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November 17, 2009

The Night Market in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu / Malaysia

It takes about 1hr 15mins flight from Singapore Changi Airport over the South China Sea to Kuching Airport in Sarawak; another 1hr 20mins (approx.) from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu (KK) Airport in Sabah, an almost-3-hr pleasant journey on Malaysia Airlines to reach the northwest coast of Borneo, the world’s third largest island.

At KK airport, in order to take a taxi, you have to buy a ticket from the taxi counter. The good thing is, there is no taxi touting. Everything seems to be well in order for tourists.kota-kinabalu-airport-taxi

We bought a ticket to King Park Hotel which is just 15mins away at the old town city centre. That ticket costs RM 30.

As a budget traveller, I like to source for reasonably good and affordable hotels near/at city centres for convenience sake. Since we are out most of the time, we can do away with the facilities of a 4/5-star hotel and get a decent hotel, with or without any star rating. This time, I chose to stay in the 3-star King Park Hotel cos of its good location at the city centre, plus it’s much cheaper than many hotels in that area due to the good location.


It cost us RM 148 per night inclusive of daily buffet breakfast for a high floor superior room that overseas the city and the sea. Of cos, there are also good but more expensive hotels recommended by others, like Le Meridien and Shangri-La hotel nearby. Anyway, it’s a sponsored trip by Malaysia Airlines so we should enjoy ourselves! Remember to check out MAS promotional airfares!king-park-hotel-kk-city-view

A nice view of the sea on the 12th floor of King Park Hotel.


Time for dinner! We wandered aimless at the city centre near our hotel to look for food and were pretty surprised to come across a big market without knowing that it’s the popular Filipino Night Market that is facing the waterfront.

Rows of stalls are selling fresh poultry and fishes. I always thought people like to visit the market in the morning for fresh meats and vegetables. Surprisingly, there were many customers buying fresh produce in the market at night.


So many different types of fresh fish at the market. Walk on if you don’t mind the fishy smell and wet ground.



Another area in the Night Market selling vegetables, fruits, spices and other ingredients.


See the brown fruits covered with soft spines? They are tarap fruits. In fact, at first I thought those were another type of durian. Really funny-looking fruit with skin like the bristles of a brush. I forgot to try it. But I did try some red coloured Sabah durian! Will blog about it later.


As we meandered past rows and rows of stalls, we came to the dining area where there are stalls selling local delicacies. We were tempted to try the BBQ seafood. There are different types of seafood: big tiger prawns, different kind of fish, squids, crabs and even lobster.



This lobster costs RM 100. I wonder if it has been eaten yet cos we still saw it (if it’s the same lobster) in the same position two days later.


The BBQ seafood was quite good. Try the BBQ if you have a good stomach (you may not like the way they handle food). The succulent tiger prawns and fish were fresh but they were not warm. One such tiger prawn costs RM 8 and the red grilled fish is around RM 10. You may want to bargain for better price if you order a lot. Anyway, all the BBQ stalls are pretty much the same. We tried two stalls on different nights and they charged the same price for the same quality of seafood.


For the first time we came across such funny looking food that like fish eggs to me. Frankly, we didn’t know what it was. We tried some and it’s quite nice, a bit salty. The local mixed them with chilli sauce and some lime juice. These are fresh lato, a type of seaweed with green coloured little bulbs filled with juice.


Corals on sale. I was really surprised to see that. I thought coral shouldn’t be removed from reefs as they will affect the reef ecosystem?



They sell sea shells by the sea shore.


This Night Market seems to have everything under the sky. There are even some men stitching clothes with traditional kind of sewing machines.


Ha! For the first time, we had macaroni in “Ice Kacang” (shaved ice dessert).


Time seemed to pass by really slowly. Later then we realised the sky above Sabah had already turned dark at 6pm! So when we thought it was getting late, our watch showed that it was only 8pm (same as Singapore time).

Next, island-hopping in Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manuka.

Read My first trip to Borneo.

