Return to Sabah — Kota Kinabalu, Part 2: Meeting Serrene

Our original plan was to drive up to Kota Belud on our second day in Sabah. However, this was just a back-up plan.

Our travel style involves 缘分 , which means ‘fate’. In the words of Greg, our travel companion, “May we meet the people we’re supposed to meet, and go to the places that we’re supposed to go.” We leave a lot of room for chance in our travel. If there’s no special opportunity that comes our way, only then do we use our back-up plan.

On our first day at Kota Kinabalu, due to the massive global WhatsApp shortage, we tried contacting KL’s sister, Serrene via Messenger, but as she was in a meeting, she was unable to respond. She did, however, respond at night, and Baby Crab set up a meeting with her the next morning. It is something that Baby Crab has been wanting to do, because both Serrene and KL are incredible people. We wanted to learn from them.

At 10am, Serrene drives up to Stanton Hotel in her white Tesla. She owns the 4th out of 9 Tesla cars in Sabah currently, and was the 2nd person to take ownership of the 100% electric car.

So sleek!

She invited us to The Castle Bistro & Cafe, a two-storey cafe located just beside the hotel, where we have breakfast. Knowing that she is a busy person, we expected to take only 30 minutes of her time, but we ended up chatting for 2 hours, and then spending the rest of the day with her!

Serrene (far right) treats us to breakfast at The Castle Bistro & Cafe.

Serrene and Baby Crab catch up over the missing 30-year gap in their friendship, and our host goes on to tell us about her current businesses. Together with her husband Calvern, and her brothers, they run TCT Trading Sdn Bhd, which has several retail brands that focus on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as imported food products, beauty aids, stationeries, household products, toys, seasonal items, home supplies, etc.

The five of us outside Wisma TCT where Serrene’s office is located.

The group includes, but is not limited to:

Ninso — a RM2.10 store that has over 50 outlets in West and East Malaysia.

Orange Convenient Store — a chain of outlets most often seen in Kota Kinabalu

One Stop Superstore — over 100 outlets in West and East Malaysia

Stanton Hotel and Stanton City Hotel — the former is a boutique hotel, while the latter is a business hotel. Both are located between Kota Kinabalu International Airport and the city centre.

Serrene tells us that the pandemic has been a challenging time, but they have also used the opportunity that comes with every crisis. For example, due to a growing interest in new hobbies such as gardening since people have to stay at home more, they started the One-Stop Botanic Centre, and introduce gardening supplies in their chain of shops.

Using their multiple retail outlets, they made food such as instant noodles and cooking oil available to anyone who needed it. At their hotels, which saw no customers during the lockdown and pandemic period, the staff who were still employed came together to pack PPE (personal protection equipment) to give out.

Her businesses typically cater to the needs of the lower and middle income people. For example, at One Stop Superstore, there is a membership programme available where for RM50 a year, a customer may buy goods in bulk at 20% discount. This enables them start a business and resell the items in smaller quantities in their villages, earning that 20% as their profit margin.

A poster of a sale for One Stop Superstore members.

Towards the end of our 2-hour chat, Serrene invited us to visit her home where she has a hydroponic system to grow vegetables. One of her upcoming projects is a hydroponic farm where the elderly residents of Kota Kinabalu can come and harvest vegetables for their own consumption.

Since there were five of us, we asked if we could ride her Tesla instead of using the car that she lent us. And also because we’ve always wanted to ride a Tesla 😍. Since it made sense, off we went!


As of October 2022, there are four Tesla car models: Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y, because Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk wanted it to spell ’S-E-X-Y’. Serrene’s car is a Model 3, a four-door fastback sedan.

When you first board the car, you are greeted by a 15.4-inch LCD touchscreen mounted in the centre. You can select a driver profile, which the car then adjusts the settings for the mirrors, seat, temperature, and media. Each driver can have a different driver profile. So there’s no need for different drivers to manually adjust the position of the seat or angle of mirrors. It’s all automated.

The car has lots of external cameras, and they feed into to the centre touchscreen. When you use the indicator, the screen immediately displays your blind spot of the side of the car that you have indicated you are going to turn towards. Multiple sensors detect what is around the car, and can even identify if the obstruction is another car, a truck, a motorcycle, a pedestrian, or even a stationary traffic cone.

The Tesla touchscreen in action.

One of the car cameras that provides visual information for the driver.

When you put the car into Reverse, 3 videos pop up — your two side blindspots, and the back of the car, giving you full 360-degree view. There’s no excuse for backing up into something you didn’t see; you can see everything! There is no gearstick. The righthand stalk is what you use to shift the car to D, N, R, or P. The lefthand stalk is where the indicators, wipers, and high beam are activated. Headlights automatically come on when you drive in low-light conditions.

Tesla reversing

As the car uses lithium-ion batteries to provide power to drive the car, it has no engine under the bonnet. Rather, it has a frunk, that is, a trunk in the front. And it also has a trunk in the back (why don’t they call it a brunk?) This means that the car has a lot of storage space.


Also, since the car has zero carbon emissions, road tax for Teslas is zero.

Zero road tax

Sook Yeen examines the frunk of the car.

Charging port

Must-take group photo

Must-pose photo

Feels good!

Although Serrene intends to drive us to her home for a visit (the photos above were taken at her home), we have a request to make. There is a place in Kota Kinabalu that we want to visit first, which we will tell you about in our next post.

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3 thoughts on “Return to Sabah — Kota Kinabalu, Part 2: Meeting Serrene

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