The 3 days stay in Kota Kinabalu is rather short, and thus my experience of KK is very limited.
KK has become a popular tourist destination, as increasing number of tourists are arriving. There is no shortage of hotels to suit the budgets. The Gaya Central hotel that I stayed for 3 nights in quite good. Paid just over AUD50 per night, and it comes with breakfast for two.
Next to the hotel is a newly built shopping centre. There are a number of nice restaurants there. Also, the food court one the fourth level is just fabulous. It opens up to the sea infront, and one could sit and enjoy food amidst fantastic view of the sea and islands.
The shops are usually owned by the Chinese and Indian muslim. Indians Muslim food are popular. ‘Bak kut teh’ is another popular food with the non Muslim. I counted at least five shops in the vicinity selling this Chinese delicacy. Most of the shops in KK employ young Filipinos as shop assistants.
There are also many large seafood restaurants that mainly cater for the tourists. I did not try the seafood in any of them, as I had quite alot in Sandakan. Another place for barbecued seafood is the native stalls near the central market. The place opens at night, and there are many quality seafood sold at lower prices.
I think the race relations in Sabah seems to be better than those in West Malaysia. One of the reasons is the natives here (Bajau, Dusun, newly arrived migrants from Phillipines etc) have more relaxed attitude towards religious rules. Drinking beer and buying lotteries are no big taboo for them, unlike the ethnic Malays of West Malaysia. Also, many of the natives are non-Muslim.
On the way towards Mt Kinabalu, I couldn’t help notice the numerous signboards for Catholic churches. Christianity has made big inroads into the inlands areas, resulting in most Kadazan and Dusun becoming Catholics. The Muslim communities are mainly from the Bajau and Brunei Malay people, usually found in coastal areas.It was in Sabah that I came across the term Sino-Kadazan. This is used to describe people descended from mixed marriage between Chinese and Kadazan. It seems the Sino-Kadazan are categorised as native people.