30 Comments Leave your comment

  • Jasper Jugan said on November 17, 2009 12:39 pm

    whoa? corals for sale??

    haha wow cool that you liked lato, i didn’t like it because it’s served cold

  • Gilbert Wong said on November 17, 2009 2:46 pm

    I never go to those areas u went~ for us locals~ we dont even go there.. hehe.. I guess, what you don’t know wont harm you. GREAT coverage~ Sabah has a lot great food aside from the filipino market~ try this website for your food guide in Sabah~ http://everydayfoodiluvkk.blogspot.com/

  • henry said on November 17, 2009 6:07 pm

    awwww… u should try the tarap for GOD’s sake!!!! :p
    is the red durian really that bad? never tried it before even though im a sabahan cause i spent most of my life in Labuan which is more influenced from the KL side since it’s a federal territory… anyway u are the 1st one who blogged so much about the night market compare to other blogs that I’ve read :)

  • Borneo Falcon said on November 17, 2009 7:07 pm

    Some familiar and new buildings in KK since my last visit here. From the hotel view, I roughly knows the location of your hotel (even though I never heard of it before).

    Last time I stayed in Capitol Hotel (opposite Wisma Merdeka)

  • mylo said on November 17, 2009 7:31 pm

    I LOVE to visit street markets! This night market look unique and interesting.

    Eunice, you are making me hungry with all these YUMMYLICIOUS shots!

    Thanks for sharing

  • J2Kfm said on November 17, 2009 10:17 pm

    wacky green latos. supposed to eat like savouries?! aiks. more like desserts to me.
    the grilled seafoods might have been there for a good week. hahaha …
    RM100?!! sure break all record for street food.

  • Antonio said on November 18, 2009 12:00 am

    why Filipino Night Market Eunice? Is it because the people who sell them are Filipinos? yeah, I heard that there are lots of Filipinos in Borneo. That’s something refreshing to know……

    and the city—–it’s not a big city but it’s definitely clean and orderly…..

  • carmel said on November 18, 2009 6:00 am

    Oh wow this looks like a sight to be seen, Ive never seen so much raw meat laid out like that not even in my butchers.

  • tom said on November 18, 2009 4:59 pm

    Intersting that people like to visite the market at night.

  • QuaChee said on November 18, 2009 8:23 pm

    wow, very nice travel log. reminds me of the visit i had there earlier this year.

    1. the hotel – great one. value for money! with a view some more! :)

    2. the green fish eggs – oh, i missed that the other time. if i go back, will wanna try this!

    3. the sotong/ squids – oh that was super alrite! :)

  • pinoyislands said on November 19, 2009 8:55 am

    it’s cool that there’s a filipino night market in kota kinabalu. a must see for us filipinos thanks for sharing eunice :)

  • free online adventure games said on November 19, 2009 5:16 pm

    Macaroni in ice-kachang sounds….. interesting.. but not too appealing :p

  • dongho said on November 19, 2009 9:08 pm

    hmmm… filipino night market. very very interesting! oh by the way i might be in singapore in december or maybe in january.

  • maria said on November 20, 2009 2:48 am

    I dont think corals are supposed to be removed they obviously dont mind though!

  • London Caller said on November 20, 2009 8:11 am

    It’s sad to see people selling those corals at the market? What can I say if there were no buyers, them there would be no sellers…

  • PauTravels said on November 20, 2009 3:09 pm

    nice entry… well I guess due to the number of Filipinos in Sabah area, that’s why there is a Filipino market there.. :D

  • HPC said on November 24, 2009 1:16 am

    Great blog. I teach on a few Photography Holidays around the world and I’ll definitely be recommending this blog to my students who are always asking me about good travel photography websites!

  • Cecil Lee said on November 28, 2009 1:30 am

    Hi, Eunice! Kinda busy to have missed some of your great stories recently! Glad you managed to get a sponsored trip from MAS to KK!
    I haven’t been to KK… I want to see more photos! :)

  • eunice said on November 29, 2009 6:55 pm

    @Jasper: It tastes like fish eggs to me. Quite crunchy and a bit salty. I see the local eat the lato with lot of chilli.

