Ya ya ya – what you want to kill?' drawled the man at the poison stall. We stared at packets of sticky paper, helpfully decorated with images of cockroaches, ants, and geckos, wondering why anyone would feel the need to kill those lovely, mosquito-hunting lizards.
The Sunday market on Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, offers many other useful, interesting, amusing, and strange items for purchase: fresh produce; T-shirts and trinkets (beaded 'I ♥ Sabah' bracelets and plastic key rings); a few very expensive antiques; local sweets, and packets of nasi lemak to eat whilst browsing; traditional medicines and charms; leaves to use as a substitute for sugar (these taste just as nasty as any other sugar substitute); kittens, puppies and aquarium fish; handmade baskets; and handmade soaps, including breast-milk soap – made from human breast-milk (I checked).
A cafe serving lakksa and Chinese food, Jalan Gaya
By ten am, sweating freely and hanging out for a cuppa, we retired to one of the many cafes lining Jalan Gaya, a main street blocked off from traffic each Sunday for this large and popular market. A glass of sweet hot teh tarik (traditionally poured from on high, but also often tipped out from a sachet), and a bowl of chicken curry from the layan diri (help yourself to a range of meat and vegetable dishes, staff will tally the cost), set us up for another foray into the increasingly bright and humid day.
If you need to change your currency in Kota Kinabalu on a Sunday, you can find a money-changer or two down by the Waterfront, a short walk from Jalan Gaya, and another source of bright, flashy, poorly-made souvenirs, pearls, clothing, spices, betel-nut, tobacco, and other locally-grown produce. Large malls such as Wisma Merdeka and Suria Sabah are also close by and open for business.
surrounded by stalls on Sunday morning, Jalan Gaya
In the evening, the Waterfront becomes a little city of seafood stalls, the perfect place to relax and eat fresh-grilled snapper, prawns, squid, and many other kinds of seafood straight from the harbour. Western-style bars serving steak-burgers and beer, and an Indian restaurant (Kohinoor) with fabulously attentive waiters, can also be found in this precinct. Watch the sun set on brightly painted boats and a little village of stilt-houses built out over the water across the bay. Here you are, in Sabah Prefecture, Borneo, looking out at the South China Sea. Enjoy.