches. Tunku Abdul Raman, named after the country’s first Prime Minister, is an easy speedboat ride away from Jesselton Port. Note it’s a speedboat – not those motorised pump boats you normally take island hopping in the Philippines or in Thailand. Part of getting to the islands is the bumpy, water-splashing good time on these bad boys.
There are plenty of islands to choose from, but stick to the main island – if you forgot to bring anything or to pack any food (which I did). Manukan Island directly faces the city skyline of Kota Kinabalu. The majestic mountain ranges were not on show that day, but you get the lush greenery and the deep blues of the sea nevertheless.
Entrance to the park is 10 MYR, and a return boat trip is about 40 MYR. It was a quick thirty minutes from the airport to the white sand shores, and am pretty sure that’s a great sell for any beach bum. Though one can’t complain, it was Hari Raya weekend hence the multitude of beach goers.
If you’re short on time and just looking for a quick half day escape, you can squeeze in a day at the beaches in Kota Kinabalu. Local residents are so lucky. You can finish the day with a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk filled with seafood restaurants, and a great Malaysian food selection.
Sure, London is an expensive city. A quick hop on the Underground is £2.20, and a usual pint is about £4. However, there are plenty of things to do around the city to fill up your time, with minimum, nay, zero damage to your wallet. Pretty sure that the folks who missed out on the 2012 Olympic Games had a piece of what the city had to offer beyond sporting activities.
1. Revel in antiquities in the British Museum
Treasures from the Assyrian, Sumerian, Egyptian and Greek civilisations come together in this massive complex filled with history, relics, and plenty of marbles. Lord Elgin brought the facades from the Parthenon and they are now housed in a special viewing room; the mausoleum of Alexander was reconstructed from the pieces retrieved from its ruins, and the temple to Zeus is on full display with its nymphs captured in marble during mid-dance.
Other important pieces from the ancient world are also kept within the museum rooms – including the Rosetta Stone, a full Easter Island moai, and other bas reliefs retrieved from the ruins of Mesapotamia and Sumer. A donation of £7 is requested, and if you have the luxury to donate, then please do so to keep the displays in good condition. As an ultimate paradox, London’s star architect Lord Norman Foster extravagantly welcomes all visitors with a stunningly modern ceiling in the Grand Courtyard.
2. Be in awe of the masterpieces at the National Gallery
Similar to the British Museum, a suggested donation is requested (£5), but it’s still generally a free museum to visit.
Sitting in the heart of central London, the National Gallery is a standout collection of paintings from such gifted artists such as Van Gogh (Sunflowers), van Eyck (The Arnolfini Marriage), Canaletto (various works depicting canal life in Venice), French impressionists Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Cezanne, and my personal favourite, Georges Seurat (the US version of The Office recently spoofed his work of riverside picnickers).
It will take in a good day to ramble around the gallery when London rain comes in to spoil the weather, but a well spent day with the masters. It’s beautiful inside and out, familiar you say, of course, it was patterned after Athen’s Parthenon.
3. Take in the London atmosphere with its usual meeting point in Trafalgar Square
A skip and a hop away from Houses of Parliament, theatre central Leicester Square, and seats of power (Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street) is London’s melting point – Trafalgar Square. The marvellous open area is adorned with two fountains, several lions, and on the top of a column, navy hero Horatio Nelson.
Take in the air of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan city while travellers, tourist, red double-deck buses whiz past. Before you head of to take a walk to the historic areas towards Westminster Abbey, or head off shopping to Covent Garden or Picadilly Circus, or visit nearby museums like The National Gallery, take the time to stay at the courtyard, watch the world go by, while see it all come together in this wonderful public square.
Plenty of other things to do in London when you’re short on time and money, more galleries to visit, more parks to saunter, in and plenty of historical walks to take it all in, it’s not enough to pull them in a short trip. More things to do and write about in future entries!