While perusing inexpensive plane tickets, Bryan and I discovered that we could fly to Kota Kinabalu relatively cheaply (through budget-friendly Air Asia), and after doing a little research into all that the area has to offer, we decided to go for it. Kota Kinabalu is a city located in the state of Sabah, in the country of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. The yellow arrow on the map marks the location of Kota Kinabalu (better known as "KK"). The purple arrow is Singapore, and the red arrow is Kuala Lumpur, which is located in "peninsular Malaysia" rather than "Malaysian Borneo," where KK is located. Three countries make up the island of Borneo- Indonesia in the south, Malaysia in the north, and tiny Brunei nestled in the middle of Malaysia's coast.
We flew to KK on New Year's Eve day, and arrived there in the evening. We got a taxi, and when I told the driver we were staying at the DeGalleria Hotel, he was unsure of the location, so it took some back-and-forth between us before he said "Oh! It's in the Night Market" and I said "Well, it's near the Night Market, I think." and he said "Yes, in the Night Market." I doubted him, but I figured I'd let it go. Before long, he pointed down an alley where we could see the back of our hotel, and then he came to a stop next to an open-air market, which was a disorganized jumble of imitation designer handbags, cheap clothes, fake designer sunglasses, watches, food, stray cats, and more. Sure enough, the sidewalk shops went right up to the door of our hotel, and to our surprise they were all gone in the morning.
After dropping our stuff in our cozy little hotel room, we headed out for some dinner, and ended up eating at the Lonely Planet-recommended Little Italy. It was great to have Italian food, since I haven't eaten any (except our homemade pasta and pizza) since I got to Singapore. And this food was amazing. I had ricotta and spinach ravioli with tomato and eggplant sauce, and Bryan had lasagna. I ate mine super slow because it was so good that I wanted to savor every bite. Bryan liked his too, but I think he has unreasonably high expectations because his mom makes such an awesome lasagna.
After our delicious dinner, we started roaming around town, in search of a place to ring in the New Year. We found the waterfront, and the locals were packed in along the boardwalk, talking and eating and drinking. We looked out over the South China Sea, but we couldn't see much at night. Eventually we found a place called Cocoon, a little bar with a big open-air space near the water. We drank Tiger and toasted at midnight to the cheering and horn-honking going on around us. Eventually we figured out that there were fireworks going off, but we missed them because they were going off right over the bar we were in!
Not long after midnight, we made our way back toward our hotel, exploring a bit on the way. Some live bands were playing outside, and that was pretty cool. And then we walked past a big, open building that was full of what appeared to be animal carcasses. A closer look revealed gutted, headless pig carcasses lined up on tables in rows, filling the whole room. My poor, innocent, vegetarian eyes...
So that was our first night in KK! We didn't stay out too late, as we had big plans for the first day of 2010!