    @Gilbert: Yes I believe there are more good food around; too bad we didn’t have enough time in KK.

    @Henry: hahaha ya I think this post about the Night Market is quite long! Too bad I forgot to try tarap. It’s sweet right? I don’t think I can buy that kind of fruit in Singapore. And yes, the red durian SUCKS!!!!

    @Borneo Falcon: wow it seems that you are always familiar with the places I’ve been to in Malaysia! U must be travelling lot in your region.

    @mylo: Try not to look at food pics with an empty stomach. That’s my principle. LOL

    @J2KFM: HAHA! I guess most who tried those grilled seafood were tourists like us. :P Ya if that lobster is no longer fresh, it should not cost so much anymore.

    @Antonio: Yep, from my understanding, there are many Filipino running the stalls at the market. However, I can’t tell who are the Filipinos. Yes so far, we find the city clean and relatively safe too.

    @carmel: Indeed. In Singapore, we only see raw meats in supermarkets and wet markets, but not in the open space.

    @Tom: Yep, quite interesting to see stalls selling fresh meat and veg in the night, instead of morning market.

    @Quachee: Thanks! Oh u also went KK? It’s a lovely experience… Hey, that’s not fish egg but lato, a kind of seaweed.

    @pinoyislands: An interesting market to visit, especially for city people like us.

  • eunice said on November 29, 2009 7:01 pm

    @games: LOL actually, that ice kacang is quite nice.

    @dongho: oh u coming SG for holidays?

    @maria: ya I think so too. Not a good idea to remove the coral isn’t it?!

    @london: sigh… actually I feel quite disgusted to see corals being placed on the table for sale. I think they should be in the sea, shouldn’t they?

    @Pau: Ya I wish I can tell who are the Filipinos though!

    @HPC: Wow thank u!

    @Cecil: hey you busy traveller! :D Commercial time… check out MAS website for competitive airfares to KK!

  • Tita Beng said on December 1, 2009 1:41 pm

    Hi Eunice! It’s been a while since my last visit. Will try to bloghop here regularly.
    I hope to see KK too, one of these days. Interestingly, we also call that seaweed with bulbs “lato”. It’s usually eaten along with grilled fish or meat. See yah again soon!

  • bena said on December 25, 2009 8:15 am

    how cool.. there’s filipino night market in Borneo.. nice to know that..

    and oh, i like lato though it’s a bit slimy in taste.. =)

  • debra_o'ryance said on July 8, 2010 11:18 am

    OH NO! I miss all the grilled seafood in e philiphinio market. itz soooo…yummy n fresh …hehehe, ofkoz high in calories too… lol

  • debra_o'ryance said on July 8, 2010 11:21 am

    LATO is great! Kinda’ miss them od… :(

  • Ceasar Amirhassan Nimor said on July 13, 2010 10:18 am

    I did not realize that Sabah and my island here in the Philippines are so similar..and they have lato there too…wow I love eating this seaweed especially when dipped in vinegar with chili pepper..my trip to Sabah is still April 2011 but right now Im already excited

  • eunice said on July 16, 2010 11:53 am

    Yep! I also realised there are many Filipinos in Sabah too.

  • Kelli said on September 15, 2010 7:09 pm

    I leave Friday from Korea to Kota Kinabalu. This was a most wonderful read. Thanks for sharing!

  • eunice said on September 15, 2010 11:22 pm

    @Kelli: Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

  • H O Ding said on August 29, 2011 9:07 am

    Hi, very interesting tips and will be going tomorrow. Thanks for the tips. Will go to those interesting places you mentioned.

  • ben rahman said on December 15, 2011 1:39 pm

    The last time I ate lato was in 1952. My grandma’s brother was a fisherman.He used to bring lots of lato everytime he visited us. Now the sea around Johor ist poluted, gone are the latos and the corals.I am flying to kk next month on a holiday for a week. My first plan was tawau.But since they also have lato in kk well why not, since kk has much to offer than tawau.

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