Kota Kinabalu’s Street Food and Night Markets

Kota Kinabalu Sunset

After watching an amazing tropical sunset from our hotel on Sutera Harbour, we asked the concierge to call us a taxi. Unlike Singapore where we had spent the day before, Kota Kinabalu had no metered taxis and all trips were by pre-arranged price.
Fortunately for us, all the hard work had already been done and no haggling was required, as we were informed it cost exactly 20 ringgit to go from our hotel to anywhere in the main KK town.

Welcome Seafood Restaurant

Selecting fresh Seafood for our meal

I tested this a few times during our stay, and it didn’t matter where in town we got dropped off, the price was always the same. It worked in reverse too, every time we were dropped off, 20 ringgit, no haggling allowed – which I think kind of defeats the purpose of being unmetered, but at least we knew exactly how much we were going to pay.

After diving on the first day I was hungry for some local seafood, which KK has a good reputation for. After checking some reviews we headed to Welcome Seafood, a large and brightly lit restaurant about halfway into town.

These delicious prawns cost us 35 MYR

We were confused at first as there seemed to be two seperate restaurants next to each other called Welcome Seafood, but apparently the one on the corner is the Halal version.
We grabbed a table and entered the shop area to select our seafood, which was then cooked fresh and brought out to us. We had some local crab, butter tiger prawns and vegetables, all of which were amazing. The restaurant is a bit touristy, so the prices were more than you would pay in the local markets, but the experience was worth it. The butter prawns were the most expensive, with a medium serve cost 35 MYR. The whole meal with drinks cost us 60 MYR, which was about 20 Australian Dollars.

Chicken Wings

After dinner we went for a walk around town, checking out the various night markets and looking for interesting places to visit. The main town strip in Kota Kinabalu is not large, from Imago shopping mall in the south to Jesselton wharf area is only three kilometres.
Although the town is on the water, this is not an attraction as the water is not clean and there are no views worth mentioning except perhaps from the food court balcony at Suriah Subah shopping mall to the north.

We visited a few outdoor clothes markets, but were largely unimpressed until we found the Night Food market adjacent to the water about half way to Jesselton Point.

Cooking Fried Rice

The Night Food Market was very interesting, with many food related stalls including fruit, chicken, seafood and of course street food. Although we had just eaten, we took note of the different foods available and made plans to return for dinner in the future. Even a simple food like fried rice smelt amazing when made right in front of you.

Outside the main market was a number of smaller markets including a fascinating stall dedicated to selling dried fish in packets.

KK Fish Stall

Shopping at the Fish Market

The owner of the fish place had a few cats as pets which I imagined would live pretty content lives. We purchased some snacks for our upcoming trip to go hunting for monkeys and moved on.

Next we came across a clothing market that was just closing. I was very interested in the inside of the place, but outside there was a row of men behind sewing machines, doing alterations for customers on the spot. I asked one of them if I could take his photo and he obliged.

All up we spent five nights in KK, which was plenty. As I mentioned before it is a small town by most standards, with a few good shopping malls, restaurants and markets. Most of the visitors come for the attractions nearby Kota, but the town has its own features, including great food and interesting markets.

When staying in KK you have two main choices, you can stay at the resorts to the south, near the airport – which have nice beaches and views but you need to travel 10 minutes by taxi or bus into town, or you can stay at one of the city hotels and be right in it. We chose the resort option and were happy with the mix of great views and semi easy access to the town.

Alterations on the spot

Seafood for Sale
Wall of eggs

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.


  1. Zann April 30, 2016
  2. Mathew September 23, 2016

Leave a Reply