Gaya Street – The Sensational Weekend Street
Suppose you are planning a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. There is a good possibility that locals would advise you to spend some time in Gaya Street, more specifically during the Gaya Sunday Market, which takes place, as the name suggests, every Sunday, along Gaya Street.
The weekly hype happening on this street actually begins on Friday evening. Api-Api Night Food Market is a food fair happening every Friday and Saturday night. The night market was inaugurated in December 2018 but reopened in 2020 after the COVID pandemic improved. By 6 pm on Friday, vehicle owners will start to vacate the parking bays along the street and the pitter-patter of vendors can be heard as they start to set up their tent. The entire Gaya Street will be closed for the Api-Api Night Food Market from 6 pm to 12 midnight. enabling visitors to walk freely along the road and enjoy the food siesta.
Whiff the smell of aromatic satay being grilled, murtabak, wok hei char kuey teow, otak-otak, oyster omelette, fried chicken, local kuih-muih, fruit juice, and so much more. It’s a food display galore from one end to another showcasing multiracial vendors selling a wide variety of food and beverages. Aside from cash payment, most vendors nowadays accept e-wallet payment.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the street entertainers as you navigate your way through the crowds. Some of the performers are dressed as adorable mascot figures and are sure to be a big hit with the kids in attendance. Buskers will also be around, serenading the night crowds at the end of the street in Lintasan Deasoka.
The festive frenzy atmosphere lasts until midnight, as locals casually hang around the Lintasan Deasoka open area, having a ‘picnic’ while taking in the street acts. Some even bring along their placemats to relax and enjoy the food they had purchased during the Api-Api Night Food Market.
The excitement in Gaya Street does not just end there; instead, it continues until the early hours of the following Sunday morning, when the food sellers from the night before “pass the baton” to the Sunday Market seller as they take over the slots and set up their stalls.
The Sunday market, in contrast to the Api-Api Night Food Market, sells a wide variety of goods, such as handicrafts, fashionable items, plants, potting soil, fruits, coffee beans, food, homewares, antiques and the list goes on and on. It has more stalls and are arranged in close proximity to one another, much like a jigsaw piece.
As soon as people start flocking, the previously quiet streets will again be filled with marketplace hustle and bustle. Local communities will stock up foodstuffs and buy other things such as homewares and equipment. As for the tourists, this could be your one-stop place to buy souvenirs and sample Sabah’s favourite local food, snacks and drinks. The diverse goods displayed in the market are definitely a feast to the eyes.
For first-time visitors, one can easily miss the hidden buzzing lane of the Gaya Street Sunday Market. An expansion of the market may be found behind the Signel Poshtel, which is situated at the last block of shops on Gaya Street. Most sellers here are farmers from the interior division offering fresh vegetables and traditional ingredients. It’s a unique sight to see as sellers in this particular section like to exhibit their products on the floor. It is not unusual in Sabah but a typical ‘Tamu’ (market) scenario in other districts outside of Kota Kinabalu.
Visitors to the Gaya Street Sunday Market can also get reflexology and foot massage treatments by trained blind masseurs from the members of the Sabah Society for the Blind. It’s usually a hit, so take your position and expect a queue. Aside from that, local artists always put up their easel, ready to take commission art for personal portraits. Occasionally, there will be street performers, too.
The Gaya Sunday Market opens at 6 am and concludes at 2 pm in the afternoon. Perfect for a morning walk before finding a good brunch spot. There are several coffee shops along the walkway of Gaya Street shop lots. Among the famous outlet are Yee Fung Coffee Shop (well-known for their Laksa and Beef Soup), Keng Wang Hing and Ho Ciak (Famous for their hot buns and pastries), Dovist (Chicken Rice), Sin Seng Fatt Coffee Shop (Sang Nyuk Mee) and Restoran Nuryana (soto and rojak). For coffee lovers, the Fook Yuen Coffee Shop is along the row, as well as the Mizu Mizu Cafe, Guan Kopitiam and Kopi Nguek Nguek.
Regardless if you intend to shop, it is worth visiting and blending in with the local crowd at the Api-Api Night Food Market or the Gaya Sunday Market. Make it a point to stop by this market and add it to your list of things to do. The street is located centrally in downtown Kota Kinabalu, close to most hotels in the city center. This place is also easily accessible via bus or e-hailing.
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