Shopping for vintage clothing in Kota Kinabalu

If you are planning a trip to Kota Kinabalu (or KK–pronounced “keh keh” locally instead of “kay kay” the non-local way–for short), you probably would have sun, sea, mountain in mind instead of vintage clothing.

OK OK, I’m stretching it a lot when I say vintage, it should be second hand clothing.

Do you know that you can get second hand clothes in KK (see pronounciation guide above) for as low as RM1? Well, RM1 can only get you a not very nice shirt but there are nice vintagey dress around.


You see, there are plenty of second hand “stalls” scattered in the city and its suburbs on tamu days. I mean, market days, such as the weekends around Jalan Kampung Air (near the library), Fridays at Dongoggon and lots of other timings.

It’s really easy to recognize these stalls. The stalls are sheltered with plastic mat-roofs. There are many clothes hanging around, or on the groud on top of a mat. There’s also a musty clothes smell.

clothes clothes clothes
RM1, RM2

One Ringgit, Two Ringgit

Mom and her friends who are frequent customers, nicknamed these stalls “One Ringgit, Two Ringgit” for the dirt cheap (but sometimes dirt-stained) clothes. Our family’s not really fussy about who had worn our clothes before so we wear whatever mom buys. (Well, I usually complain that what mom bought wasn’t really me.)

Here’s an example of the pricing. 3 for RM10!

Can you believe the price?

Lots of stuff are on sell here

Just hanging around
Soft toys

Despite the clothes being cheap, my mom gets a kick out of bargaining. So if you want to, you can try getting RM1 off that dress you just picked.

If you have the patience to dig about, you will actually come across good stuff. I picked up two dress for Chinese New Year because I didn’t bring any new stuff with me. (Mom is very sure that everyone recognizes the red dress and blue dress I have from CNY three years ago.)

Where did ALL of those clothes come from? My mom suspect that they are actually come from donation centers overseas. That theory seems right because we have many Korean labelled clothes and even school bags with kids’ name on them.

We think that they bought the clothes in bulk for cheap and resell them here. I don’t grudge them for taking donated clothes but applaud the sellers for being entreprenial. Bravo.

So if you are every in KK (kay kay), drop by one of these stalls. You can either pick up something cheap to wear at the beach or a real vintage souvenir to bring home.

I’m home in Kota Kinbalu, Sabah, Malaysia for the Chinese New Year. I’ll look out for interesting local stuff and feature them on this blog. 

What would you like to know more about our beautiful North Borneo? Drop them in the comments below or tweet me @yqtravelling.

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