June 2011
Part II

Sandakan Town

First a little history: The first Sandakan was founded and named by the Scottish adventurer William Clarke Cowie in 1870 on a small island in the bay of the same name. I once saw a movie about the story of why this guy did get the permission to set up this settlement. He helped the Sultan of Sulu to fight off the Spaniards from conquering the southern part of the Philippines. By the way, fighting is still going on between the Philippine Government and the Muslims (Moros and Abu Sayaf) in and around Sulu.

The old settlement, however, was eventually relocated to today's location in 1879. Four years later the British North Borneo Chartered Company moved its capital from Kudat to Sandakan and it became a bustling and rich town. Rich from timber. The Japanese changed all that. Allied bombers and the subsequent burned earth by the Japanese did wipe out old Sandakan.

Sandakan now has been pretty much rebuilt. Not only that: It also has been extended beyond its original boundaries. But the town proper can still be easily explored by foot. That's what I did. From the nature jungle back to the asphalt jungle. Also just in time to visit the last open stalls of the Sunday market.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

In time back to town to visit the Sunday market
It's also time for lunch. What to eat? Local or American? Despite the friendly inviting ladies I sinned and decided for a Kentucky fried chicken meal including a drink for 2.50 Euro.
This food stall is always open during the day but Kentucky Fried Chicken is open 24 hours a day
A real sin is the new construction being built just right at the sea shore at the northern end of the Harbor Square. It is spoiling everything around and the clear view to the sea.
Shame to the city planners spoiling the shore Buildings like that in the back I like more
The economy is booming so is the construction industry. New apartment houses and subdivisions have been and are being built in and all around Sandakan. But some old buildings keep their charm with hanging laundry at the windows and the garbage in the back streets.
Some day the old buildings will be torn down to make room for new modern ones
Sandakan has several harbors along the coast. One is the jetty for public boats leaving to the smaller islands in the Sandakan Bay. The port for the fisher boats is just in front of the market hall.
This small jetty doesn't look inviting So do the fishing boats and the market hall
Inside the market it looks like everywhere in South East Asia. Happy or not so happy vendors selling all kinds of fish, veggies, meat and groceries.
These fishes look good So do these fish-mongers
This sales lady looks happy But this one chickens out
This girl just looks a little sad Didn't she sell enough dried fish today?
As far as internet is concerned, the only Internet Café I found was in the Wisma Building beside the Sandakan Hotel. One hour internet costs 0.70 Euro. If you have your notebook, tablet or smart phone with you then there is free Wifi in the Harbor Bistro Café at the south end of the harbor square.

That's the place where I mostly sat in the evening and had dinner. The delicious black pepper fish with rice, the Indonesian Fried Rice or the prawn cocktail all for around 1.50 Euro each. But a half a liter beer bottle is more than double, i.e. 3.45 Euro. But at some occasions I didn't pay for the beer because I was invited by fellow travelers whom I met before. They may have been impressed by my "flaunted" stories about my trips. Whatever.

At another time I went to the Restaurant "Tomato" in the Jalan Pelabuhan Lama which I really recommend. It was frequented mainly by locals. It was easy, though, to chose a meal from the pictured menu. The delicious ginger fish dish was only 1.40 Euro. The really freshly pressed fruit juice came up to 0.75 Euro.

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Next day back to nature, to the Rainforest Discovery Centre. That was pretty much recommended by a Dutch couple, who has visited this place right after the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, which is close by.

How to get there without booking a tour. There was supposed to be a bus number 14 leaving from the local bus terminal every morning. But no bus came. That's happened with the Dutch couple, too. A couple from Australia and a guy from Hongkong were also waiting for the bus to get to Sepilok. We decided to take a taxi for 6.90 Euro to share.

I was dropped off at the entrance of the Centre. The entrance ticket was real cheap in comparison to other sights. All proceeds from ticket sales are used to fund Environmental Education programs for students, teacher training courses for teachers and other environment-related activities. Then join me now on my Environmental Education Tour.
What a nice countryside It's a rainforest reserve
With old giant trees and decaying trees
A wealth of plants not yet analyzed for their health properties
What a giant fern Creeping leafs
Sorry, didn't see that bird neither the kingfisher
Only giant beetles and ants
Insects beware This is a meat eating plant
From the bush now to nice flowers
All to be seen in the botanical garden
Colorful leaves Colorful flower
Easily to be recognized: a banana blossom But what kind of a fruit is this?
This blossom looks spidery This blossom looks funny
The "Centre" was huge: More than 20km trails leading through the rain forest. I might have walked around half of it. My feet were killing me as soon as I came back to Sandakan. What's the best remedy? A one hour foot reflexology massage for 7.45 Euro at Lea Reflexology on Pryer Road parallel to the Harbor Square.

Next morning I had to leave Sandakan. I would have liked to travel farther south to more interesting places but I didn't have much time left.

I took a taxi to the long distance bus terminal and boarded the bus for Kota Kinabalu. Same procedure and same price for the trip back.

