It all started with a restaurant opening. Somebody I know is opening a restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. Why don’t I go and check it out? Then, one thought led to another. Since I’m going there, why don’t I go for some sightseeing? And to make it more fun, why don’t I buy my plane tickets without booking a hotel or getting a tour? Never try, never know.
I used to plan trips for the benefit of the people going with me, but since there’s nobody coming along this time, there’s no planning required. I thought some general ideas of where I wanted to go would be sufficient, for a start. In 2016, I wanted to try a different approach.
Let’s see where the wind blows
So, I bought my AirAsia round trip tickets, and hollered, “Hey, I’m coming!” I slept through the entire 2 and a half hours on the flight like I wanted to, and upon arrival, woke up blurry eyed, and with tussled hair, followed the trail of passengers to the designated luggage collection conveyor belt. While waiting for my luggage, I spotted two racks lined with leaflets and brochures, and to my delight, found day tour advertisements. I put the precious leaftlets into my backpack.
I decided to ditch the RM5.00 airport bus in favour of the RM30.00 taxi, because I had to wait 45 mins for the bus. I came all the way, didn’t I? Can’t be late! The taxi ride to Imago Shopping Mall took 30 mins, and I got there just barely 2 hours before opening. Just enough time to shower and change into something nice. 😉
Before I went down to the restaurant, I called the tour agency with the day tour advertisements, and was delighted to discover that they had a confirmed day tour to Kundasang the next day (Sunday), and a day trip to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Islands on the following day (Monday). I quickly booked my spots for the two tours, and went downstairs to dinner. Only the smothering haze lingering outside the shopping mall dampened the spirits a little bit.
Food, glorious food!
The restaurant opening was worthy of its own reality show, because it looked really exciting. I was to stay in the apartment which functioned as the owners’ home, as well as the office and second kitchen. Lots of people were busy going in and out and doing lots of things from early in the morning to late at night, till past midnight. This is all they’ve been working for for the past few months, and it came together at last.
The restaurant is called ‘Tavern Kitchen & Bar‘, and specialises in western and local food, and some unique creations inspired by the traditional food and ingredients found only in Sabah. The decor is modern and fresh, with interesting murals and decorative artwork covering the walls.
I was the first to arrive at 6pm, and the walk-in customers slowly trickled in. Since I was first, they processed my order first, and my food arrived soon. I ordered the Coconut Mojito, Hinava Squid Ink Pasta, and the Apple Tuhau Crumble (pictured below). I thought the food was delicious, tantalizing fare for the taste buds, and wrote about it on my food blog, in an article entitled ‘Hinava Squid Ink Pasta‘.
The bar is located right outside the restaurant, and was fully stocked for the evening. As hungry visitors began to flood the mall in search of dinner, the restaurant filled up with couples, friends, and families, waiting for their hot meals.
I was informed by my host that a live band would be playing at 8pm, and sure enough, they were a hit with the crowd. Their vocals and synergy was spot-on and the audience loved every thrill and every guitar rift.
While I was listening to the band, a waiter recommended that I should try their signature cocktail, called ‘Sumandak on Fire’. ‘Sumandak’ means ‘beautiful girl’ in Sabahan, and sure enough, the cocktail literally lights up the room like a beautiful woman. The drink is a showstopper, as you can see from the slide show below. It is warm from the blue flames, and sweet as a lady should be, yet laced with a generous dose of mystery.
I will write about my adventures in Kundasang and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Islands in parts 2 and 3 of my series on Kota Kinabalu. 😀
Other articles I wrote about Sabah: