Return to Sabah — Kota Marudu

On our first day in our recent trip to Sabah, we made a few friends in Kota Kinabalu. We told them of our intention to visit Sandakan after we had gone to Kudat over the weekend, and one of them mentioned a ‘malloodoo’ or something like that. That night, Baby Tilapia inspected Google Maps and found a town called Kota Marudu, a place that has existed on maps dating back to 1632.

That’s where we headed to next, from Poring Hot Spring. The road there is a very pleasant drive, considering the many roads we drove on. Most of it goes up and down the hills until it reaches relatively flat ground at Kota Marudu. We passed at least three hills along the way. It should be taken slowly, as the declines are rather steep. Definitely need to use engine brake, rather than burn out your brakes.

The scenery during the 85km drive is beautiful, as these photos show:

Most of the scenery was like this, a lone road, with the hills in the distances. It’s really beautiful.

Up and down the hills, still the same hills in the distance.

Very occasionally, the road was in poor condition.

Very often, it was in decent condition.

It’s a very pleasant drive.

Sometimes we meet other vehicles, such as this pick-up truck carrying palm fruits.

There are many Catholic Churches along the way with their giant crucifixes.

It’s too bad that the drive was so short, and we soon reached Kota Marudu where we took a short break. We visited the local market where we didn’t see a single foreigner except for ourselves. We guessed not many non-locals would come here since Kudat is so nearby. We bought two bunches of ‘sayur paku’ or fiddleheads. These are the furled fronds of a young fern, a vegetable that is eaten in Sabah. Two bunches cost us RM6, and when cooked, produces a medium-sized plate of vegetables enough for 4 people to share.

Processing the fiddleheads

Cooked fiddleheads

While in Kota Marudu, we also went to a coffeeshop to use a toilet. As a thanks for the use of the toilet, we bought a drink from them. On the menu was an item that made us curious. It was called ‘Sally Chan’, together with its corresponding ‘Sally Chan ping’. We asked what this was, and it turned out to be cooling water or 蛇舍草. How it got mangled into Sally Chan was the topic of conversation for a good 5 minutes afterwards, as we made our way to Kudat.

Spot the Sally Chan.


There didn’t seem to be much at Kota Marudu, at least not for travellers. It was a fairly busy local town, and rightly so, as you would definitely pass it on if you drive the northern route around Sabah. Kota Marudu marked the halfway point of our drive on this 5th day in Sabah. Kudat was another 80km away.

Not much has changed on the road to Kudat, compared to when we last came here 3 years ago. There’s only one main road here. If you’re going to visit Kudat town, or the Tip of Borneo, you must travel along this road. 3 years ago, we visited the Tip of Borneo, and though we were supposed to visit and stay at Kudat town as well, we got waylaid and never made it there. This time, we promised we would at least see the place.

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