Kota Kinabalu’s Phenomenal Market

By Mark Wiens 17 Comments

At about 4:30 pm, the threatening clouds would build until the heavens spilled water like a bursting dam.  The rain would downpour in sheets of fury and roads would instantly turn to water canals.  Like clockwork by 5:30 pm the orange ball of fire would burst through the surrendering puffy clouds, taking ultimate supremacy and stealing the show.  The bay would rest as calm as a mattress, the sun would choose it’s brightest colors, and the market would metamorphose into something magical!

Tropical fruit and vegetables would emerge from plastic sheets, charcoal grills full of seafood would reveal themselves, vendors would start rapping rhythmically to promote their goods (see VIDEO at the end!) , women would begin deep fat frying absurdly sweet doughnuts, and boys would shatter the calm water by stripping to their undies and belly flopping into the sea.  The sound of boat motors, the yelps of the kids, and the chatter of thousands, all still seemed to be drowned out by the powerful silence that the natural environment disclosed.

This nightly scene of the wet vegetable, seafood, and ready-made food market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia, was some sort of a fictitious dream that turned into a glorious reality for 5 nights after climbing Mt. Kinabalu.  The smell of the freshly grilled seafood, the delicately prepared nasi  campur (mixed dishes and rice), and the wok searing mee goreng (fried noodles), all recruited me as a  number 1 fan of this flawless market phenomenon in Kota Kinabalu!

Following are a few pictures that I took to reveal the magic of the Kota Kinabalu market!

wet market in kota kinabalu

kids in kota kinabalu

wet market kota kinabalu

kids playing in kota kinabalu

yellow fin tuna in Borneo

kota kinabalu fish market

kota kinabalu vegetable vendor

seafood in borne

grilled fish in kota kinabalu

fresh market in borneo

borneo sunset

kota kinabalu borneo sunset

kot kinabalu sunset


-Migration Mark

17 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Bendos71

    10 years ago

    Great post.

    Markets offer some of the best, free entertainment anywhere in the world.

    I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve had a few hours (or more) to kill in some not-much-going-for-it town, and headed straight for the nearest market.

    Totally fascinating and always full of surprises.

    More please.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Bendos!
      I think the exact same way, there’s nothing like browsing a local market for some high class free entertainment. A the larger markets, hours can pass without even realizing it! Thanks for leaving a comment!

  • Blue Whale

    10 years ago

    Amazing pics and post, thanks!

  • Randall

    11 years ago

    This post makes me homesick for a great wet market! I would love to stay close to that market and experience the day to day way of life.

    Your writing on this post was very good. Very descriptive and helps a person imagine themselves being there. I do know there is nothing like experiencing it for yourself!

    I’ve to to get back to the Philippines before too long and live real raw life again.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Thanks Randall! Nothing like browsing through a local market. The philippines has some really interesting markets as well!

  • Eli

    11 years ago

    Sounds like a great lively place to be. Flash rain showers followed by beautiful weather are always awesome. Love the pictures. Did you eat any of the fish heads?

  • Mark Wiens

    11 years ago

    Thanks for the comments guys! Kota Kinabalu is an awesome place to go and this beautiful market had me entertained for hours!

  • trashtastika

    11 years ago

    Awesome pics and description!! I’m going back to Malaysia in October, but not sure where to go. Must read more of your blog 🙂

  • suzanne

    11 years ago

    Great pictures!! love it…

  • Gourmantic

    11 years ago

    I like the photo of the raw fish, with the head facing it. It almost begs for a caption 🙂 The cooked seafood collection looks appetising. Makes me want to buy!