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Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Terrible Twos Strike 41 Metres High on Canopy Walk

1Borneo Hypermall & the Novotel

Our hotel was located directly next to the 1Borneo Hypermall. The mall is currently building an aquarium theme park, but it is not finished yet. It also houses a good amount of restaurants, a Giant supermarket and several entertainment options: movies, bowling, archery, arcades & kids playgrounds.

I’ve read reviews complaining on the location, as it is not in the centre of Kota Kinabalu. We loved the place. It was easy to nip out and get things from the supermarket or a quick bite before bed and highly recommend it. The room was fabulous. We got a Suite for $117 a night including a buffet breakfast. It was 2 rooms, one bedroom, one living. In the living they put a spare bed & made up the couch as a bed for our two kids. Both rooms had cable TV. There were also 2 bathrooms and a long hallway with storage facilities for the suitcases.

The breakfast had a huge variety, however the quality was a little disappointing. Just food left out for too long, you know hard cheese, hard potatoes. But the eggs were made to order and I also managed to get crepes made to order.  Mmmmmm.

We booked it on Asiarooms.com. Our first booking and very pleased. I originally looked at his hotel and it was $2000 for the 6 nights. Then I saw it was on sale and all of a sudden 6 nights was $700 – what a savings! Check out the accomodation pictures here. 

On a rest day we decided to spend a day in the hotel sleeping and also exploring the mall. We headed bowling. 4 games of bowling, plus 2 shoe hire cost $5. Do you know how much bowling is in Australia? $16 for one game and shoes if you are lucky! But what does $1 bowling get you? Well there are no bumpers so the kids pretty much scored a gutter every time, haha. Their shoes were old and holey. The balls were great, the lanes were great. The scoreboard was not working. So basically we just had some good family fun throwing a ball at pins and not counting the scores. All that matters is that I got a strike on first bowl!

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The bowling place also has an indoor playground. We never got around to using it. All that bowling action made two tired babies.

Boo Boo Land is like a Timezone. You buy an arcade card and fill it up. We spent $7 on it. This arcade, however, is not just games. It has amusement rides and a playground with unlimited playtime, one of those indoor ones with jumping castles and ball pits, etc. The kids got an amusement ride each and play time for that price. $7 worth of over 2 hours of kid fun…. Great place to leave a supervising Dad so Mum can go shop.

Josh found a Thai Odyssey and got a massage one night, we visited several great restaurants, our favourite being the first one when you come out of the hotel – a Spanish place.

Day trip to Poring Hot Springs & the Temper Tantrum

While buying our tickets for the island hopping we visited another tour desk to see about a trip to Hot Springs. For 400rm $121 we got 4 tickets, our own driver and van, entry and lunch. I would not recommend the company. The driver was not a guide, just a driver and while he followed us around when we were out of the car he did not lead or speak and it was like breaking into a bank every time we needed to get two words out of him on what was happening, or where we were or where we were going. But if I look at it as just hiring a driver for the day, it was sufficient. 

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A visit to KK is not perfect without swimming in the Poring Hot Springs. The springs are 40km northeast of Kinabalu Park in the lowlands, as opposed to the Parks highlands. Our drive took over 2 hours to get to the Park. The view was phenomenal, but it was cold. Standing in our t-shirts and shorts we did not last long outside and jumped back in the van for another 45-minute journey.

The Hot Springs are considered to have healing properties by the locals and you can see many of them. They have made baths along a hillside. You simply hop in one, turn the water on and wait for it to fill up so you can soak away stress and relieve aching muscles in the spring’s sulphuric minerals. 

I am not a bath fan; I have no interest in sitting in my own filth. Nor did I have nay inclination to jump into a public bath and do it either. But Josh and Caius had a turn. The water was real hot.

Near the spring is a cool water swimming pool with a slide. Mia and I headed there and had fun going down the extremely slippery slide over and over again. Josh & Caius joined us soon and Josh had a great time in the pool next to it, which was 8 feet, a first time for him to have water over his head.

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After swimming we headed to a nearby restaurant for lunch. The place had amazing views, but was not much to look at. I am always uneasy eating in such places, however when the food came out it was delicious. Some of the best we’ve eaten.  The tour lunch included soup, rice, sweet n sour pork, schezuen beef, mixed veggies, and fruit. A good portion size for all 4 of us.

Beside the Hot Springs there are several other attractions located here. There is a butterfly farm, a orchid conservation centre, a tropical garden, a Rafflesia flower site & the Poring canopy walkway.

The canopy walkway is not what the tourist sites will have you believe. It is no “stroll amidst the lush canopy of the Menggaris trees”, not with Toddlers anyway. The walkway is actually 157.8 meters long and 41 meters high. There is about 5 or 6 if I recall.

