Sabah - The Land Below The Wind

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Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Sandakan
April 28th 2009
Published: May 14th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

The arrow on the ceiling!The arrow on the ceiling!The arrow on the ceiling!

These arrows face towards Mecca so the Muslims know in which direction to pray
We arrived in Sandakan in Sabah, called by the local people the 'Land Below the Wind' as it is geographically below the typhoon belt and after looking for a bus stop we took the easy option and caught a taxi to our hotel - the Seafront Hotel - which did surprisingly have a view of the sea. I think we were given one of the better rooms as it was large and comfortable and certainlAftery good value at 69RM a night which included the usual Western breakfast - an egg, coffee and slightly browned tasteless bread and jam. We set off to explore the town and it was very quiet and almost like Guangshui, but cleaner and with a Muslim population. We had noticed that the country around the city was very similar to North Qld. It was very hot and muggy.
That afternoon we climbed the hill behind the town to the English Tea House, a remnant of the colonial era. It was a very relaxing place and we had tea and scones on the lawn - we needed them as it was quite a climb to get there. We finished a lovely afternoon off with a game of croquet - as you do!
We had read that the town literally died after 7pm and if you wanted a meal you had to go further down the coast to another part of town. After a lot of pointing we caught a taxi and headed in that direction, right past where we wanted to go! We couldn't make the taxi driver stop as he had another agenda for us - he wanted us to eat at a large seafood restaurant further down the coast. He dropped us there - thankfully there were other cars in the carpark - but no other buildings around at all. Going through the main area which was a large function centre set up for a wedding the next day we found a verandah area set out over the sea. It was an seafood restaurant where you chose your fish from large tanks and it was expensive! Too expensive for us but we were stuck there so chose a chicken and vegetable dish instead which was very nice and thankfully much cheaper than expected when the bill arrived. The restaurant was full by now, mainly with businessmen. We saw another Western couple leave and figured we could share a taxi back to Sandakan with them. He was working as a engineer with the Australian Airforce in KL and was holidaying for a few days with his wife who was visiting from Melbourne.
They were going to the Sandakan Memorial park next day and were happy for us to go out with them in their hired minivan. The park is set on the site of a POW camp for the 1800 Australians who were forced to march through the jungle by the Japanese close to the end of the Second World War. Only 6 survived and it is a little known part of Australia's war history. Anybody interested might like to check out the web page It was a beautifully set out park and the little information hall had beautiful stained glass windows. We caught a bus back as Kylie and Bill had taken the bus to the airport. Later that day we walked back up the hill to visit Agnes Keith's house. Agnes and her husband lived in Sandakan for over 20 years and are highly thought of in the area. Agnes was an author and wrote 3 books on her life there, including one called “Three came Home' which was about her time as a prisoner of war in Borneo. She appears to write really well and I look forward to reading her books when I get home. Her husband was in charge of the forrests and had a species of the Raffelsia flower named after him. Agnes also set up the rehabilitation programme for the orangatans, though as she kept many monkeys as pets, didn't really set an example. She even took many monkeys back to New York with here after her husband died.It was a great house and one I could have happily moved into!
Next day we walked up to the 120 year old Anglican stone church , St Michaels, on the hill and found somebody to open the door for us so we could look at the beautiful stained glass windows, again commemorating the allied POW's. There are also a lot of Catholic churches in Sabah - they all have big blue and white signs out the front - most were started by Irish missionaries over 120 years ago. We then caught a local bus to spend the night at a resort near the orangutan sanctuary. It was a funny resort - all mould and wooden walkways and steps over large ponds of water. Our guide book told us the tickets for the sanctuary would be valid for 2 visits, even if they were over two days - this was however incorrect as they had to be on the same day. We've found quite a few mistakes like that in the Lonely Planet guide. We arrived at the sanctuary at 12.30, not realising that the park is closed for 2 hours in the middle of the day, we really should read our guide books more carefully. We seem to read all the wrong bits all the time! There were a few other people who had been to the morning feeding at 10am and had a long wait until the next one at 3pm. It was incredibly hot and I was literally streaming with perspiration. 2Pm arrived and we walked down the boardwalk to hopefully see some orangutans - we were lucky enough to see three ( there had only been one that morning) and they were great to watch. You can see that they are 94% human Dna. There were also a lot of other monkeys feeding. We ended the day quietly in the restaurant with the other people staying at the resort, and enjoyed a meal whilst watching all the tiny squirrels running up and down the trees. Next day we were dropped off on the highway to await a bus to take us the 4 hours to Kota Kinabulu, a coastal city 4 hours away and the capitol of Sabah.

Additional photos below
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View from our bedroom window in SandakanView from our bedroom window in Sandakan
View from our bedroom window in Sandakan

We spent the day watching the progress on this painting job across the road - usual Chinese style - no preparation or cleaning done!

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