Can you travel in our local airports without losing your cool and violent tendencies against another passenger? Apparently, yes, we’ve found out recently—in Clark Airport on our way to Kota Kinabalu.
The initial thought of traveling to Pampanga from Quezon City was a little taxing at first but on that particular weekday morning, traffic was unbelievably light. It were as if all vehicles were going towards the opposite direction, where the metro’s business districts are located.
The entire trip took only 45 minutes and filled one’s eyes with the relaxing view of lush trees and rice fields along the way. There’s even enough time for a hearty Capampangan breakfast in Binulo, a favorite foodie destination that’s less than five minutes away from the Clark International Aiport.
Now flying in KK
We were off to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah State in East Malaysia. The resort city is slowly gaining local travelers who look forward to enjoying its beaches, tropical rain forests, and various deluxe hotels. It’s only a two-hour flight away from Clark.
Seair COO Patrick Tan shares that Seair, which is now offering flights to KK, first flew to the island on November 25, 2008 but the flight was from Puerto Princesa. Last May 1, SEAIR launched its first commercial flight from Clark to KK using its new 144-seater Airbus A319 Aircraft.
The previous flights from Palawan to KK used the Dornier 328, which only has a 32-seating capacity than the current Airbus A319 Aircraft. Besides that, adds Tan, “[Flights] were marketed towards the leisure travellers who prefer to island-hop between Sabah and Palawan. Unfortunately, the leisure market at the time was not mature yet and so we discontinued the flights.”
The current commercial flights cater to Filipino and Malaysian budget tourists, OFWs from Sabah and the Philippines, business travellers and government workers. Tan observes, “There is a growing market of travellers from KK to the Philippines and vice versa, such as East Malaysian Christians who go to the Philippines on pilgrimages and we would like to tap this market.”
As the first airline locator in Clark, the move to launch flights in Pampanga instead of Manila is a strategic. Tan adds that it is part of “Seair’s thrust to push for the development of Clark International Airport to decongest Manila and NAIA. Unlike in NAIA, the runway in Clark is not congested and this helps SEAIR attain very high on-time performances, as high as 94% on time performance last February.”
Seair now has the most flights from Clark Airport and offers the lowest fares from Clark to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu and Kalibo through its partnership with tigerairways.com.
The airline company has been around for 17 years now and is considered the Philippines’ second oldest airline. It is the first airline to be based in Clark and has earned its reputation as a pioneering airline company that has launched what were once considered as off-the-beaten paths like Boracay, Batanes, and northern Palawan.
OK things to do in KK
“There’s always something happening in KK. Everyday is a celebration,” says Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, Chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board. ”We offer prime packages for leisure travelers because we want to maintain particular types of tourists—those who truly appreciate nature and understand our efforts to preserve it for our future generation and for the future enjoyment of tourists. We aim to keep tourism sustainable.”
He adds, “There are actually a lot of similarities between the Philippines and Kota Kinabalu as our Filipino tourists will find out. We invite you to explore our natural surroundings, appreciate our culture, as well as indulge in some shopping and pampering as well. I know that Filipinos are close as families, KK is a place they will enjoy together and have their kids value the importance of nature. We look forward to welcoming Filipinos traveling here—we also congratulate and thank Seair for offering flights to KK.”
Here are five great reasons for traveling to KK according to the Sabah Tourism Board:
1. Climb Mount Kinabalu—if you’re fit to do it.
Southeast Asia’s highest peak and the 20th most prominent mountain in the world, Mount Kinabalu, is located only 30 minutes away by bus from the city of Kota Kinabalu. The great mountain stands 4,095 metres or 13,435 feet in the middle of Kinabalu National Park, the first Malaysian UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kinabalu National Park is one of the most popular ecotourist destinations in the region and is considered an important biodiversity site with over 4,500 species.
Mount Kinabalu offers climbers a challenging trek or a relaxing hike for those who prefer a more leisurely pace. It is the venue for ‘the world’s toughest mountain race’, the Mount Kinabalu International Marathon, which will be held this year on October 14.
2. Explore the great wildlife
Developed by the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Department, the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu has devoted 70 hectares to the preservation of the endangered animals of Borneo, as well as the education of the public on the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. It has a “primate zone” which features exotic wildlife including orangutans and proboscis monkeys (named so for their prominent bulbous noses). The park also houses an aviary where a variety of endemic bird species has called it their home.
For birdwatchers, the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center, located just a mile away from the city center, has recorded sightings of more than 80 species of birds.
3. Swim, snorkel, or dive.
Only 15 minutes away from the city via speedboat, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is composed of five small islands and undamaged coral reefs and is popular among tourists and locals alike for snorkelling, diving and relaxation. Lying in shallow waters with gentle currents, the reefs are ideal for novice divers, and the rare marine creatures that inhabit them will interest even the most experienced divers and underwater photographers. Among the marine life that have been spotted here include the scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, mantis shrimps, green or hawksbill turtle, and sometimes the exotic harlequin ghost pipefish and mandarin fish.
4. Soak in some local culture.
The Mari-Mari Cultural Village features the traditional homes of the Sabahan ethnic communities: Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun. The ingenious and unique architecture of the houses and ritualistic ceremonies that are regularly performed by the villagers let visitors get acquainted with the rich culture of ancient Borneo. Travellers can also witness tribesmen demonstrating the art of blowpipe-making, fire-starting using bamboo, and tattoo-making, as well as learn about the mystical symbolisms attached to them. The village is located in the remote Kionsam, Inanam, about 25 minutes away from the city.
5. Indulge in fresh seafood.
First-time travellers must try the lat zi hai (crab in hot and spicy sauce), butter prawns, kam heong la la (stir-fried fragrant clams) and sayur manis or fern cooked with belacan (prawn paste) at Kampung Nelayan Floating Seafood Restaurant, located only 10 minutes away from the city center. Diners at Kampung Nelayan can also enjoy nightly cultural performances.
At the Ocean Seafood Restaurant and Port View Seafood Village, guests have the option to choose their crabs, shellfish, lobsters and fish from the tank to be served directly on their table.
Other popular dining spots include the Tanjung Aru Beach Seafood Restaurant which offers diners spectacular vistas of the sea and the Sri Selera Kapung Air, a row of seafood restaurants at the Sedco Complex.
South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) is offering roundtrip flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 15:05-17:05 for Clark-Kota Kinabalu and 17:35-19:35 for Kota Kinabalu-Clark. To book flights, passengers can log on to www.FlySeair.com or www.tigerairways.com.