Tagged: seafood

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo (Part I & II)

 The last hour of the flight into Kota Kinabulu we flew over lush green mountains which got me more excited for all the rainforest time I have ahead of me. KK is located in the north east part of Malaysia Borneo. I took the public bus from the airport into the city getting off at the last stop near Gala street, where all the hostels are. I wanted to stay at Akinabalu Youth Hostel, but it was full, so instead I stayed down the road at Stay In Lodge for 20rm ($5.50) a night. The hostel is a dump- a dirty walk-up with a slow drip shower, dirty sheets and a loud bar next door; but I’m trying to save money after expensive Indonesia so I have nothing to complain about.

After checking in I went for Chinese food downstairs at 5 Star Hainanese and had mixed vegetables with pork. It was the first Chinese I had in a long time and it was delicious. Not as cheap as I’d like though- the dish cost $4. It was 9pm by then so I just headed back to the hostel to plan out my Borneo schedule. 

 I woke-up in the morning and spoke to my hostel director as well as a few guests and quickly learned that there’s not much to do or see in Sabah (the east section of Malaysia Borneo where I am now.) The two main attractions I have already applied for permits and am not scheduled to do until later in April. I had thought Kota Kinabalu was going to be a major city but was wrong about that too and there’s actually nothing to do here. So unfortunately I made a mistake by coming and booked a flight to Kuching in Sarawak (the west side of Malaysia Borneo) for tomorrow morning.

After scheduling I walked towards the water and saw all the fishing boats, then walked towards the town center which all together took less than 15 minutes. 

   Sabah is mostly Muslims but there are also a handful of Chinese and Malay on the streets. At the center of the city is a large mall. It is old, outdated and dirty like the city. I decided to see a movie at Growball Cinemax just to kill time; I saw Cinderella, which was one of the three movies in English. After that I walked back to the backpacker Gaya street where my hostel is. I stopped at Yee Fung Laksa, a local crowded Chinese restaurant, and ordered the chicken wonton noodle soup. The restaurant only has six things on the menu so I figured it’d be good but it was a bowl of fish broth with noodles and bland chicken wontons. No garnish.

Later that evening I walked back to the waterfront for a seafood dinner. There are two rows of outdoor street food restaurants. Tables are lined up full of fresh seafood and grills. Most of the vendors and shoppers were Muslim. In general the area was pretty quite and I wonder if it’s any busier on the weekends; the whole city seems quite. I ordered mini-squid and sautéed greens for 17rm ($4.50.) It was alright but not worth that much money. 

     The next morning I headed back to the airport for an 8am flight. The public bus doesn’t run that early so I had to pay $10 to get there by taxi. KK ended up being a huge and expensive mistake.


I returned back to Kota Kinabalu and this time I stayed at Asia Adventures Lodge also on Jalan Gaya (Gaya street.) Vermont and I stayed in an AC dorm. This hostel was much nicer than Stay Inn across the street and I paid the same price. We met two boys from Australia in our hostel and ended up spending our next 24 hours with them.
We went to the waterfront market for dinner and chose to eat at Glam’s station which was full with customers. We joined a communal table and I got up to choose my fish. I picked out a seabass and had it grilled with chili sauce. 

After dinner we stopped at Upperstar for beer. We got two large Tiger’s for 19rm ($5,) a steal for Malaysia. The Australin’s paid for my beer as a birthday treat. On the way home I bought a chocolate strawberry Magnum ice cream bar as my Bday dessert.

The next morning the four of us woke up and headed to the ferry terminal to spend the day on one of the islands off the coast of the city. We bought a ticket for one island to save money. We waited in the waiting area for 30 minutes and finally realized they were never going to tell us when our boat was there. After complaining and refusing to sit back down we were put into a boat.  We arrived on Manukan Island around noon, giving us four hours on the beach. The island is small and can easily be walked in twenty minutes. We spent our time snorkeling and laying out. We took a walk around and I found a bunch of beach glass. It’s nice searching on a beach where no one else cares to look for it.   


   We got back on the pier at 4ish for our 4pm ferry back. It wasn’t until 4:30pm and two phone calls later that a ferry actually arrived. We learned never to book through Borneo Ferry company again.    When we got back to land we rushed back to the hostel through the market, which was actually open this time. The Central market was also open and the streets were crowded. This was much different from the last time I was here. This time I actually liked Kota Kinabalu. 


