Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Backpacking Borneo: Kota Kinabalu-Pulau Labuan

It was time to go. We spent an unplanned extra day at Kuni's not just because we enjoyed Kota Kinabalu, but also because we felt 'at home' in his house. But as I've said, it was time to move on to another destination.

Walking along Kota Kinabalu's waterfront one last time.

We took the bus from Grace Ville to the city center (.80 sen), with Tobi and Dinah who wanted to go to the Central Market. As we alighted at the bus station, we bid our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

After much debate with Shervin about the money I was about to spend for pasalubongs (souvenir gifts), I did my shopping alone. I bought keychains, a shirt for my dad, a shirt for myself, and of course, a fridge magnet at Kota Kinabalu's Handicraft Market (formerly 'Pasar Filipino').

Merchandise at the Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market (formerly Pasar Filipino).

Our walk to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal was about 40 minutes from the market, stopping for photos every so often. At the terminal, we found out that the boat trips for tourists to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park depart there (as mentioned in the Pulau Sapi blog), 17 MYR per person, one island - and not from the small jetty we went to two days earlier. But the price wasn't much of a difference anyway since four of us shared a boat, plus we were able to visit two islands.

Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal.

I was exhausted from the walk under the scorching sun, so I sat at the waiting area while Shervin approached the ticket counter. After a couple of minutes standing on queue, he got back and said that we can make it to the last trip to Pulau Labuan, but not the last trip onwards Brunei. We had to decide quickly whether we should go back to Kuni's house and just leave early morning the next day, or spend a night at Pulau Labuan. We chose the latter, and shelled out a pricey RM53 each.

Our Borneo trip thus far. View Kota Kinabalu-Pulau Labuan in a larger map

The ferry ride of three hours may seem long, but is considered to be the best way to travel from Sabah to Brunei and onward Sarawak (or the other way around) because an overland journey is more time consuming - even a bit expensive.

It was the longest three-hour ride for Shervin as he had to endure listening to my 50s, 60s and 70s music through our respective headphones via my Ipod's splitter. We arrived at our destination with Shervin's new love for Beegees' 'Words'.

Many may find Pulau Labuan less interesting than the other Malaysian islands (fair enough, there aren't much tourist activities here), but Shervin and I loved it. Anywhere not touristy. Its city center, Bandar Labuan, does not have much character but it's a peaceful place to spend the night (until a commotion happened later that day, keep reading).

We asked a couple of hotels for vacancies, and both were full (mind you, there aren't much cheap accommodations here). When we asked Hotel Oriental for a budget room, the receptionist left her desk and led us to a backpacker place one block down.

Shervin and I following the kind receptionist from Hotel Oriental.

It didn't have a signboard. No way will we be able to find it by ourselves. ASV Hostel only offers dorm-type rooms for 28 MYR each with breakfast and is situated on a street just a block across the ferry terminal. Perfect location!

Comfy double deck beds at ASV Hostel.

The dorm only had two other occupants, a Korean couple. While it's quiet inside the room, it can get really busy outside at the common area. On the same floor, not only is there a dormitory for backpackers, but also rooms which locals rent. Make sure you bring your valuables whenever you leave.

One of the hostel's staff is Filipina, Ate Joy. She recommended some good small local eateries. And though we went to the Chinese restaurant which offers a wide array of seafood dishes, we only ordered chicken wings with rice so we'd have spare money for beer.

We went to the bakery after and bought a small cake as a present for the receptionist at Hotel Oriental who helped us. When Shervin gave it to her, he said she barely recognized him at first.

Back at the hostel, we watched 'Transporter' while the family members of the owner peered curiously outside the window where they saw policemen interviewing a couple. Ate Joy said, someone threw a rock at a woman riding a motorcycle. Great. Not as peaceful as we thought. We retired early and did not finish the flick since the kids kept clicking the remote control from video mode to television. Besides, we didn't want to miss a ferry ride again.

[This blog is part of the South East Asia in Six Weeks series which took place May-June 2009. Price of goods, transportation and so forth may already be different.]


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Myron said...
July 19, 2010 at 2:55 AM

May I ask what the current ferry times are from KK-Labuan and from Labuan-Brunei?

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
July 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM

We did the KK-Pulau Labuan trip May last year so the schedule might be different already. Back then there were two trips daily, 8am and 1pm.

Jericho said...
August 6, 2010 at 8:24 PM

@Pinay Travel Junkie: Nice share.. Saw your blog while doing my search on backpackers' lodge in labuan. By the way, will be vistin Manila city this coming December.. :D

@Myron: You can head to my blog if you need to know ferry schedule from KK-Labuan and Labuan-KK. Hope it is still the same: http://stewardjohn.com/category/travel-guide/

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
August 9, 2010 at 1:32 AM

Thanks Steward! Manila in December is nice, expect much traffic though due to holiday shopping. Haha! I saw on your blog you wore a barong already, I assume it won't be your first visit?

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