Saturday, June 23, 2012

Family getaway in Kota Kinabalu

My 2nd year anniversary of marriage with my wife is coming and what else would be a good way to celebrate it but on another getaway as we both love travelling (now with a toddler in tow). We were a bit tight in budget though for travel so we took our flight today with a budget airline from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark International Airport) after a side trip in the morning at Puregold Duty Free in Clark Freeport to buy some stuff, including comforter sets at sale for our house. Our flight was at 3:05PM but as soon as we had our lunch, we already headed to the airport. Good thing our family brought us there as it would be a bit of a challenge to commute since the airport is located in a different province (in a different region) from Manila. The last time I was here was a little more than 5 years ago, for a family trip to Macau. The airport terminal has been renovated and seemed better than the last time I came here.
The departure waiting area at the ground level after immigration still looks like an air-conditioned bus terminal waiting area. This is where most budget airline passenger wait as their respective airlines seldom use jet bridges.
The departure waiting area at the second floor where the jet bridges are. It looks better and more modern since it was newly constructed as an extension. This is used primarily by full service (premium) airlines.
view from the departure area, second floor
As we are called for boarding, we were brought to a long pathway leading to the apron where the airplanes are parked.
It was nice to see the plane at the tarmac. It was our first time to fly SEAIR, a local airline that partnered with Tiger Airways, a regional budget airline. I took Tiger Airways before when we went to Macau the first time. As this is a budget airline, to board the plane, we had to use the movable stairs to board the plane.
Roshie and Ethan
me and Ethan
The flight was not full. I would say maybe only a third or even less of the capacity was filled up. Because of this, most of the rows were empty and we can literally transfer and jump from one seat to another.
The problem with that is having a toddler in tow who has to be strained with an infant seatbelt. We had a hard time at first since he wants to be freed so as soon as seatbelt sign was off, we let him off, but I think that was a bad idea.
We changed his clothes first then he started stretching and rolling in our seats. Jumping, rolling, crawling, all things.
Then he discovered there were buttons above him. He began pushing all the buttons, sometimes accidentally pushing the one to call the attention of the flight attendant. Because of this we have to put him down. Then he started running around the cabin playing "catch me if you can". It was tiring.
Then I brought out my laptop. I remember my kid usually behaves himself if he sees dance video, specially his favorite Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. Now we got him behaved at least midway for the rest of the 2-hour flight.
As we are nearing our destination and before the initial approach, we were greeted by the sight of Mount Kinabalu's peak on top of the clouds and planned to visit the park before we leave on Tuesday.
Similar to how we boarded, when we deplaned at Kota Kinabalu Internationa Airport - Terminal 2, which is a budget terminal, we also used movable stairs in deplaning. Minutes after immigration we are out and about ready to explore the city.
We took the airport taxi from a counter which costs MYR30 to downtown hotels. Apparently metered taxi is not common here and it is usual that you bargain for price with the taxi driver before getting in. To spare us from that bad start, we just took the airport taxi instead.
On the way to the hotel, we passed by the Sabah State Masjid or the Sabah State Mosque, located in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Around 15 or so minutes from the airport, we arrived at Hyatt Regency Kinabalu where we will be staying for 3 nights. The hotel is conveniently located along Segama Waterfront, where one can see a picture perfect view of sunset, and the same location where hawker stalls setup every night where one can feast on seafood cooked into ones liking.
We are booked for a King Room, a 45.6sqm of space with overlooking view of the city. The room is so big and spacious that I felt some of the spaces were wasted and felt dull with nothing on it.
The television mounted on the wall is also huge and as you can see here in reference to size with a toddler amazed by it.
The view from our window shows us the vicinity of the place, including some restaurants around with a backdrop of a hill where trees are growing abundantly. 
me and Roshie
The bathroom and granite countertops in the room were nice touches. However, I was dismayed to find out there wasn't a bathtub in room as it is usually Ethan's favorite place in a hotel room. For a room this big, I'm sure they could have had a space for it.
Toiletries were complete, shave, cotton buds, sewing kit, etc. aside from the usual fare of shampoo, body wash, conditioner, soap and toothbrushes.
I have to remind my readers here that I don't usually splurge on luxury hotel living, specially when it is not on official trip and I'm the one who foot the bill. Room is rated at MYR330++ per night, breakfast and internet excluded. However, I feel we got a good deal from Hyatt with their "Free Time" promo that they deduct one night from the total bill upon check-out with minimum of two nights stay. Overall, I only paid MYR765.6 for the 3 nights, inclusive of taxes and charges. Not a bad deal I for me. I was about to book a room in Best Western Kinabalu Daya Hotel but I guess, it was a good thing I resisted and stretched my room budget a bit as the other hotel would have cost around USD200 too, inclusive of breakfast, but I don't think they are comparable.
As soon as we settled, we went out of the hotel to grab dinner as it was almost 7PM and the it's getting dark outside. We were hungry for sure and it's a good time to have dinner at the nearby waterfront where the hawkers are. We just crossed the street from the hotel and there we were. The time is also perfect as the sun is setting down and we got a good glimpse of sun setting down with Tunku Abduk Rahman Park islands at the back ground.
 We settled for dinner at this hawker stall and choose a fish and squid for cooking. It took quite a long time though for our food to be cooked and served.
coke and teh tarik (pulled milk tea)

While waiting, we took time to browse on the nearby street stalls for items we can buy.
There was a bit of confusion when dinner was served. Anyway, we got what we ordered after (fish cooked with sambal sauce, spicy) and grilled squid.
The dinner was good as the seafood used were freshly caught so there was still a bit of sweetness on their meat. Paid MYR49 for all (including drinks) and after dinner, we passed by a small grocery store to buy some drinks and food items before we called it a night.
It is my first time to be in the city and I usually ignore flight or travel deals going to this city as I don't understand what we're supposed to do when we get here. I guess we had a good start today and would look forward to more in the coming days in our short visit here in Kota Kinabalu.

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