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.
What’s a trip to Sydney without heading over to the beach? The classic Sydney itinerary would point you to Manly beach or Bondi. I’d recommend turning that trip to Bondi Beach into a walking tour – starting from Coogee beach.
Coogee lies south east of the city center and public buses are frequent. Once you get to Coogee Beach, instead of lazing on a shore lapping up the sun, take a bit of walking first – marvelous rocky cliffs, hillside communities and seaside houses from the more affluent side of Sydney. The walk takes about an hour and a half, but you hardly notice with the stunning views around you.
If you get the timing right, you get to see some quirky and amazing art installations from Sculpture by the Sea (held every November) along the way. You can also check out the seaside hotel on the way, with its pool. But with a free beach right at your feet, why bother?
Don’t forget the Australian adage going for Slip Slop Slap! I got a pretty intense sunburn on a cloudy day. Bring a book if you’re keen on beach bumming and working on that tan, but if you want to go surfing, there are rentals for lockers and surf gear scattered along Bondi beach so that you don’t miss out on any of the summer fun the city has on deck. Also at the northern edge of Bondi, you can see cleverly put together mosaics at the children’s pool.