A couple of days before my solo trip to Kota Kinabalu (KK), I vowed myself to attend KK’s Couchsurfing (CS) meetup. I searched for the events on the CS website and found one scheduled for Friday, May 12th at 2100 hrs. There were only two people who had registered for the event including the event organizer, so before I registered myself for the event, I posted a message asking if a lot of people attend it although they do not formally register for it through the CS website, someone responded my post the next day and mentioned that it depends, I did not want second thoughts, instead registered for the event.
Next I wanted to meet, hangout and blend with the locals during my four days in KK, I approached several active locals who were in the city, few of them responded me, some were not available during my period of stay though. Jae, an active CS member of KK responded me, she was very helpful and added me to the KK Whatsapp group so that I could keep myself up-to-date with the planned activities and adventure.
For many of you who do not understand what Couchsurfing is or how it works, it is a wonderful travel phenomenon that restores our faith in humanity and makes us realize how generous and hospitable people can be sometimes. I have been to several Couchsurfing meetups and have always appreciated the hospitality that people have offered me. It has always been a win-win situation – couchsurfers appreciate free accommodation and the warm hospitality; the hosts learn their guests’ culture, interests and values. In most cases, the hosts are more settled in their lives and do not travel, but they literally bring the world to their homes. Couchsurfing is much more than free accommodation – many hosts in an area get together and run social events for locals and visitors. This is what I have exactly seen and experienced in Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and even in Kota Kinabalu.
I had a full-day of activities and exploring in Gaya and Sapi Island on Friday, May 12th and got back to the hotel in KK around 1700 hrs. I was very tired and exhausted, due to lack of sleep, I had very little of it having to check my office e-mails and respond them during late night and again having to get up early in the mornings to see and experience the sights of a new place that I am visiting and traveling around. I tried to get an hour’s sleep, but only woke up at 2100 hrs, I quickly texted Jae to see if she’s already at the venue where they have the CS meetups, but she was still home having dinner. I rushed to the bathroom for a quick shower and had some dinner from the restaurant next to the hotel and got myself into a grab taxi and arrived at the “Biru Biru Café & Bar” at the Australian Place, I actually strolled in the same area in the morning when I was out exploring the attractions and sights of the city.
Soon after I arrived, I tried to figure where the CS squad was, there was a table outside the café with three people chatting away around it, wasn’t sure if it was them, grabbed my phone and texted Jae, but she was still on her way. She alerted the rest on Whatsapp that I arrived and that was when Kane waved at me and welcomed me to the meetup, he was one of the three people sitting at table outside. We had lengthy conversations, especially when I hailed from a tiny country with a small population, it always does, when I travel I rarely get to meet other travelers who have previously met a Maldivian during their lifetime (unless they have traveled to the Maldives). Kane was very friendly and outgoing, he told me a lot about KK, the Biru Biru café and its vintage building facade with the fancy upcycled furniture and the handmade tables and bar-tops, the limited historical places in the surroundings, we discussed about my next destination, the itinerary, we also talked about the Maldives and our laws.
What amused me most was the Biru Biru café, the area was said to be a camp site during World War II. Biru Biru means blue blue, the café was also named after the popular local song, Sayang Kinabalu. All of us had a great time, we laughed and cracked jokes, took crazy photos and selfies, some of them danced salsa and they were pretty good, because the café hosts latin music and salsa dance on every friday night, the regulars at the meetup eventually master it over the weeks.
Honestly speaking, from all of the CS meetups that I have been to, KK’s got the most friendly bunch. If you happen to stay in KK on a friday night, don’t miss CS meetup at the Biru Biru café. Below is the address and directions to the café and don’t forget to register yourself for the meetup on the Couchsurfing event page.
Thanks CS KK, especially Jae and Kane. I will hopefully see you guys again one day!