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Kota Kinabalu was formerly known as Jesselton, and it is a rather young city with only about one hundred years of history. Jesselton came into administration at the turn of the 20th Century. The Kota Kinabalu Heritage Walk is centred around three areas, namely Gaya Street, Beach Street and Jesselton Point. This is a relativitely easy walk that will take about 2 to 3 hours. The best place to start the KK Heritage Walk would be the town padang, which cuts into Signal Hill. Located at the back of the State Library which in turn was next to the City Hall Building. Important events, games, parades, and even horse racing had been staged on this field in the past, and it is still being used for important events until this very day.
Walk toward the Australia Place, and look out for the hill beside the police station, on this hill stands the oldest structure in Kota Kinanalu, The Akinston Clock Tower. The clock tower was built in 1905 by Mary Edith Atkinson to commenmorate her son, Francis George Atkinson, who passed away because of Malaria. Walk on to the Australian Place beside the Police Station, it is so called because after the Japanese surrended at the end of second world war, this was where the australian army camp stood. While there look out for the Musuem Coffee shop, which has some old collection of artifacts. This shop also serves traditional Sabah coffee, and has toast bread done using charcoal stove.
Hop across Jalan Balai Polis and venture into Gaya Street, look for the Old Post office, present day Sabah Tourism Board, built in 1916. This is the only well presevered building from early 1900s. Next walk down south to the Jesselton Hotel at the corner of the street, a classic cozy two-star hotel that was established in 1954. Jesselton Hotel is also one of the oldest continuing running hotels in Kota Kinabalu. Further down are the two rows of two storeys shop lots right at the centre of Gaya Street, formerly known as Bond Street. These two rows of shops are the oldest shop in Kota Kinabalu. Check out some of the old shops at Gaya Street, these are living history, some of these shops still look more or less the same since their opening in the late 1940s.
Today Gaya Street has the highest concentration of backpacker hostels in Kota Kinabalu, and every Sunday the street is closed down for the Gaya Street Sunday Market or street fair. This is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Many interesting produce and products from hand made handicrafts to cute rabbits are on sale here.
Passing Kedai Kopi Yee Fung, and walk towards the Dataran Deasoka at the entrance to Gaya Street. Many people including many KK Lites do not know that before Jesselton town was formed, this place was a small coconut plantation and fishermen village called Deasoka, hence Dataran Deasoka is completed for this memory. The Merdeka Monument with a water fountain was built after 1963, when Sabah achieved its independence from the British. Next walk to the central bus station beside Anggun Cafe, and one will find a stone monument that was erected in 1923 to commererate the 13 fallen warriors, thier names were etched into the stone plate. This stone was originally located at the entrance of Gaya Street, and in the early 1960s it was moved to the present resting place. This is the fourth oldest remaining structure from Jesselton past.
Beach Street (Jalan Pantai) was the second oldest street of Jesselton town, and the shops at Beach Street were most likely built in the early 1930s. All the building from the early days were completely destroyed during World War Two, and was subsequently rebuilt. Budget hotels, branded watch shops, and kopitiams line up the street these days. Wondering why it is called Beach Street, and no beach is in sight. Well every thing next to Beach Street apart from Gaya Street, was the sea. So now, 0ne realised how much of Kota Kinabalu is actually built on reclaimed land.
Now head north toward Jesselton Point, one will pass by the Capitol Hotel, another landmark since the early 70s. The popular Little Italy restaurant is located on the ground floor of Capitol Hotel. About 100 metres ahead is the Standard Charterd Bank building. Beside the Standard Charted Bank is the of remaining skeleton of the old land and survey department building, another heritage site of Kota Kinabalu, which was built in 1913. Sadly this two storeys wooden bluiding was burnt down in 1983, and only its skeleton structure remains. The colonial style building of HSBC, stands tall next to the old land and survey department building, and this was completed in 1946. HSBC is formerly known as Hong Kong and Shanghai bank.
Stroll through all the old godowns and reaching the end of the destination is Jesselton Point. Just imagine about a 100 years ago where steam-ships from Singapore and Hong Kong berthed at the wharf, coolies were busy loading cargos and goods into the trains. The rail road started from the wharf of Jesselton, and ran some 92 km down south to Beaufort, bringing these supplies to the rest of the west coast. The rail system was completed in 1902, it remained as the only railway system in Borneo to this day. Today the wharf has been turned into a regional jetty where speed boats ferry holidays makers to the picturesque islands off Kota Kinabalu. Big size old pictures of Jesselton town from the 1900s and 1950 era can be seen here, and this is also the place to hunt for a nice cool ABC, a local delight. If one reaches here in the late afternoon, this is another perfect spots in Kota Kinabalu to see the beautiful sunset.
For a professional guided tour do contact:
Founder of KK Heritage Walk
Tel : 012 8028823
Sabah Tourism Board
51 Gaya Street,
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia.
tel: +6088 212121
fax: +6088 212075