I showered and then sprinted with all my stuff to the public bus station in front of the Shangri La Hotel, almost a mile away from where I was. I was told I had less than 15 minutes to catch the last bus to the main bus station. I was dripping wet with sweat when I got there but at least I made it. I boarded the bus and it didn’t leave for twenty minutes. I easily have walked there if I had known.

The public bus went through the suburban towns of Kota Kinabalu. The houses were a mix between modern and rundown but the area was clean and western for the most part. I got to see a beautiful coral sunset on the way. 


I arrived at the North Bus Terminal in Inanam and bought a ticket for the next bus to Sandakan at 7pm for 43 rm. The bus ride was a riot. There was a young driver and three of his friends in the front, one of which sat next to me in the front row. They blasted clubbing music and were dancing and occasionally flicking on and off the bus lights to the beat. I will never understand why bus drivers in Asia sometimes have their friends join. And I wonder if they get paid or not too.
On top of the constant noise the bus was ice cold. All the boys were wearing winter puffer jackets but all I had was my zip-up and elephant pants. I asked if they could turn down the air but they refused. They were in their own world and disrespectful of everyone else who were freezing and trying to sleep.
The ride took 6.5 hours instead of 5.

Gili Trawagan, Gili Islands, Indonesia


I took a wooden “ferry” from Bangsal port. The boat is also used to transport food to the island so it smelled like a grocery store. The ride was about forty minutes to Gili Trawagan, the bigger of the three Gili islands, which is where I stayed. There are no cars or motorbikes on the island; just bikes and horse and buggies.


I got off the ferry and ventured through the muddy streets in the pouring rain to Gili La Boheme. I walked into the hostel and felt like I was in a Anthropologie store. It’s bohemian chic and definitely one of the coolest places I’ve stayed so far. There are multiple hang out areas, an outdoor TV nook, and a 24/7 make-it-yourself crepe station (I was only able to make 2 crepes successfully the whole week and the rest came out like bread pudding.) Across the street is The Yoga Place, which I had actually found on TripAdvisor before arriving. It turns out the owner of La Boheme also owns The Yoga Place, as well as Le Petit Gili restaurant, and a few other places in town. All his properties have the same look and vibe.


That first day I took a yoga class at 4pm then a bunch of us from the hostel went to Le Petit Gili for happy hour and free tapas. I wandered through the nightly food market, which is in a lot right next to the restaurant. After the tapas I wasn’t that hungry so I just grabbed a grilled corn to go.

Every night, except Thursday, is a party night on the island. Bars are open and then at midnight everything shuts down except for one bar which rotates every night. That first night was Jiggy Jig’s, a dirty beer pong bar. I only stayed for one game, which I won for the team. The bar felt like university but not in the good way. I walked back and just as I stepped inside the hostel is started down pouring.


The next day it rained all day. I went across the street to the Yoga Place to read and eat lunch in their elevated lounge area. I had an avocado salad with cous cous, which ended up being my addiction for the next few days.


After lunch I went back to the hostel and we all just chilled out upstairs on bean bag chairs and played cards all day. Later that night we went to the night market for dinner. The market is full of grilled seafood stalls with whole fish, lobsters, squid, shrimp, crabs, etc. There are also stalls where you can get grilled meat/seafood skewers, and Warung stalls (pre-cooked local dishes). I “splurged” and split a grilled barracuda and a large squid with a German guy from my hostel. We haggled and ended up paying 100,000 rp ($8) for the whole meal which included rice and vegetables for both of us. Unfortunately I was disappointed by the meal because the seafood tasted incredibly fishy.


The next morning I went back to the Yoga Place and had the avocado salad for breakfast. Six of us girls then walked around the island. The main road continues in a full circle around the island and should take an hour to do, but somehow it took us five hours. We stopped at Laguna Restaurant on the beach for a cocktail first. When we got off the main drag we took a quick swim, and later we stopped on the Ombak Sunset Swings (swings in the ocean.) The swings are awesome but the water was too high at the time so it was impossible to swing.





Later on the six of us went to Gili Divers for happy hour and dinner. I had seafood pasta which had minuscule seafood but was still good.

