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Published: March 27th 2016
Sandakan 15 March 2016
After breakfast at 7.00am, we depart Turtle Island in the same speedboat we arrived in and return to the mainland. It was a day for seeing some of the special features of Sandakan. We were driven around by a big tourist bus even though there were only 12 of us.
First we visit the Central Market which consisted of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fresh and dried fish and red meat. We then walked over to the Sheridan on the recommendation from 2 fellow travellers, that the cappuccinos were excellent there. We have been a little ‘staved’ of good quality coffee over the past few days. The downstairs cafe didn’t disappoint us. The coffee was excellent. The Sheridan is on the water over-looking the sea which had both pleasure and fishing boats.
Next was a visit to the Water Village. The houses were built on stilts over water. We saw all standards of houses, some cared for and others poorly maintained. About 30% Chinese, 10% other and 60% Malay live in these houses. Housing prices are cheap in these villages when compared to the on-land housing.
The latter range from the equivalent of $100,000 – 200,000 AUD. This needs to be balanced with the knowledge that the average salary for a policeman in $4,000 AUD p.a!!!
We then drove onto walk around an impressive Buddhist Temple. This building interior was dripping with gold but very inviting. We were all very impressed with what we saw.
But the most incredible site we visited on this day was the Australia War Memorial Park. The park has been built on the site where the Japanese POW camps were built and where the “Death March” commenced. This was during WW2 where the Japanese kept Australian, NZ and British troops as prisoners to build their war infrastructure. The Japanese soldiers were commanded to march 2500 POW from Sandakan to Ranau which was 260kms. On this march, due to the criminal treatment of the prisoners, only 6 Australians survived and only because they escaped and were helped by the local villagers. Another terrible part of the war!
We then visited St. Michael’s Church which was the only building that was not flattened during the war.
we visited the Agnes Keith Museum. Agnes was an American, married to and English forester who lived in Borneo for many years including during the war. She was very passionate about the events which she experiences 1st
hand so she wrote a 3-book sequal which is now on my reading list. The museum was in the house Agnes and her husband and children occupied.
It was then time for lunch. We visited a magnificent English Tea House which had expansive rolling lawns, part of which was a croquet field. The whole set up was very English and one could imagine the long royal-clothed early English settlers enjoying tea and scones in the garden.
We had a lovely English meal served on the best china. Most enjoyable!!
After lunch, we drove overland to Bilit, Kinabatangan River where we took an afternoon river cruise in search of wildlife as well as to be dropped off at the Bilit Adventure Lodge where we were to stay for the next 3 nights.
Sandakan 18-19 March 2016
After the 3 nights in Bilit we returned to Sandakan where a delicious
lunch was served in the Sheraton. We had some free time to relax as well as walk around the town. At 3.45pm, our group will be picked up and transferred to a jetty for a boat trip to a local fishing village.
Just by the way, even our drivers were fantastic and so friendly. Herman had been our guide for this section of our tour and he was fantastic. We didn’t look forward to saying goodbye to him.
We were taken for a village walk (Malay Brunei tribes) and enjoyed a local tea break with the villagers, followed by a river cruise. With our tea they served dried banana which was battered. It was tasty.
The lady who ran the B&B where we ate was wonderful. She had an activity program for the village children to try to keep their time on using technology to a minimum. Every time tourists came to visit, she would organise games for us to place with the kids. We played knuckle bones (with stones), skittles (with water-filled bottles and coconuts) and a game called ‘3-sticks’ where the children had to knock the 3 sticks down
(which were built up as if over a camp cooking pot) with a ball which was made of paper and sticky-tape. Once the 3 sticks were knocked down, others around had to brand the kids with the ball until they were all out. However, if the kids put the 3 sticks up again, they were safe. Perhaps a game we need to put in the caravan.
However, while Tom and one of our travel companion, Jude, were trying to dodge the ball they tripped over. Jude ended up with a bruised chin and shoulder and Tom lost a bit of ‘bark’ on the side of one of his legs, his back (including 2 small holes in his shirt) and his elbow. Wow, it was a dangerous sport!!!!! We all had a fantastic time even though Jude and Tom took the fall for the team!!!!
As the sun was setting we were in the boat cruising down one of the rivers to see the flickering lights of fireflies against the night sky and vegetation. Some of the trees looked like Christmas trees. We were a little lucky because the moon was shining and often the
fireflies can’t be seen but we saw many of them.
We drove back to Sandakan to the Four Point Sheraton which was right on the waterfront. Our room had a view down on the infinity pool and the harbour (which was a bit hard to take – not! It was particularly taxing on the eyes the next morning when teams of the Rugby Seven boys were exercising on the pool!!!! There was a tournament in town between Borneo, Aussies (1 team each from Perth and Melbourne), UK, NZ, Fiji, Belgium, Hong Kong and Singapore. All the Borneo team was made up of New Zealanders. We also saw about 6 French so I don’t know who they were playing.
The next day in Sandakan was also free from set activities so we made the most of it by having a 3-hour breakfast with Jude & Johnno (!!!!!) and then caught up with Kerrie & Adam via Messenger.
We then cruised around the town, buying a few items as well as some beer and went back to the hotel for a magnificent swim. I know life is tough sometimes! The temperature of the
water was beautiful. We lay by the pool sipping a couple of cold ones before getting ready for with the finale with our new-found fun-friends. At this stage there were 10 of us.
We all met at the Nak Bar which had an area on the roof to sit around on. Once the sun was down it was pleasant and the view of the city was pretty good. At about 6.30pm all except Kerry & Bill went back towards the Sheraton and found a harbour side restaurant to have a fantastic meal.
It was then time to go back to our hotel as they were celebration Earth Hour which is a grassroots movement, uniting people to protect the planet, and is organised by WWF. Lights are switched off for an hour to herald environmental issues challenging the world.
The hotel had great music playing and gave the people a chance to write what they believe are the challenges facing the world. Everyone was in a fun mood and the staff of the Sheraton did a great job including everyone.
However, all good things sometimes come to an end so we
said our goodbyes to everyone to go and pack our bags as we were leaving to fly to Kota Kinnabulla at 6.00am. We were just about to start the next stage of our Borneo experience with another tour group.
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