Kota Kinabalu’s coast is facing the west, so there are lots of options if you are shooting the sunset. But there is one place in the city that seemed to have been designed to really look beautiful during sunrise - and that is the City Mosque.
One of the few things I do when prepping up for a trip is to look at photos of my destination, specifically the sunrise and/or sunset ones. I try to see what others are shooting as well, especially if its my first time there. Of course I always aim for that unique interpretation of a place, but when you don’t have the luxury of staying in a place for a long time, you aim for the sure shots.
Google: “Kota Kinabalu sunrise”, and you get lots of pics of the mosque that seem to float on water. So its settled, my first destination in the city is the Masjid Bandar Kota Kinabalu.
Red eye flight, usual customs queue, baggage claim, short taxi ride to our hotel. Unlike some, I can never really sleep on a flight. So while the bed looks inviting, I told myself (and my wife, although she knows this one too well already) not to get too comfortable, sunrise will be in two hours.
Getting a cab from the city to the mosque is not a problem, but cab drivers seem to think you have more money at night, so they charge you almost double the usual fare.
From afar, the mosque looks like a shining gem in Likas Bay. By the time we reached the mosque I have already uttered close to a hundred “wow”. The mosque is considered one of the best examples of Islamic contemporary architecture in the whole of Malaysia. It has become one of the iconic symbols of the city since its declaration of cityhood in 2000.
Being a tourist draw means it probably had its share of uh, tenacious, photographers. Admittedly we have this habit of getting into places we are not supposed to be in just to get the shot we want. But the guards there that morning did not seem to mind me going over a wall that borders the man-made lagoon. They even gave a friendly advice: “don’t fall into the water”.
The sky had hints of pink and orange by the time I got comfortable by the lagoon. I could barely make out Kinabalu’s peak which was visible behind one of the mosque’s minarets. Everything was still and the water’s mirror-like surface reflected the mosque and the sky in all their morning glory.
The next few minutes was a frenzy of camera clicks and more wows. It was one of the best sunrises I’ve seen.
We went around the mosque after the sun has risen and took a few more shots. By ‘few more’ I meant filling half of my SD card already :)
Oh did I mention I went there again the next morning? Yup, I did. My wife decided the bed was a better place so I went there alone. But I wasn’t alone when I got there. I saw a kindred soul, hunched by a low tripod and probably doing long exposure shots, as I walked to the lagoon.
“Good morning, beautiful place, isn’t it?”
“Good morning. Yup very beautiful.”
He returned to his business and I went on to find another spot. I know better than to bother another photographer when colors have started to appear (later found out he is from Kuala Lumpur).
While reviewing my takes after the trip, my wife noticed one of my sunrise photos and said she did not remember taking a similar shot. Here’s a tip for shooting sunrises: don’t sleep through the dawn :)