One of the most insightful experiences of traveling is to visit the local food markets and night markets of a particular city. Just like countries all over the world, Kota Kinabalu has quite a few “Pasar Malams” which reveal the local cultures, the eating patterns and the wide array of flavorful dishes and cooking styles that exist here. Pasar Malam literally means a night market in Malay, and standing true to its name, a Pasar Malam will only come to life as the sun sets in the horizon and the darkest hours of the night take place. The darker it is, the livelier a Pasar Malam will get.
Kota Kinabalu Night Market
The night markets sets up somewhere around 5:00 pm and goes on till 11:00 pm at night. It is set next to the Filipino Market and can be easily reached by both tourists and locals. The Kota Kinabalu are large and have an incredible atmosphere. The entire market and stalls can be seen buzzing with action, so if you are in the city of KK and wish to explore the markets on foot, these are the Pasar Malams you may want to check out.
1. Pasar Malam Sinsuran
Some of the major attractions here are crystal and pearl jewelries that can be bought at the most reasonable prices. These are available in all kinds of shapes, colors and sizes. There is even a massive collection of bags, casual clothes and footwear. Pasar Malam Sinsuran is next to La Meridien Hotel.
2. Pasar Malam Filipina Kota Kinabalu
The major attractions here are fresh barbequed seafood. Enjoy a wide range of delectable seafood items like barbequed sting ray and squid as well as try the local delicacy – fresh seaweed. Those who are not a fan of seafood must go for the BBQ honey chicken wings and we guarantee it is finger-licking good.
3. Pasar Malam Segama
It lies on a stretch of parking lot below the Segama over bridge and is open from 5:00-10:00 pm. In this Pasar Malam you should go for the wide array of traditional Chinese and Malay street food. Do try the Javanese stall that sells “bakso” and “soto” and it is basically a noodle soup served with chicken/beef and other spices. Also there are many fruit hawkers selling imported and local fruits.
4. Pasar Malam Kampung Air
It is near the Kampung Air Area and is open from 5:30-11:00 pm on weekdays and from 4:00-11:00 pm on weekends. It has much of the same things as Pasar Malam SInsuran except the galore of seafood, but the renowned Seri Selera Kampung Air seafood restaurant is only at a walking distance. The crystal and pearl jewelries are also found at a cheaper price.
A memorable experience
This exquisite night market offers an amazing selection of souvenirs to buy and memories to cherish back home. It starts in the evening and this is when the plenty of snacks start being prepared. Sweet donuts, fried bananas, chicken wings, barbequed seafood, and peanut butter pancakes are a few highlights of the Kota Kinabalu night market that should not be missed. A wide assortment of Southeast Asian dishes, Malay food, Indonesian and Filipino inspired delicacies, fresh grilled seafood and local Bornean cuisine fills the market. Different sections of the night market consist of different stalls, so somewhere you can spot small stalls selling packets of dried fish while another section consists of fresh wet fish. There is even a fruit and vegetable section as well as tons of handicraft markets that sell the most amazing jewelry items, beads and accessories, bags, clothes and lots more.
Tips on how to bargain for prices at the night market
The night market is likely to be filled with locals more than tourists, and you should always what the locals are buying or eating. Watch how the locals barter for goods and be prepared to do it yourself. Tourists who are visiting the night markets should really pretend like they have seen all of it before to avoid being a victim of high prices. When it comes to ordering food, the best option to spot a nearest Malaysian, see what they order and how much they pay for it. Speaking a bit of Malay can help in bargaining too.
The night market is a perfect tourist destination and it is loved by the locals. You will feel like it’s a game of treasure hunt as you try to find your way through the cluttered stalls and walkways that are filled with crowds of locals and tourists. With a perfect ambience, friendly retailers and a melting pot of awesome dishes, this Kota Kinabalu night market is the best eating and souvenir spot in all of Asia.
Feature image credit: Vladimir Varfolomeev