Return to Sabah — Kundasang, Part 3: The New Zealand of Malaysia

Since we are on the topic (and location) of Kundasang, we want to share with you a bit more about this wonderful place. As you know, we went for a road trip around Sabah, like we did 3 years ago. Back then, we stayed in almost all cities and towns just for one night, but we stayed for 2 nights in Kundasang. This time round it was no different.

Towards the end of our road trip, we found that we had a couple of extra days, due to the changes we made for our route. We decided to spend the extra 3 nights at Kundasang, and properly explore the place.

New Zealand of Malaysia

On our first night back at Kundasang, we decided to try a homestay this time round, instead of a hotel, which cost us RM40 for the night. There are many, many homestays in Kundasang. Some of them are simple houses converted to provide lodging for travellers. Some of them are themed homestays, built with the explicit purpose of attracting visitors. There are several homestays that are modelled after The Shire, which is a place in The Lord of the Rings fantasy world where hobbits live.

The reason why The Shire is a theme in Kundasang is because the area is sometimes marketed internationally as the ‘New Zealand of Malaysia’, because of the rolling mountains and valleys, and the Desa Dairy Farm, which reminds people of the sheep in New Zealand.

Kinabalu Valley Guesthouse

Homestays are cheaper than hotels and offer a different experience. For our stay, we first picked Kinabalu Valley Guesthouse. It was raining heavily when we reached, so we parked the car in a small shelter with only 3-4 parking lots. Lack of parking lots is definitely an issue with this particular guesthouse.

Upon entering the place, we found it to be a cozy little wooden house, with about 7 guest rooms. There is a common kitchen, living room, and a shared bathroom on the ground floor. The bathroom on the first floor (second storey) doesn’t work, and you can only use the toilet here. The corner rooms have the best view, so we chose one of these.

After checking in and bringing our luggage (there’s not much) up the narrow wooden staircase to our room, we threw open the windows to enjoy the cool air. There’s not much of a view here though, but it’s cozy enough. Unfortunately, we soon learned that this particular homestay has a problem with flying insects that quickly enter the room.

There is actually a sign inside the room recommending guests not to open the windows, because of the flying bugs. But oh well. Eventually we opted to open the windows a crack, cover it with the curtains, sprayed with insect repellent, which seemed to do the job of keeping the insects out.

We had arrived at Kundasang from Sandakan, which was 240km drive on poorly conditioned roads, so our drive took us about 5 hours to get here. It was evening by the time we reached, and since we were quite tired from the drive, we didn’t plan to do anything interesting in the evening.

It was after 5pm when we reached Kundasang.

We drove out to Bataras Superstore and bought instant noodles, sausages, and eggs. We brought these back to the guesthouse and used the kitchen to cook us a BIG pot of hot instant noodles. There’s nothing like eating hot soupy instant noodles (our comfort food) in a cold, mountainous area. We took the pot back to our room, placed it on a plastic chair, and ate from it until we finished the last drop. So good!

Our big pot of instant noodles. Travellers sometimes choose homestays because they have a kitchen to cook in.

Eating instant noodles in our room.

After washing up, both the crockery and utensils, and ourselves, it was time to go to bed. When we later closed the windows to go to sleep for the night, we discovered an unpleasant smell of something dead inside the room. Perhaps it was a dead lizard or rat, but the smell bothered us, so we contacted the homestay staff to inform him about it.

He was apologetic about it, and immediately arranged for us to shift to another room, one without a view. But it was okay. We just wanted to go to sleep and the next day, we would find another place to stay. The activity of shifting our stuff over to the other room led to us sleeping a bit later. Baby Crab would then start to text over Whatsapp the number listed on our next homestay, which we got from a display in town.

As Kundasang is populated mostly by the Dusun, and a small Chinese population, Baby Crab used her basic Malay to converse with the person on the other side. Then it occurred to her that maybe the other person might also be Chinese? So she asked, and found that it was indeed so! Conversation became easier as both started to use both English and Chinese to converse.

We got a good deal from this new homestay, which we will tell you about next. It’s a story worth its own post.

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