Kota Kinabalu

Let's also start with a little history. In the beginning there was a small British settlement on Gaya island - opposite today's Kota Kinabalu - in 1881. After it has been burned down by rebels in 1897, the British moved to a small fishing village which was subsequently named Jesselton after Sir Charles Jessel, the Vice-Chairman of the British North Borneo Chartered Company.

Jesselton endured the same fate as Sandakan: The Japanese first occupied it. Alllied bombers and the subsequent burned earth by the Japanese did wipe it almost out.

On July 15, 1946, North Borneo became a British Crown Colony with Jesselton as its capital, which was renamed to Kota Kinabalu in 1968. Also, it has been pretty much rebuilt, too. Not only that: It also has been extended beyond its original boundaries, similar to Sandakan.
Jesselton in 1950 Kota Kinabalu in 2011
Now, where to stay. I had phoned from Sandakan the Masada Backpacker for accommodation, but there was only a dormitory bed available. So I made reservation at the
King Park Hotel
Jalan Masjid Lama
Bandaran Berjaya
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
Tel.: 088-270500
which was right at the corner from that Masada Backpacker and which I have already inspected before. The standard room rate including breakfast buffet was 29.50 Euro. Good value for that kind of money.

After check-in I called up Cecilia and Danny right away. I was lucky. They are back from Kuala Lumpur. What a nice get-together after 26 years. Look up my travel report of Sabah in the year 1985.

They showed me around to the old places which have changed a lot. Their old house, where I stayed in, isn't even standing anymore. But the old school of their kids is still there.

They live in a new big house, driving around with big cars and also having two big offices, because they are still busy in the tourism business, more than ever before. Finally, they invited me to an Indian restaurant, which was located just around the corner of my hotel. When we finally said good bye we pledged to keep in touch and don't wait another 26 years.
Welcome by the Chews They treated me with an Indian lunch
Next day I explored the city by myself. I started my tour at the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, where the boats are leaving to the islands of the marine park. I decided to come back the next morning for a whole day relaxing island hopping tour.
Welcome to Kota Kinabalu The old name was Jesselton
I didn't recognize anything from the old days while I was walking in the streets. The Gaya street looks so different now. Unfortunately I missed the Gaya Street Fair on Sunday morning, because I had to fly back on Friday.
The old Sabah Tourism Building looks new New buildings sprang up in the old Gaya Street
Also traffic has increased. But it kept moving in an astonishing disciplined way I have not experienced in any other country. Nobody enters a roundabout if there is still another car within coming around, even if it is still 10 meters away.
Modern traffic Modern parking
Also new modern condominium buildings are dotting the city and more and more are being built, many in prime locations: in the center and with a sea view. Everything is close to the sea anyway, because Kota Kinabalu has been built on a small strip between the sea and the hills. Most of it is already landfill, i.e. reclamation area. Before it was even smaller as you can see from the old photo of 1950.
New condo buildings Modern living
This looks already real but it's only planned
New building with old market All new cars but an old wheelbarrow
Also the market is still at a prime location. Fish market close to the sea anyway. And it is huge, not with fish but with everything including tailor service. In the afternoon it's even extended to an eatery night market with many food stalls.
A tailor with an old sewing machine Now it's getting smelly from old dried fish
Want to buy dried sea cucumber or fresh red fish
Small fish Big fish
Shall I eat delicious seafood? Grilled by this lady?
Or grilled by this lady Or rather grilled by this girl
Or eating cheap chicken if deliciously barbecued
Mangoes as a dessert or mixed fruits already peeled
And if you continue along the boardwalk you will find many real good restaurants to sit, eat or have a drink either outside, or inside if it rains.
Or eating in a restaurant on the boardwalk and having a drink in an Aussie or Irish bar
But I didn't. I went back to my hotel and then was looking for the Indian Restaurant where I ate before with Cecilia and Danny. But unfortunately it was closed in the evening. So I walked around and met a guy who invited me for a beer.

And it wasn't the only beer. He ordered twice six and I felt obliged to order another six. He spoke fluent English and we had to talk a lot and we became friends. His name is Ramar A/L Krishnan. Call him up if you happen to be in Kota Kinabalu some day. His telephone number is 6 016 832 9253. By the way, he is a quarter Indian and a whole tour operator.
I rather had a beer in an eatery and fraternized with a local guy

Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Next morning back to the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. How to get on one of the islands? There was only one choice, that is joining the crowd and taking a tourist speed boat.
Taking a fisher boat or a police boat to get to the islands?
Flying? Or swimming?
Or renting a jet ski? Neither, just a tourist boat
You can buy a ticket to any of the islands offered by various ferry services located in the terminal hall. I chose the island of Manukan. The return ticket price was 4 Euro plus 1.70 terminal fee, which is a good deal. The other islands to go were Sapi, Mamutik and Gaya. The boats leave almost every 20 minutes, though you have to state the time you wish to return.
Speeding to an island Not this one, the island of Sapi
I actually wanted to go to Sapi, but was told that this is only for Scuba divers. I remember the Australian guy I met 26 years ago, who went there for wild turtle riding. Passing and looking at it now it was a good idea not to go, because it's very little with a very small beach.

