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10 things to know before driving from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang for the first time

Even if you are visiting Sabah for the first time, driving from its capital Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang is possible to make on your own.

By making the journey yourself without hiring a cab or paying for a tour package, you can save more money and enjoy the trip at your own pace.

Sunflowers growing at Kundasang.

Kundasang is the highest settlement in Malaysia, standing at an elevation of 1,900m.

It is the closest town to Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in the country.

The average temperature at Kundasang is about 20oC so you might want to pack a jumper or sweatshirt.

Here are 10 things to know before starting your engine from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang:

1. Take an early flight in

Try to arrive in Kota Kinabalu early in the morning. You can either rent a car at the airport or you can arrange your rental service to send the car there.

2. Have breakfast in Kota Kinabalu

Fill yourself up before starting your journey. Kota Kinabalu has plenty to offer when it comes to food, from Sang Nyuk Mee (pork noodle), Tuaran Mee(wok-fried handmade noodles) to Ngiu Chap (beef broth served with noodles).

This is another choice for breakfast in Kota Kinabalu, Fook Yuen cafe is famous for its fresh baked breads.
3. Fill up your gas tank in Kota Kinabalu

After filling your belly, it’s time to fill the fuel up before your ride. It takes about two hours to drive from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang.

What’s so fun about it, you ask? As the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination but about the journey itself.” So grab some snacks and plain water, and let the journey begin!

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4. Stop by at Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum

About 45 minutes into your journey depending on the traffic, make the first stop at Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum.

Located at Telibong-Tamparuli road, the museum is Sabah’s first miniature doll gallery. Truly one-of-a-kind, the museum aims to replicate all the traditional costumes from 300 ethnicities and and sub-ethnicities in Borneo into a miniature size.

You can also show your support to the local community by shopping at its souvenir shop where 70% of the products are made by women of Borneo.

Read more about Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum here.

5. Have fun at rumah Terbalik and the 3D Wonders Museum

After learning more about indigenous cultures, now it’s time for a quirky and fun experience.

Rumah Terbalik (‘upside-down house’ in Malay) and 3D Museum offers visitors an experience to visit a house where everything is flipped upside down. From its furniture and cars, visitors can now know how it feels to walk on the ceiling.

There is a 3D Wonders Museum on the same compound where visitors can learn about biodiversity and the ecosystem.

6.Take a photo at Tamparuli bridge

Before going straight to Kundasang, make a short detour into Tamparuli town to visit its famous suspension bridge.

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It is so famous that there is even a song about it.

7.Have a taste of Sinalau Bakas

During your journey from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang, you will see signs selling ‘sinalau bakas’. The highway stretch from Tamparuli to Kundasang is reportedly most famous for this unique Kadazandusun dish.

Make a pit stop at any of these stalls and give sinalau bakas a try. It is basically smoked wild boar.

8.Shop at Nabalu for souvenir

After driving for about 40km from Tamparuli, make another pit stop at Nabalu town.

Apart from taking a toilet break, here you can take a view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu. You can also contribute to the local economy by purchasing some souvenirs and snacks at the local market.

9.Buy some Sabahan preserved food

If you are feeling a little gastronomically adventurous while at Nabalu, buy some of their preserved foods.

Read more about the top three Sabah fermented foods you must try before you die here.

10. Explore Kundasang
Make a visit to Kundasang War Memorial.

From Nabalu, there are 20km left till you arrive Kundasang. There are so many things to do here even if you are not intending on climbing to the top of Mount Kinabalu.

Pay your respects to British and Australian soldiers who died in the Sandakan Prisoners of War camp at Kundasang War Memorial.

Hike or soak in at Poring Hot Spring or shop for snacks, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables at Kundasang market. We suggest trying their keropok bayam (spinach crackers).

Experiencea  little bit of New Zealand by visiting the Desa Dairy Farm where the cows flourish and fresh milk as well as gelato are aplenty.

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As for accommodations, there are plenty to choose from depending on your budget. However, the best is to pick a room with a window overlooking the peak of Mount Kinabalu. Waking up to the view of this mountain early in the morning is something one must experience at least once in their lifetime.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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