Kota Kinabalu isn’t just a pretty city — there is a deep history behind this beautiful, multicultural destination. On this tour, we’ll tell you the story of war, destruction, resistance, and rebuilding that have made KK into the city it is today.
Your Kota Kinabalu tour begins at Padang Merdeka (Independence Field), initially built by the British as a recreational field. This is also the venue for the ceremony of the Proclamation of Malaysia, when North Borneo gained its independence. Today, Padang Merdeka is used for various cultural celebrations, and when you arrive, you’ll receive a batik bandana and a booklet explaining the history of Kota Kinabalu and each of the monuments you’ll be seeing on the tour.
Your local guide will then lead you to various landmarks of Kota Kinabalu city (or more fondly known as KK among locals), where you’ll witness the stories of how KK was born, destroyed, and rebuilt. You’ll learn about the resistance efforts of Mat Salleh (son of a Bajau chief), how the city was bombed with only four structures left standing, and how KK rebuilt itself into the vibrant and colourful city it is today. This won’t just be a history lesson, though — apart from historical facts, your guide will also share personal stories of the people they know who were affected by the war and what took place in North Borneo during that era.
You’ll stop in at a traditional kopitiam (coffee shop) for a cup of local coffee or other beverage of your choice, and roti kahwin, a classic treat for locals. Roti kahwin is a sweet toasted sandwich filled with butter and kaya, a Malaysian coconut jam that is especially satisfying when washed down with local coffee. This particular shop existed in Pulau Gaya even before KK was born and is currently run by a fourth-generation descendent of the original owner — it’s the only kopitiam in KK left where you will see both Muslims and non-Muslims frequenting for both their halal and non-halal food fixes.
Apart from seeing the city’s historical monuments and hearing the stories of KK, you’ll also get to experience the daily life of locals, and see how city residents go about their day.
Your Kota Kinabalu tour will end outside of Suria Sabah, a modern shopping mall that hosts a food court with an impressive ocean view and various options for cheap eats — perfect for grabbing lunch before you go off and explore more of KK on your own.