Hilton Kota Kinabalu ticks all the boxes for me

Flying into KK or Kota Kinabalu as its officially called, we, my friend Judy and I were picked up by Ben who was to be our guide – many thanks to Sabah Tourism Board for helping host us for 3 days and organising my itinerary. Ben was an ideal, and professional guide, and of course our driver, Wilfred (who incidentally, we find out, grows vanilla) was a safe and considerate driver.

First stop the was the Sabah State Museum, where we walked through the heritage village, in and out of many traditional houses and watched women making jewellery and arts and crafts. Inside the museum we enjoyed, in particular, costumes of years gone by and a photographic exhibition. We also made a note to ourselves to read more by Agnes Keith whose first book about ‘North Borneo’ as it was then, has become a tagline for Sabah – Land Below the Wind while another of her books, Three Came Home inspired a film of the same name.

Checking into the Hilton Kota Kinabalu, that evening we had early dinner with Jeremy, the marketing manager from the Hilton: he didn’t need to do any ‘marketing’ as the hotel and the Rooftop Poolside Bar and Grill spoke for itself. I had an Angus beef steak which was thick, tender and cooked perfectly, exactly as I’d requested – rare. Judy had salmon and said it too was faultless.

While up there we met the chef as well as the cooks and wait staff. Breakfast was in the Urban Kitchen on the ground floor and, as always, although I loved the wide variety of global food, I particularly enjoy being able to have Asian dishes for breakfast. The Urban Kitchen has an international buffet every night as well as having a special menu – for instance, Monday Malaysian, and Saturday Local Seafood Market. The Rooftop also specialises in the local seafood.

The Hilton Kota Kinabalu – really central, and which accommodated us for three nights in luxury – has been open since mid-March 2017 and, going by our experience, it’s living up to the names international reputation. Its spacious, luxurious rooms are all you could wish for – including in my room, a large rain or ‘deluge’ shower and big TV. It also had many power points and USB plugs, essential for travellers, and the bedside lights were fantastic – often one of the worst features in hotel rooms!

I also loved the welcoming lobby with its huge chandelier and especially the variety of little seating areas and magazines. Off the lobby was a quiet and well stocked library which impressed me.

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The Hilton staff were impeccable. I asked one of the wait staff ‘why are the Hilton staff so friendly?’ He responded. ‘I don’t know, maybe it’s just typical Malay, ma’am’. It’s true the Malay are friendly and helpful, but the staff here seem to really enjoy their various roles. Of course, Sabah, with the highest number of tourists in Malaysia, is not called ‘friendly state’ by accident.

This is about the third Hilton I’ve stayed at – it certainly was the best, by a long shot – and this, as followers of my blogs will know, is truthful and is exactly how I’d have written this had I not been hosted.

Last showcase at the Borneo World Music Expo

On our last night of the Borneo World Music Expo, the Sarawak Tourism Board introduces us to groups from Indonesia,  Singapore,  and the Malaysian state, Kelantan.

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Geng Wak Long comes from one of my favorite states of Peninsula Malaysia,  Kelantan.  A traditonal area known for its arts and crafts like shadow puppets and kite-making, it’s also a musical region so I’m not surprised that all the drums this group plays were made by the grandfather in this family group. They have won many awards. See here, and find them on Facebook

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Ding Yi Music Company comes from Singapore and these young people form a prestigious Chinese chamber music ensemble.  Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese music through to avant-garde contemporary works.

Manjalin Raso, Java, Indonesia, is dedicated to conserving their culture and traditional music. They are also innovative and experimental: last night even had a dideridu in their lineup of many instruments.  I will add a short video of their performance once I have formatted it!

Thanks for the Sarawak Tourism Board, Malaysian Airlines, and the Hilton for assisting with my travel and travel costs.

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Music showcase at Borneo World Music Expo

Last night the display of music continued at the evening ‘Showcase’. The Sarawak Tourism Board is introducing us to not only local Sarawak and Malay music and instruments but also groups form the wider Asian region. Tonight the musicians were from Thailand,  Myanmar,  and a local Sarawak group.

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Preparing for the expo stage

Korphai, Thailand, has been performing since 1980 is also new as it seems this ‘bunch of bamboo’ is constantly changing. Anant Narkkong ,who establised the group to create place where younger musiscians could explore new musical ideas. He met this current group on Facebook!  All are teachers and the four of them come from four diffenrt regions of Thailand.  Collaborating, and practicing line, they actually only had one face to face seesion before coming to Kuching. I wonder which programmer will sign them up for festivals in their country … but being signed up I’m sure they will!

Another ensemble that will be signed up I’m sure features Aue  Su Kyaw (Myanmar) who, in her own country is a star. It seems it’s traditional for harpists to play the instrument only, but Aue Su breaks that mold and sings as she plays.  An attractive instrument it is described in a legend like this: “it is an instrument that is cuddled against the chest, but is not a child; has a crooked tail but is not a monkey; has a beard but is not a  man; is able too procuce sweet sounds, but is not a maiden … ”  .

And finally in this second expo’s 2nd showcase here in the Hilton, was a local group  Tuku Kame a contemporary music band that originated at the Cultural Village, home to the Rainforest World Music Festival which follows this expo. It seems this group has performed in many countries and has released two albums.  see more here

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Kuching, also known as cat city. It seems live and bronze cats hang out together