Sonia Reimannova discovers the meaning of life in the ramshackle stilt villages of Kota Kinabalu.

Czech blogger and photographer, Sonia Reimmanova, wasn’t sure what to expect when she visited the stilt villages of Kota Kinabalu.

Built over the shallow waters just off the city, the villages have been home to illegal immigrants from the Philippines since the mid-19th century.

The villages are a jumble of wood and tin, with the makeshift dwellings connected by rickety wooden walkways.

They have a reputation for being poverty stricken and dangerous. People back in the city call them slums and warn travellers not to visit.

In the end, the only danger Sonia faced was putting her foot through the boardwalk and ending up in the rubbish-strewn waters below.

‘Everywhere I went I was greeted with genuine smiles and laughter,’ says Sonia. ‘Especially from the kids.’

It seems simplicity is the key to happiness.

Life is not easy in the villages. The people there live on the margins and struggle to make ends meet. But that has not dimmed their spirits or their generosity.

Sonia was offered a shot of the local moonshine by old guys sitting outside their wooden houses drinking. Not being a bigger drinker herself, she politely refused.

‘Who knows what would happened if I’d accepted,’ she laughs. ‘I’d probably still be there, cooking fish I’d caught myself, wearing a huge smile of contentment.’

Read more about Sonia’s Kota Kinabalu adventures on her blog,

Main image: Food shop in the Kota Kinabalu slums (© Sonia Reimannova)