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ABOUT : Food, Beverage & Nightlife

READ ABOUT : Introduction to Sabah | Tour Activities | Food, Beverage & Nightlife | The Waterfront

Kota Kinabalu, for not being all that big, has the lion's share of options for night life, from the pulsating to the sedate, whatever you feel like, is on offer.

Starting at your hotel is, of course, always a first option, as many people prefer to crawl to their room after a heavy night out, rather than having to stomach the taxi ride. While on that subject, take the business card of your hotel with you when you go out, because it's easier to show the taxi driver where to go than it is to try to remember and explain when inebriated.

Alcohol in Malaysia carries a heavy Sin Tax and because of that is quite expensive. Jugs of beer, for instance, can fetch upwards of RM50, depending on the brand and location. Tiger, a Singaporean beer, brewed locally under license, is very popular. In the same stable you will also find Carlsberg, Guinness and Anchor beer. These are often served draught by the jug (which is cheaper than by the mug). Also available is Heineken, Stella Artois and Budweiser, although these are more common in cans and bottles. At pubs and clubs, you will get charged high prices, at hotels you'll be fleeced.

Cheapest options are usually the inconspicuous eateries that sell beer by the can at around 3 for RM10 (give or take a Ringgit). You can also buy your beer by the can for cheap at supermarkets and get 'warmed up' in your hotel room or on the beach. At many of the venues, spirits by the bottle works out cheaper than it would by the glass. Included for free, usually, is a mineral of your choice. Some venues also have the options to save your bottle for next time, if you happen to be unable to finish it in one night. Enquire at the bar.

Australian wines are available in most restaurants at reasonable prices. On occasion you can also find the odd selection of French, Italian, South African and even Chilean wine. Some of the bars may require you to buy a drink at the entrance. This serves two purposes. First, they then don't charge a cover charge and ensure you will buy a drink, and secondly, they make sure the venue doesn't fill up with idle on-lookers. If you just want to have a quick look to check out the venue, you can tell the doorman this, or you can simply say you will buy the drinks inside. Either way, you will get your drink, no need to worry

As for venues:

The Office Pub
Tucked away in the Api Api Centre on the Marina Court side of the complex and about opposite the divide between Marina Court and the Prominade hotel, The Office Pub is a quaint, personal bar where everybody knows your name (asuming you're happy to give out that information, of course). Famous for Quiz Night on Wednesdays, where groups of pub-goers pit their general knowledge wit against each other to claim the coveted prize of either a bucket of beers or a bottle of wine for winner of each of usually four rounds. Also served is pub grub including famous sandwich wedges, fries and other what-have-yous. Populated by locals, Aussies, Brits, Americans and the odd South African, The Office Pub is watering hole of note.

Another outlet of the crafty Hyatt hotel - this one is an upmarket venue in the style of a Wine Bar - they serve bottled drinks, exactly the same as Upperstar, but at twice the price. Hyatt understands the marketing of image though (they also run the most expensive - and most successful - bar in town - Shenanigans) and this place has it's crowd. In their defence, they do serve Becks, the only place to be found that does. They have a decent selection of wines too, Australian mostly, as they do a decent menu of non-alcoholic drinks. With inside airconned seats and al fresco on the side walk.

Blue Note
Located at Shangri La's Tanjung Aru resort, this is a vibrant pub/wine-bar with soft, comfortable seats overlooking the entertainment pit. This is where you will find the stage on which they usually have entertaining and interesting live bands, surrounded by the dance floor, kept going by the DJ in between sets. Something for which the bar is well known is the wine-by-the-glass option, which is two-for-one on certain days and during Happy Hours.

Located at ground level at the Pacific Sutera at the Sutera Harbour Resort. Once one of the hottest location in Kota Kinabalu, it's popularity has waned a bit over recent years. However, at the end of 2005 it was renovated and given a new name (as unfortunate as Jugs may be - it's supposed to refer to jugs, as in pitchers - of beer, for instance). They support local live bands, mixed in with sessions that the DJ provide. Biggest nights are Friday and Saturday night, as they have a ladies night where the girls drink free.

It used to be that when you ask any local about the place to visit in Kota Kinabalu, they would say Shenanigans; that was back in the day when there wasn't much of an alternative. Yet, the legend lives on and it's still one of the most popular venues in town. Located at street level below the Hyatt Hotel, Shani's, as it's affectionately known by locals, is almost always full. It has happy hours and a pool table and also features live bands, usually hot bands from the Philippines. It also has outside seats in the 'beer garden' and a new area which looks like a delicatessen slash winebar nearby. The most expensive bar in town, Shenanigans capitalises on loyal customers and titanium-strength word-of-mouth to maintain it's popularity.

Just across the road from Shenanigans is Upperstar. It's not a bar per se, but certainly a nice place to sit and relax and enjoy KK's fine weather. They serve decent, western and asian style light meals and has one of the most extensive cocktail menus to be found in KK, perfect for a sundowner or lounging away the night at a laid-back pace. They've recently expanded, and now Upperstar has an upstairs too and it's still the cheapest place to drink; two large bottles of Tiger (said to be the equavelent of a bucket) for RM 18 - just make sure they charge you the 'local' price.

Around the corner from Upperstar and Shani's is Cocoon. A funky place with modern decor, good looking and efficient waiter staff, and a band of old guys who play good music. The prices are reasonable, a jug of Tiger is RM50 and one of Carlsberg is RM40, tequila shots at RM10 each. The vibe is great and it runs a decent crowd throughout the week.

On the ground floor and on the outside of Le Meridien, it's a salsa bar. Featuring latino music and cuisine, it's the newest venue in town and the only one with it's theme. They also feature a band. A lure is the dance instructors, often monopolised by, ironically, women who can already dance. If you know a few steps, salsa or not, Rumba is a good night out.

The Waterfront
Opposite the Promenade hotel and about 10 minutes walk Cocoon is this little entertainment strip. Packed from left to right with restaurants and bars, it's quite a popular venue for locals and tourists alike. Read more about the exciting nigtlife location, The Waterfront.