If you asked me 4 years ago if I ever saw myself backpacking, I would’ve told you – “what the hell are you talking about?”
But today, there’s really nothing else that I see for me at the moment.
This is how I felt after backpacking Kota Kinabalu. For real this time. I’ve traveled alone with a backpack. Yes, but the way I did things in KK was way different than what I did in Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur, the place is so huge and I had only less than 20 hours, I could hardly catch my breath to think and appreciate the culture.
But in KK, in desperate need of rest and relaxation, I found my haven.
1. Kota Kinabalu has a relaxed atmosphere
Unlike what I’m used to in Manila and what I experienced in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Kota Kinabalu is a city that sleeps – but not too much. You’ll find business, malls, places to go to – but no one is hurrying to get there. You can actually breathe and smell fresh air. You can actually walk the whole city! It was then I decided I truly love being like this – turtle traveling. Experiencing. Involving. Breathing in the culture. I felt like I could stay in Kota Kinabalu for many days in such a relaxed atmosphere. In Kota Kinabalu, I felt free to explore in my own pace. I felt free to appreciate in my slow pace.
2. The people we met
In Kota Kinabalu, we met some people from different countries –Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Holland and Great Britain. Do you know how it feels like sitting in a table, with people from different countries and everyone telling stories about their own countries and culture? It’s amazing. It’s amazing. The feeling is amazing. And they told me some pretty cool things too.
People in Kota Kinabalu are all so friendly; it’s crazy if you don’t find a friend there. Even the locals are all pretty nice.
3. The things I learned and discovered about them
So, while we sat there talking, just chilling for hours, every night after touring the small city during the day, we’d discover a little something about each other. I learned a lot about Holland from two beautiful Dutch girls, Janna and Evie, who both love to eat chocolate sprinkles and bread for breakfast. Sophie, from Great Britain, flew across the world just to see orangutans. Can you say passion?
Jaime and Alberto, who are both Spanish, but haven’t seen each other in so many years, are still the closest of friends, it was cute to see them talk to each other, with their fast-paced Spanish accent. Jaime, who works in Mumbai, you can see the stress in his face sometimes. Alberto, who fell in love with El Nido and says it is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen, in the 11 days he spent there. Joe, from Hong Kong, who introduced us to Bak Kut Teh, a delicious dish from Malaysia. CK, from Malaysia, who was wondering why we had to visit Kota Kinabalu’s beaches when the beaches in the Philippines are gorgeous. Diego of diegogoesmalaysia.blogspot.ch, a young traveler from Switzerland with an adorable drawl for an accent, who has to work all year round just to get 1 month to travel the world.
There are so much more! The backpacking couple from Australia who plans to go the Philippines before his internship ends in October, the family of backpackers, also from Spain, who loved the beach in Kota Kinabalu, Ate April and Ate Fely, who now work in Kota Kinabalu, but were originally from the Philippines. It was amazing to meet these people.
4. The things I found out about myself
I guess the experience is never really complete without meeting people, right? I’m usually shy – at least at first, but when I met these people – people who love traveling and are on the road, it was nice to get a look at things in a different POV. It was nice to finally get some proof that I’m not the only person in this world.
You see, if you keep yourself within your own barriers, you end up having a small world. You could end up thinking like the world is revolving around you, causing you to give up on little things, giving up on your dreams and fearing what you shouldn’t be fearing.
But when you start really meeting other people and learning about their cultures and lives, you suddenly realize “oh, f***. I’m so effin’ lucky” or maybe “shit! I really need that!” or “I should also do that.” You start to appreciate little things more. You become better at loving yourself. You become better at appreciating people. Ultimately, you realize that you’re lucky and unlucky. Which is fair, because that’s how everyone else is too.
The cheap prices
A backpacking trip is always better with cheap prices. Kota Kinabalu does not disappoint. You can get a delicious milk tea there for only RM 2 or P26. You can get extra rice there for only RM 1 or only P13. You can ride a bus for as cheap as RM 0.50. Yes. It’s cheap.
After Kota Kinabalu, I want to try another place the next time I travel. Just like this – slow paced, appreciating every little detail of my travels.
So I’ll come back. I’ll be back, Kota Kinabalu. I will.