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  • Writer's pictureRick

East Malaysia Day 11: Pesta Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) in Kota Kinabalu (亚庇)

As usual, I was awoken by traffic noises before daybreak and lazed in the room till 7:30am, then went out for breakfast. I had yet to try the peanut-soup version of coto Makassar at Kedai Kopi Hap Shing and that was where I was heading to. The sun was already smiling brightly at me, but I could not smile back.


At Hap Shing, I ordered coto daging (beef) again at the stall and indicating peanut soup and ketupat (rice cake or dumpling). I also added a roti bakar and kopi-o. Be it peanut soup or spiced soup, coto Makassar was a light and flavourful dish, especially after squeezing in the lime juice .


The butter-kaya toast was nice too with a well-balanced crispness and softness. I noticed the eggs on the table this time, which was not my table the day before. These were hard-boiled eggs and diners could eat them and pay later — similar to small packets of nasi lemak being placed on tables in some coffee shops in West Malaysia.




8:30am, I had some time left before going to the airport. I could head to Sandakan Central Market and checked on the stall that did not open the previous day. But what if it was opened today? I would not be able to eat again so soon after a full breakfast. I decided to give it up and walked back to the hotel, where I could use the WiFi in an air-conditioned room.


The mini-market, 99 Speedmart, below Hotel AeCOTEL was closed for the day due to "Kaamatan". I wondered how would the people of Sandakan celebrate the Harvest Festival.



The hotel’s WiFi was super laggy and I could not get online most of the time. I decided to head off to the airport earlier. At 9:30am, I hailed a Grab car to Sandakan Airport, or Lapangan Terbang Sandakan, for RM12. After scanning my baggage, I was in the departure area, had a cappuccino and sandwich in the only cafe, charged my phone, used the airport WiFi and waited for boarding at 12pm.



AirAsia Flight AK 6497 departed from Sandakan Airport at 12:30pm and landed at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 1:10pm. I was back in Kota Kinabalu for the last time on this trip.


I hailed a Grab car to Gaya Street. Check-in time to ATAP Hotel was at 3pm, so I have lunch at Ho Ciak Kopitiam, also called Hao Che Kopitiam (好吃咖啡店), which was just beside the hotel. There was a "fried pork konlou mee" — a Sandakan dish that I had tried at King Cheong — on the menu. I had prawn noodle and iced lemon kit chai. While eating, the sky turned darker and darker and a heavy rain came. But it was short-lived.



I had tried to book Hotel Gaia 95 or Pantai Inn but they were sold out due to the holiday, so I picked ATAP Hotel just opposite Hotel Gaia 95. At 3pm, I walked over to the hotel but took quite a while to check-in due to a big group of guests (3 adults and 7 kids) checking in before me — the kids were very noisy and turned the hotel into a playground during their two days' stay. After getting my single room, I changed out of my flight suit and went out.



I walked to Mee Young Holiday, wanting to say "hi" to Florence and John and asked more about the Kaamatan celebration in Koisaan Cultural Village, but the travel agency was closed. Right beside it, Yuit Cheong, was also closed for 2 days with a notice, in Korean, pasted on its door. I had forgotten that the Harvest Festival was a 2-day public holiday in Sabah. No wonder more shops were closed in Gaya Street than usual, especially family-run and traditional businesses.


I learnt later that it was a streak of long holidays starting from the Harvest Festival lasting two days in Sabah, followed by a weekend and Agong’s Birthday on Monday, a public holiday throughout Malaysia. A super long weekend lasting 5 days.


I went to Gaya Coconut Shake for its coconut pudding (RM10) — they should have it since it was after 3pm. The milky pudding had a very pleasant taste, which I believed was from coconut milk, and not too sweet. I dug out the softer flesh of the coconut and ate with the pudding.



After the dessert, I went to Bataras Marketplace to get some local products. I bought a pack of 13 States’ coffee of Malaysia and two boxes of dark chocolate of Sabah. I made sure they were less than 1Kg combined so I would not have to pay for check-in baggage for the flight to Kuching, Sarawak, three days later. Since Kuching would be my last stop before the journey home, I had the option to add-on check-in baggage (~RM78) if there were more things to buy in Kuching.


Back in the hotel to deposit the extra stuff, I showered and rested before dinner.



For dinner, I went to Kedai Kopi Melanian 3 (金沙园生肉面3) to try their dry-tossed pork noodle — I had tried the soup version on Day 3. I opted for kway teow and added-on a stuffed tofu. The dry version was nice too. All the dishes that I had tried in Melanian so far were not salty, including the soup.



Unliked other days which I would end the day after dinner, I decided to go for a drink — must be holiday mood. I came to Moginum Restobar in Gaya Street which I had walked past so many times. The restaurant-cum-bar was ultimately still a restaurant, so there were families with kids. Inside the restaurant was a non-smoking place so I went in but sat far away from the door. There were more tables on the second floor too.


I was attracted by this drink called Montoku, which was a distilled version of lihing (rice wine of the indigenous tribes). It came in 6 shot-glasses and tasted more alcohol with light fragrance but without the familiar taste of glutinous rice wine. Ultimately, I still prefer non-distilled wine. I also had some fried chicken popcorns to go along with

the strong spirit.



Thinking back, I believed I had been tasting the rice wine (a.k.a yellow wine, 黄酒) of Sabah-Chinese and not rice wine made by the indigenous people. The term “lihing” was used interchangeably to refer to rice wine in Sabah and I believed they would taste similar. I should really find lihing made by the indigenous people and try it. And I would be visiting Koisaan Cultural Village, where the Kaamatan celebration would be held, the next day.


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