Sabah Tourism Building

Sabah Tourism Building, the 100+ years old office

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Wherever we go, we will leave our footprints behind. People who walk to the end of Gaya Street, the oldest street of Kota Kinabalu City (KK), would see a small double-storey white building, sitting awkwardly among the modern building around. This hundred-year-old building represents a trace of memory from British colony era. Currently it is the office of Sabah Tourism Board. You can say that it’s the oldest office building of Sabah.

Sabah Tourism Building in Gaya Street (Front view)
Front view of Sabah Tourism Building

Built in 1916, this British colonial building survived bombing in World War II and is one of three pre-war structures that still remain in KK now. One story I heard is that the occupants removed the roof of this building, so it looked like a ruin and no longer targeted by bomber plane.

Sabah Tourism Board building
Sabah Tourism Board building (yellow pointer) was at beach side in old days

The reason it becomes a heritage building is more than age. Designed by JW Norman, Sabah Tourism building features a very formal axis with two arches at the facade at the front. The building was built of block stones, other than timber which was used more commonly in old day construction. All these make this historical building the best classic legacy that deserves preservation.

Happy 100th Birthday to Sabah Tourism Building
Happy 100th Birthday to Sabah Tourism Building

History

Sabah is ruled by British from 1880s to 1963. During British era, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu City (KK), and Gaya Street were called North Borneo, Jesselton and Bond Street respectively. Sabah Tourism building has been housing different government bodies. The following are some important timeline:

1916 Construction starts
1918 Printing Office (British) moved in on 16 Mar
1936 Treasury, Audit, Bank Agency and Post Office
1942-1945 World War II
After WW2 Posts and Telecommunications, Treasury, Audit, Town Board, Resident Office, District Office, Attorney General Office
1950s Jesselton Post Office
1963 Malaysia is formed
1968 Department of Posts and Telegraphs
1968-1986 KK Post Office
1986 Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation (now Sabah Tourism Board)
1988 Gazetted as a historical building by Sabah Museum
Sabah Tourism Board building in different time (1918, 1936, 1950s, 1960s)
The look of Sabah Tourism Board building doesn’t change much over 100 years

Some local elders still call this place “old post office”. My dad used to queue there to buy First Day Cover for me, because only this (head) post office has the postal chop with special picture.

Here are something you might not know about this iconic landmark.

Tourist Assistants

Tourists can walk into this building to get some travel information. The tourist counter is right behind the glass door. The friendly tourist assistants there have many years of experience and are capable of answering most of your travel-related questions such as bus schedule, recommended itinerary and sighting of blooming rafflesia. They can speak English and Malaysia languages, even Chinese if one is on duty.

Tourist Assistant counter of Sabah Tourism Board
Tourist Assistant counter of Sabah Tourism Board

Want to meet them huh? Below is the contact:
Address: No. 51, Jalan Gaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
GPS: 5.985459, 116.078119 (See Location Map or Street View)
Tel: +60 88-212121
E-mail: info@sabahtourism.com
Website: www.sabahtourism.com

Opening Hours
Mon-Fri: 8am – 5pm
Sat, Sun, Public Holiday: 9am – 4pm

Even if the office closes, you still can ask questions via their e-mail or social media such as Facebook, Twitter and even Weibo. They will get back to you fairly quick. Please note they are government agency and not a tour company, so they don’t sell any tour package or accommodation, but they can give you some recommendation and travel advices.

Brochure rack in Sabah Tourism building
Brochure rack in Sabah Tourism building

In the lobby is a brochure rack full of free tour brochures for you to take. The most useful ones are Kota Kinabalu street map and Sabah brochures (some available in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages, also can be downloaded.

Brochure rack in Sabah Tourism building
Brochure rack in Sabah Tourism building. Free to take

Zero Kilometre (0 KM)

In front of Sabah Tourism building got a bronze plaque known as “Kilometre Zero” engraved in granite. 0 KM is a starting point to measure the distance between Kota Kinabalu City and other places. Such marker is usually installed in post office because postmen need to know the exact distances to towns or villages where they deliver the letters to.

0 KM plaque of Sabah Tourism Building
0 KM plaque is the starting point for measuring distance between Kota Kinabalu City and other locations.

Look closer to the plaque you will see illustration of Mount Kinabalu on top, the city’s official flower, the Borneo Orchid, and an ancient motif of the Murut people, called Nantapuan, meaning a meeting place, and four cardinal points. Sometimes wedding couples take photos on this spot to mark the start of their new life journey.

Free Walking Tour

Visit Sabah the first time and interested in learning the history of Kota Kinabalu City (KK)? You can sign up for a 2-hour free walking tour, which is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 9am. The walk starts at 0 KM of this building.

Free Walking Tour
Free Walking Tour takes around 2 hours
The hundred-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower
The hundred-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the stops in Free Walking Tour

A professional tour guide appointed by Sabah Tourism will show you around the city to visit some interesting landmarks and building such as the hundred-year-old Atkinson clock tower, former Land & Survey Building (now street art graffiti site) and Signal Hill.

Events

There are two days Sabah Tourism building shines every year (check out their calendar for exact date).

  1. Lampoopalooza: largest outdoor colourful lights projection on this building, and celebration with music, food and street party. The next one will be on 27 March 2020 evening
  2. Christmas Tree Lighting: held in early or mid December, with Christmas song and dance performance, food trucks and lighting up of big Christmas tree
Audiences danced and celebrated in Lampoopalooza festival
Audiences danced and celebrated in Lampoopalooza festival
Christmas Tree Lighting in 2018 (left) and 2019 (right)
Christmas Tree Lighting in 2018 (left) and 2019 (right)
Christmas Tree Lighting in 2018 at Sabah Tourism Board Building
Christmas Tree Lighting in 2018 at Sabah Tourism Board Building

Lastly, just for your information, there is a public toilet next to Sabah Tourism building. It is open from 7am to 5pm. Cost only MYR0.30 per entry.

Public Toilet next to Sabah Tourism building
Public Toilet next to Sabah Tourism building, open from 7am to 5pm daily. RM0.30 per entry

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu City, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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