The next day was sunny so we went to Egoiste restaurant on the beach to be on the beach. For lunch three of us ordered the avocado sandwich and we had the most ridiculous bread fiasco. The bread on the menu isn’t specified for that sandwich, but it is for every other sandwich. I asked for toast, like the Club sandwich had, and the other girls asked for panini bread, which was also on the menu. Five minutes later the waitress comes back and tells us she can’t make the sandwich because they’re missing ingredients; however, they can make the club sandwich and the only difference between the two is that the club has chicken. Once we establish that they do have the ingredients then she says they can’t make it because they don’t have baguettes, but none of us ordered it on a baguette. When the sandwiches finally do arrive mine is with toast and the other two are on baguettes.

We laid down on beds on the beach and relaxed. A little later I ordered an ice coffee which tasted like liquid tar. That restaurant was not doing it for us.

I went to yoga at 4pm then four of us went to dinner- my Swedish girl bunkmate and two girls from New Zealand who I had been hanging out with. We went to Regina Pizzeria which we had heard amazing things about, and the reviews were right. It’s real Italian wood-fire pizza with ingredients like home. I ordered the prosciutto fungi pizza with arugula and doused it with chili oil, just like home.


After dinner we went back and watched Birdman.

On my last day the four of us had planned to take a early morning yoga class then go to Gili Air to hang out on a nicer beach for the day. However, when me and NZ woke-up at 7am and saw that it was down pouring we decided to skip Air and do the afternoon class instead. But even that plan got confused when the sun decided to come out at 10am. So we ended up beach restaurant hoping on the main drag instead. First I had my avocado salad, then the four of us went to Pesona so NZ could get her Indian fix. We sipped orange juice on cushions looking out at the water. Then we walked the drag past all the fancy restaurants that we can’t afford, and I started salivating for octopus salad and ceviche. We turned back and stopped at New Rudy’s for a snack and pineapple juice- this time lounging on mats in a little bungalow.

We went back to the hostel and ordered dinner from Le Petit Gili, which does free delivery. I ordered the pasta bolognese and this time has a pasta fiasco. The restaurant called back to say they can’t make it not because they don’t have the sauce but because they don’t have spaghetti. I asked if they had other pasta and they do have penne but it didn’t even occur to them to substitute it. The type of pasta is not even listed on the menu, and it does not say spaghetti bolognese, just pasta bolognese.

The locals in the hostel were eating Duran fruit and I finally tried it. Duran is banned in my public places across Asia because of the smell. I don’t think the smell is that terrible; however, it did taste a bit like seafood so that freaked me out.

After dinner NZ, Sweden and I went out. We stopped at the first bar that gave us a free drink coupon and watched a cat hunt crabs on the beach while we drank it. We then went back to Pesona and had a shisha. Halfway through the waiter brought us a cup with bubble liquid and a big straw which kept us entertained for a while. I loved watching the bubbles pop and seeing a smoke cloud randomly in mid air.


After the shisha we wandered down the main strip and ended up at a small reggae hut bar where we sat for the rest of the night.

The next morning I left for Tulamben, Bali, on a speed ferry.

Jalapeño Lemon Seared Tuna Steaks


  • 2 tuna steaks

Marinade IngredientsDSC03469

  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper


1. Mix together marinade ingredients. Coat the tuna steaks, cover, and let marinate out for 30 minutes.


2. Heat pan over high heat. Sear tuna steaks for 2 minutes on each side. Serve.

Note: Cook time for medium rare steaks approx. 1.5 inches thick. Cook time depends on size of steak and how rare you want it.


Tuna Steak Spicy Rub


Ingredients (for 2 steaks)

  • 1 tbsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oilDSC03308


1. Mix spices on a plate. Pat dry tuna steaks and press them onto the rub. Spread rub to cover all sides.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan over Medium High heat. Cook steaks for 1.5 minutes on each side. Serve.

Steaks should come out rare in the center.


Sesame Scallops over Kale Chips

DSC03303This meal is magnesium rich, great to help fight fatigue.

Kale Chips Recipe

Ingredients (for Scallops) - Serves 2

  • 10-12 jumbo sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • fresh ground black pepper



1. Mix together olive oil and soy sauce in a bowl. Add scallops and make sure each one is coated. Marinate for 5 minutes.

2. Mix sesame seeds and black pepper.

3. Dip each scallops in sesame seed and pepper mixture.

4. Sear scallops over Medium High heat for 1.5 minutes on each side. Do not touch scallops while they are cooking.

5. Remove scallops and serve over kale chips.

sesame seeds
sesame seeds