Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

I was away from the city last weekend to North Borneo, where the beautiful Kota Kinabalu (KK) city was at. This trip was partly conceptualized when I was visiting KK last year, in a conversation with Dr Soon Ruey (an amazing friend and great photographer). Dr Soon volunteered to organize a trip for mychiaroscuro.net members (local Olympus user forum in Malaysia), inviting us to go to KK for a weekend of shutter therapy adventures there. 

Kota Kinabalu is such a beautiful place! Mount Kinabalu (opening images here, plenty of them taken at different time of the day) is the peak of South East Asia, used to be the highest mountain of South East Asia but has lost about 6 meters over the years. This was my first time being so close to the mountain and gosh, it was such a majestic sight to behold. The KK city itself is located by the sea, overlooking sunset. There were markets setup along the sea and the place was bustling with activities throughout from afternoon till evening. With whatever little time that we had in KK, we attacked these places and what a wonderful experience it was, shooting in a beautiful city with fellow Olympus users. 

People in KK never failed to amaze me. I usually do not chatter up with strangers that I shoot, but one dude took off his shades, and asked me "what can I do for you, sir?". I was shocked, and was speechless for a few seconds. Then we had quite a bit of chat. Surely this kind of warmth is a rarity in Kuala Lumpur, and I sure wish KK will remain as it is for a long time to come. 

Considering this was a photography-centric trip, I packed in more gear than I usually do. I have with me the OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5, with 9mm F8 fisheye body cap lens, 14mm F2.5, 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8, and 75-300mm F4.8-6.7

Peak of Mount Kinabalu during sunrise

The mountain, zoomed in with 75-300mm lens. 

Covered with dramatic clouds

My widest coverage, 9mm F8 fisheye

Houses on high ground

Driving Range with such a magnificent view

Having a dip


Playful Children

Joy to be photographed

Unusual companion

Nice hair


Market People

Pink Shirt

Sitting high

Taking a nap

KK People

By the sea

Food Market

Playful children 2

Empty box

by the sea 2

Market People

Dried Food

Gaya Street

Tinutuk Mangga - Young Mango dressed with traditional fresh herbs, lime, shrimp paste and chili. 

Hinava Dasa - fresh fish fillet marinated in lime juice, shallot, ginger, sliced chili and grated badu (wild lemon seeds). A traditional Kadazan Dusun dish.

Crispy Kailan. 

Chicken in Spices

Asam Prawns

Beef Rendang

Our gear in Zero KM, Kota Kinabalu (some sort of reference point). Photo credit - Dr Soon Ruey

Special thanks to Dr Soon for hosting us, and taking the trouble to bring us around KK, which was quite an exhausting chore. 


  1. (My Comment just disappeared? Worth me writing again).
    Robin, I'm a long time visitor to your site but have so far kept to myself. Some of these pictures really stand out for me. It is so unusual for me to see your landscapes but I hope to see more. They do you justice I think. Otherwise Taking a Dip, Sunset and Empty Box are great. Empty box is much more processed and has a more interesting OOF than I am used to seeing from your pictures. Is this some film effect software of your own tweaking?

    1. Hey Graham,
      Sorry about the disappearing comment. Must be Google playing tricks on us.
      Surely I would love to do more landscapes but I do need to travel out of the city so it is not that convenient for me.
      About the empty box photo, the background was actually smokey, there was some BBQ going on (seafood grill) somewhere in the background, thus the hazy effect. Nothing out of the usual but it does create a different look.

  2. I like the portraits this time even more. Especially the one with cheekiness and happiness ;)

    1. Hi Tian Chad,
      thanks! Lets go shoot street more! jom this weekend?

  3. Your color pictures are good and I don't know if it's my partial color blindness, but with most of your shots, including these, your black and white pictures really stand out. Amazing.

    1. Hi Bryce,
      Thanks for the kind words, but I did not do anything much to the color pictures, but mostly adding contrast. And yes, I have always loved black and white, was so tempted to convert everything to monotone.

  4. Hi Robin,
    Welcome back to KL and thank you for sharing your awesome photos which you have taken while your trip to Sabah. I missed Sabah.
    Your street photos which filled with friendly mood and beautiful colors really show the people of Sabah. Your food photos are as stunning and yummy. No wonder your stomach is complaining.
    Hope you get well soonest possible and thank you again for sharing your passion.
    Regards, John

    1. Thanks for the kind words John. The diarrhea was not from the Sabah food though!

  5. Robin! :)

    Again love em.

    What lens for the by the sea 2 photo?


  6. I missed my hometown so much!!

  7. Great great pictures from KK, my favorite town in Asia. Could live and work there if someone gave me the option. How do you like the 75-300? Is it par in quality with the Zuik0 50-200mm?

    1. I have not used the lens enough to make comparisons, but the 75-300mm is doing great so far.

  8. Espectaculares fotos de un hermoso país!!

  9. A wonderful set of images, Robin.
    Love the image of the children with the yellow wall in the foreground drawing the eye in.
    The photos of the mountain shrouded in dramatic clouds are spectacular. It's a great use for the fisheye.
    In case you're interested, I still have the Lumix 8mm F3.5 fisheye which you're welcome to try if you want.
    Now where can I get food like that around here? :-)

    1. Hi Björn,
      Thanks for the kind words! We should go and shoot more, hopefully this weekend.

  10. Very inspiring photos as usual.

  11. "KOTA KINABALU: The post office was not just a place to send and receive letters but was also the place from where distances were measured.
    Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (ISM) Sabah Branch president Datuk Kenneth Yen also said that the central post office at a particular place was always marked as Kilometre Zero or KM 0."

    Landmark explained! :)

    1. HI Andrea,
      That landmark building is no longer a post office, it is now converted to a muzeum of some sort! But yes, it was originally a post office. The central one that was.

  12. Robin, do you use a flash for your food photos?