After frolicking in some of the most charming white-sand beaches in Southeast Asia, it’s time to visit 1Borneo Shopping Mall and other malls in Kota Kinabalu for a kind of shopping spree that can only happen in a tropical country. Foreign tourists will be surprised to find world-class apparel and rare jewelry in this part of the world. Many westerners still think that Borneo is a vast jungle populated by headhunters and G-string-wearing cavemen. Once you visit 1Borneo, however, you will know that what those people are saying is completely false.
1Borneo Shopping Mall is called “Hypermall” for a reason. It is the largest mall in all of Sabah and offers everything that locals and tourists might look for while vacationing in the capital city. It houses an array of shops that sell all sorts of shopping and grocery items including fabrics, garments, pants, shoes, pearls and jewelries, electronic gadgets, home commodities, fruits and vegetables, and so on. This Hypermall is equipped with all sorts of entertainment and convenience facilities such as movie theaters, restaurants, cafés, batik gallery, mega bookstores, bars, boutiques, music stores, entertainment centers, sports stores, specialty shops, kiddie clubs, and everything that anyone might think of, including in-mall hotels: not just one, but four hotels.
Inside 1Borneo are the affordable Tune Hotel, mid-class Courtyard and Grand Borneo Hotels, and posh Novotel, which features all sorts of function rooms such as a spa and health center, a large ballroom, conference rooms, a swimming pool and a kiddie club to keep the little ones busy while their parents enjoy their vacation or get to work. Novotel is basically an upscale hotel inside a high-tech mall. And by the way, Novotel has a business center and an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi on the 7th floor. Constructing four hotels inside 1Borneo makes a lot of sense since this one-of-kind mall is located far from the city center, about 7 kilometers away. For this reason, 1Borneo offers free shuttle to and from the city. Although location is a downside for 1Borneo, it is also an upside. This huge shopping complex located along Sulaman Highway is surrounded by lush greenery overlooking the breathtaking Mount Kinabalu.
Other popular malls in Kota Kinabalu are Centrepoint (the second largest), Kompleks Karamunsing (third largest), KK Plaza (near the fish and central markets), Wisma Merdeka, and Wawasan Plaza, which is popular for its cheap jewelry and factory-priced commodities. The most common items in these malls are antiques (grandfather clocks, colonial hats, irons, potteries, among others), branded fashion wear (including Dockers, Calvin Klein, Guess, Timberland, U2 and more), cell phones and communications gadgets, computers, computer accessories, electronics, DVDs, handicrafts, jewelries, and souvenir items. Bargaining is not encouraged in these major malls, and so all these items have fixed prices.
Meanwhile, foreign tourists who wish to experience the joys of bargaining and haggling should watch out for the Sunday market fairs on Gaya Street. This is a traditional flea market that began centuries ago on the same street. On sale under large umbrellas and trees are antiques, clothes, batiks, handicrafts, sarongs, fruits, vegetables, foods, and all sorts of souvenir items. The Sunday fair is open from 6:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. While the items on sale here may not be of the same quality as those sold in 1Borneo Shopping Mall and other malls, the Gaya Street experience is definitely worth it.