The island of Manukan was much bigger and had a long white beach. But this also means that most people came to this island on a day's trip to picnic, relax, swim and snorkel.
This beach looks nice on the island of Manukan
This island is very well kept clean and had many facilities, thus the entrance fee of 2.30 Euro was ok. Now join me in exploring the island.
Some white people wanting to get brown and local people not wanting to get brown
Even some heads are covered but snorkeling without maybe a sin
The water is not that clear but some corals and smal fish can be seen
Snorkeling seems to be the preferred activity instead of swimming along the long beach
Or only picnicking on the beach and family outings with the kids
A family from the Malaysian Peninsula on vacation in Sabah. That man standing in the middle is an attorney and the husband of the lady sitting with two sons beside and the brother behind. The attorney didn't have much to say.

His wife did. And she was flaunting: "I am the general manager of a hospital in Malaysia. I do a lot of microbiology research. We live in a big house. You may visit us anytime". If you want, call her up. Her name is Zaiton Sulaiman and her telephone number is +607-771-8999.
The beach is half a mile long but what are these strange things
They are diver scooters for lazy scuba divers
It's all there: Public telephones and some restaurants
Life guards and accommodation
Yes, you also can stay here overnight. If the day's crowd is gone you almost have this island for yourself, most of the time. Not so much because of the few cottages, but also because of the price few people can afford. The "cheapest" Beach Side Villa room cost 253 Euro per night for two. With breakfast, of course.
Another nice place to stay with a trail to the wilderness behind
Staying overnight may be a relaxing and quiet experience. But don't walk around in the dark, because this island is infested with dragons. Not as large as the Komodo Dragon but that guy I encountered during my trek over the island was quite big, but fortunately he was more afraid of me so he finally disappeared in the bushes beside the 2 mile long trail through the jungle.

Where you will encounter small geckos This dragon is a monitor lizard
After reaching the end of the trail I rather went back the same instead of choosing another but muddy path over the hill not to have a real more dangerous encounter with that creature.
The only glimpse through the trees and at the end only a pandamus tree
Coming back on time to the pier for my 3 p.m. scheduled boat back to Kota Kinabalu, which also looked nice from the sea.
Waiting for my boat to get back to town
On that day I really did some walking and my feet were killing me again. So I took the same remedy for sore aching feet: a reflexology massage at the best Chinese place in town which is the
City Reflexology Centre
Block A, Lot 6
Ground Floor, Komplex Sinsuran
88000 Kota Kinabalu
One and a half hour body and foot massage did cost only 11.50 Euro.

Sahah Museum

What to do on my last day before getting to the airport for my flight back to Manila in the evening? Yes, a visit to the museum: The Muzeum Sabah. The building resembles a Rungus longhouse. The Rungus are one of the many tribes inhabiting Sabah. The entrance fee was cut in half to 1.85 Euro, because of the current renovation.

So you could see only half of the exhibits, mainly a collection of traditional costumes, some musical instruments and various artifacts. The skeleton of a whale was the real highlight, but what did it have to do with Sabah's ethnography.
Visiting the Sabah Museum to see the bones of a big whale
The only real history was this old Ford But what about the Jaguar and the Bentley?
But the most interesting part was not the museum but the Heritage Village, a typical village environment with many traditional houses of the many different ethnic communities. One of those: the head hunting Muruts.

When I stayed with the Muruts 26 years ago, I didn't see any skulls and bones hanging from the ceiling but now. If they would have killed me at that time, maybe my skull would be hanging here too.
The bones and skulls displayed in the longhouse of my headhunter friends
These are not my bones I left with the Muruts 26 years ago
Unfortunately I was not able to visit my old head hunter friends this time. I was afraid about to see the changes. I read an internet report from tourists who visited that place recently and it was saddening.

My old guide Lantir now has a travel enterprise called Batu Punggul Adventures. But what he offered was just a short trip by boat to the 200m high rock of Batu Punggul. Overnight stay in his hut with a simple full board he charged 90 Euro for two.

No intermingling with any local village folks anymore. Better have a look at my travel report of Sabah in 1985. Ok, then now let's take a look at the bygone age represented in an artificial village.
All part of a museums village with houses of different tribes
They were very skilled to build boats and working hard with a rubber press
Nice interior with many jars and a sleeping place with colorful fabrics
This looks already modern But the kitchen is still old fashion
Sleeping here is not that comfortable and in the kitchen you even have to sit on the floor
Time ran out while I was walking leisurely around the village. So I didn't have the time to visit the Museum of Islamic Civilization, which was around the corner of the Sabah Museum. It would have been interesting how Islam was brought to Malaysia. Was it peaceful or with a sword? A sword on display seemed to be one of the important artifacts: a replica of the sword of the Prophet Muhammad.
The nature around is the indigenous religion No time to learn more about the Islam religion
Stopping a taxi to get back to the hotel, picking up my luggage, taking a taxi to the airport, changing back my last Ringits to Euros at the Maybank, then checking-in and up and away I fly. But make sure from what terminal your plane is leaving, because there are two (and miles apart with no shuttle to connect): the new Terminal 1 and the old Terminal 2 for a cheap carrier, like mine.

Ok, that was Sabah, though only a small part of it. I could have seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more about all the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

© WEW Tours

Created July 2011