The Gaya Street Sunday Market is a night-and-day difference from the Night Food Market on the same street. Whereas the Api Api Night Food Market is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights and has a big sign on the gate, the Gaya Street Sunday Market is unadvertised and for locals in the know. We heard about the market from one of our drivers, who recommended that we check it out since it was around the corner from our hotel.
When is the Gaya Street Sunday Market
This weekly market takes place every Sunday morning, as early as 6 am until 1 pm. Visiting around 10 am seems to be the best time, as all the vendors are set up by then.
What’s For Sale at the Gaya Street Sunday Market
It becomes apparent very quickly that the Gaya Street Sunday Market is for the locals. This is a place where people pick up their weekly produce and shop for cheap goods. Stalls selling fresh vegetables and inexpensive clothes are a staple at the market. I saw a lot of people selling random junk like footwear, tools and kitchen crockery.
The Sunday Market is much less crowded at peak times compared to the Night Food Market. The Gaya Street Sunday Market attracts more families and is probably a go-to weekend activity for parents with children. There were lots of kids running around, dragging their parents to toy stalls and vendors peddling small pets such as hamsters, amphibians and birds.
About half of the items for sale at the Gaya Street Sunday Market are not relevant to tourists. Things like potted plants, live betta fish or fresh vegetables are simply unfeasible for a foreigner to buy and take on a plane home.
There are still a few stalls of interest that sell things that are easily transportable for tourists, such as dried snacks, handmade soaps, knick-knacks and souvenirs. One interesting vendor sells vegetable seeds. You could grow your own exotic vegetables back in your home country. We picked up a bottle of homemade hot sauce from a vendor that sold preserved foodstuffs. It’s super spicy, and I’m still working through the bottle at the time of writing this.
The market is in the heart of downtown Kota Kinabalu so most tourists will be hanging out nearby. While the market may not have many items of interest for tourists, it is a great place to soak up the local culture and experience a traditional Sabahan market. If it’s inconvenient to be in the area on a Sunday morning, you can safely skip the Gaya Street Sunday Market. Most likely, you won’t buy anything and it’ll take you less than an hour to see all the stalls.