Seeing picture on other blogs of this walkway I thought it looked extremely fun. A little tree top walk and good views, yes. How wrong I was. The walk itself is over 1km in length. Over 500m uphill through jungle. Not a good path, a tree-root, rock-climbing path. A good, hearty walk for any adult, one that left me breathless. Add to that 2 toddlers who had not slept all day and it was coming on 3pm and we made a very big mistake.

A lovely European tried to warn us at the front as we started our climb – “it’s a hard walk, our legs are pretty sore.” But we said thanks for the warning, let’s do it.

Josh was the star for the day by far. He carried Caius pretty much the entire way. Mia was my little trooper, she winged and carried on the entire way, but she walked most of it. Piggybacked the downhill half on my back.

After the hard climb we were very relieved to finally see the canopy walk… WALKS. Numerous horizontal ladders placed 41 meters above ground in the trees with wood planking over the top and then some safety netting.

I think I would have loved doing this by myself. It was a beautiful view and a very wobbly walk, which would be fine with two hands holding onto the ropes for support. As a mother I had constant fear. Mia loved it and was racing across them with no fear. She loved to jump on it and make it swing so all the adults gasped and held on for dear life. My son, my tired 2-year-old boy hated every minute. He did not stop screaming or crying the entire time. We practically had to drag him across as his little legs decided to give up. He dropped to the ground on the middle of a walkway and scream-cried.  Daddy was getting very aggravated, which of course made Caius even more upset. Peace making mummy was needed.

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In the middle of the walkway I picked Caius up. The ropes were wobbling, the side was now at waist level where no netting was and he could simply jump out of my arms onto the ground, but he had no strength to do that. All his strength went into his little arms, which he wrapped around my neck. He buried his head in my shoulder and sobbed those little heart-breaking raspy, hiccup cries.  I very slowly made my way across the canopy walk with no hands to steady myself very aware of the crowds waiting for us to get off. As 6 people only are allowed on we tried to move as fast as possible.

Little Caius was asleep before we hit the car. Mia was soothed with ice cream and the iPad. Daddy & Mummy both fell asleep on the way home.

I should mention that the Rafflesia flower takes 15 months to grow and only blooms for 7 days. The tour guide did ask us if we wanted to see it, not having any idea what he was talking about we declined. On further research if you get the chance and don’t have very tired babies stop and see this beautiful flower.

Last day in Kota Kinabalu

Finally our stay had come to an end. The last day is always full of so much expectation when you leave somewhere. Not the day you leave with all the airports and taxis and bags and crying children, but the last day of nothing. Which is what we did. More 1Borneo fun, sleeping and lounging. 

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Finally when the kids were all awake and ready to go it was 4pm. We decided to actually see the centre of KK since we hadn’t seen the tourist fun yet.


We were dropped off at the Centrepoint mall, with some of the cheapest shopping I have ever seen… I thought Bali was cheap. Here there was a shop selling 8rm sunglasses, that’s $2.50 each! Of course everyone had to buy a pair. 

Through the malls we headed to the Waterfront Esplanade. A beautiful wooden boardwalk on the water with restaurants aplenty. Before we decided to locate one I noticed a market to the left and pleaded with the family to take a look first. Wow, fresh food, people, smells, sights, the place was amazing. We picked up some freshly cut watermelon for $0.30. The food court area was also busy. I am not that adventurous with food and while Josh was prepared to sit there and eat, I was overwhelmed with the sights and the noise. So we merely went for one favourite dish – Pisang Goreng. 8 fried bananas for 1rm ($0.30).  They were excellent and everyone gobbled them down.

After our look through the market we decided to head to the cliché tourist restaurants. Yes, I know the food would have been great and delicious in the local’s market, but with 2 busy toddlers I crave peace and quiet and to be able to see them at all times.

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We found a great Australian restaurant filled with Aussies and decided to eat next door to it haha at an Indian place. The food was delicious and we made some lovely conversation with travelling Dutch couple. Indian dinner for all 4 $30, including one of Josh’s favourite desserts – the milk dumpling.

A taxi ride back to the hotel was $9, quite expensive considering the free shuttle, however when one has a tired toddler all one thinks about is getting them home to bed.

Our last night lived up to my expectations completely. And after our buffet breakfast we left Kota Kinabalu the next day very happy with our visit.

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"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by karin holmes on
Love this, photos so good, love to all
Posted by Rihzia on
I love following your travels :), we plan on doing a longish trip with my toddler when he turns 2.5. Any tips on nap times what do you usually do? At home currently (South Africa), we tend to get out early and then come back for naps. Then go out again. We do however have a nanny for when we want to go for dinner as our little one does not do well past bed time. What time do your kids eat dinner, go to sleep & wake up in the morning?

Would love to hear back, thanks for the awesome blog!
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