The states of East Malaysia present a surprisingly good and varied list of nightlife options but Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, arguably has the best with anything from salsa dancing and pub grub to wine tasting and a lively, young LGBT scene.
The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu. Live bands and DJs seem to be a winning combo in KK’s nightlife scene. And B.E.D. (Best Entertainment Destination) certainly does it very well. Party-goers come out to play on weekends and pack the large dance floor while downing bottles of whiskey. It is arguably the city’s biggest club and has a thumping crowd going till late. Prices are pretty standard.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 6pm-late.
Cock & Bull Lot 3, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu (08 823 9848/08 823 9848/cocknbullbistro. com). Situated at the waterfront, Cock & Bull is a chilled out place to enjoy the cool breeze while sipping cocktails or draught beer. Their two huge screens ensure that you catch the football action of the night. Cock & Bull has been a stronghold in the KK night scene since The Waterfront strip opened and they have even opened a second outlet at Jesselton Point. The bar has friendly waitresses and a pool table.
Cowboy Bar Asia City, Kota Kinabalu (016 830 6828/cowboybarkk.blogspot.com). Right in the middle of Asia City, find the little food court and Cowboy Bar is hidden behind it. With a reputation for the underground scene, the place is a secret amongst insiders. Skeptics, rest assured that the live bands are pretty good.
El Centro 32 Jalan Haji Saman, Kota Kinabalu (08 825 1427/ elcentro.my). A café and bar with an open concept and lots of wooden decor. We like the social vibes at El Centro. Owner Katie is the face of the café and uses her previous bartending stints to introduce some creative cocktails. The menu includes tacos, salads, hummus, and pizza. This place gets a little hot and stuffy when it’s crowded and has high foreigner appeal. The café closes at 10 but the bar is open until much later. It’s usually closed on Mondays but occasionally you’ll find it open for salsa.
Hunter Terrace Best Western Kinabalu Daya Hotel, Lot 3 & 4, Block 9 Jalan Pantai (08 824 0000/www.kkdayahotel.com). Have a cold beer or a coffee in the middle of night and people watch as you sit on the terrace of Best Western Kinabalu Daya Hotel. Worth knowing that scuba divers pick up special privileges here. There is a pool table just next door as well.
Jarrod & Rawlins Block E-29 G & E-30 G, Times Square, Off Coastal Highway (08 823 1890/860/jarrod-rawlins.com). This popular chain from KL has now landed in KK too. The formula they throw in here is similar to the outlets in KL: superb food including pork knuckle and sausages, solid choice of beer and wine, and a lively ambiance of KK’s who’s who. Prices might be on the higher side, but it is definitely worth the money.
PLUtonic G-40-1, Block G, KK Times Square (019 812 0030). One of the few LGBT-friendly pubs in KK, Plutonic is a new kid on the block. The layout is straightforward with a minimalistic and industrial theme running across the pub. This isn’t a huge space, so it fills up quickly on Friday and Saturday nights and most everyone knows each other. It has impromptu karaoke nights and some of the best cocktails in KK to keep the crowd going. Credit cards accepted. Mon–Thu, 6pm–1am; Fri–Sat, 6am–2am. $$$
Q Bar 15 Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu (016 847 3085). The designated gay bar so you’re guaranteed some fun times here. Designed in a round shape (sort of Q-like), this bar located to the north of town plays easy lounge music till 10pm when things start to heat up. Friendly and boisterous crowd, wide choice of drinks, pool tables, and they take pride in their clean bathrooms. Clean bathrooms get top marks in our books. Credit cards accepted. Tue–Thu, 9pm–1.30am; Fri, 9pm–3am; Sat, 9pm–3.30am; Mon–Sun, 9pm–1am. $$
Shamrock Irish Bar 6 Anjung Samudra, The Waterfront, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen (08 824 9829). Staying true to the vein of Irish establishments, here you can find Irish beers, whiskeys and a beef burger that is said to be the best in town. It is no wonder Shamrock is a favourite spot among locals, tourists and expats alike. Also, you can find Kilkenny on draught and its one of the few places that plays Rugby. Sun–Thu, 12noon–1am; Fri–Sat, 12noon–2am.
Shenanigan’s Fun Pub Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong (08 822 1234/www. kinabalu.regency.hyatt.com). Everyone knows Shenanigan’s. This established nightspot is most definitely the longest surviving in the city and has held its own against the newer, modern clubs. Expect to pay a bit more for your drinks here as it’s a hotel pub. The music line-up gives you a whole new reason to party and dance your feet sore. There are live performances daily except on Sunday. Mon–Thu, 5pm–1am; Fri–Sat, 5pm–2am.
Sully’s Bar Lot 12, Block B, KK Times Square (08 844 7107/sullys.com.my). Owners John and Jane Sullivan fell in love with Sabah and decided to relocate here permanently. You can’t miss their bright green and red neon signs. With a live jazz and blues band three nights a week, Sully’s aims to provide a different night scene with their quieter music ranging from jazz to the ’70s. We actually like this place a lot. Enjoy a good range of single malt whiskies, fine wines and cocktails. Credit cards accepted. Mon–Sat, 5pm–1.30am; Sun, 6pm–12.30am.
Vino Vino J-57, ground floor, KK Times Square, KK (08 848 6363). Calling themselves a coffee, cigar, and wine lounge, it’s no wonder that Vino Vino has the widest selection of fine wines in town. Wine bottles line the red brick walls with dark wooden beams, and the ambiance is all clinking classes and hushed conversations. Add to that
B.E.D at the Waterfront