On my recent FAM trip to Sabah along with the team at travel.earth, I went without any expectation to shop. We had a packed itinerary, I had limited baggage space and there was nothing I could think of that I really NEEDED to buy. The fact that I went with 12Kgs and came back with 29.8Kgs (0.2Kgs within the baggage allowance) is a testament to the quality of shopping available in Sabah.
As we landed in Sabah and asked about the shopping situation, we were told that the Imago mall (that was a very popular mall in Sabah) was a short five-minute drive from the first hotel we were staying at- the Sutera Harbour Resort– and this proved costly! Despite staying at Sutera for only two days, we (my aunt Mavis and I) managed to fill one full suitcase worth with all our shopping and we were just getting started! The Imago mall was a large spacious mall with all my favorite brands, many of which are not available in India. On our first day there we understood the general layout of the mall so that on the second day, we had a very well planned out map in our heads of which shops to go to and how long to spend in each store. We were going to go at this with military precision.
After thoroughly studying the map of the mall and figuring out which stores we were going to hit first, we started at Victoria Secret, Uniqlo and Bath&Body Works. There was a sale in the VS and B&B which meant I bought items I don’t need but must have. We then headed to the first floor for some window shopping and chanced upon a store called ‘Kaison’. The front of the store looked like a high-end flower market but only once I stepped in did I realize that all the flowers displayed were artificial ones! Window shopping became – ‘do you accept card?’ I bought enough flowers to fit into another whole suitcase, I was in trouble! Another store I enjoyed was the DIY store where you could pick up various knick-knacks and since I love a good craft project, I spent more time here than I thought I would.
After we left the Sutera and headed to our next resort- The Sabah Tea Garden Resort– we made a pit stop at a local souvenir market. Here too, I had no plan to shop excessively. I only had a few people in mind that I needed to buy gifts for and that was it. I was wrong. The market was filled with little trinkets and toys, fridge magnets and coin purses, T-shirts and necklaces and so much more. It was one long passage of some really nice gift options at even better prices; I had no choice but to dive in. I picked up an adorable T-shirt for my niece, a basket full of colorful magnets, a couple of handmade coin pouches, a stunning scarf and a phone tag (even though no one uses those anymore- it was a baby turtle, I couldn’t resist!).
On our final day in Sabah, we were taken to the local market. This spanned the entire street but thankfully we only had an hour of shopping (god knows what I would have done with 3!) During the hour, I managed to fill one large bag with a unique mix of treasures. I picked up two pearl bracelets (which I lost in the commotion of trying to pack everything in my bags*sniff*), a bottle of delicious Malaysian chili sauce and a packet each of dried prawns and dries anchovies. Needless to say, my luggage came back with a pungent aroma that seeped into my clothes but if it means I get to eat my mother’s home cooked Malaysian food, then it’s well worth it!
Apart from my missing bracelets, my shopping experience in Sabah was definitely one I was not expecting and from what I hear, the places I visited were just the tip of the iceberg! There are a countless number of malls we didn’t get to shop at and with many more that are opening soon so I guess this means I’ll have to go back except this time, I’ll be better prepared. If you’re a shopaholic like me, Sabah is the place for you (just make sure you set a limit on your card or you’ll be sorry).