Sandakan Secrets

Sabah's Best Kept Secret - Finally Updated

While on duty at the Dewan Undangan Negeri I managed to retrieve some of my files and photos at my former office. It was related to my tour of duty to Sandakan a few months a go with YB Datuk Amar State Secretary.

Cyril and Amiey thanks for making up - this Croc model at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan is a must visit if you plan to drop by Sabah one day.

It would have not done justice to the President of Sandakan Municipal Council, Mr. Yeo Boon Hai if I had not wrote this blog after all the efforts he had put in showing what Sandakan has to offer to the Sarawakian delegates during the Sabah - Sarawak Government Liaison Meeting last July 2008. This visit would have been my final task with the State Secretary of Sarawak's Office before I was transferred to Sri Aman. The pictures are aplenty that it was so difficult to pick and choose which to share for this posting.

Upon arrival at the Sandakan Airport there was a grand welcome for the Sarawak delegates in the form of a Bajau Cultural dance

A Prison Department Bus awaits us as this will be our official transport - as long as it was not Con Air or Con Bus but it has Air Con :)

Rainforest Discovery Centre

The first destination saw us being taken to the Rainforest Discovery Centre where we were pretty much shown around by the Director of Sabah Forestry, Datuk Sam Mannan (in green).

Conservationists will greatly appreciate the efforts made by the Sabah Forestry Department. There is no half hearted effort in their quest for sustainable forestry management with documented proof as seen here: the picture of the pond before and after shows their milestone

Its a scene to behold - just looking at the natural beauty relaxes one's mind but you need to be here to witness it yourself

Then there was the Plant Discovery Garden which has the most number of species arranged simply along the pathways for the visitors - thus greatly enriching their experience and knowledge of the plant species that can be found in the rainforest

It is a garden of nature with more than 250 species of plants. A botany student would be greatly pleased to spend his or her time here, as this is a living laboratory for a year's thesis

Another main attraction here would be the 147 meters long massive steel Canopy Walkway that goes as high as 100 metres, taking the visitor above the forest canopy heights where they can observe different bird species flying high

View from the top of the Canopy Walkway - one can make out the contourline of the canopy, and the various species that dominate the heights. Not only is one 'educated' while in the air, but also greatly inspired. Down there I was able to see the cabin where I observe the pond in my earlier photos

Far way down - view from the top

Not wanting to miss the experience I dared myself to climb somemore to capture this view

Sepilok Wildlife Centre

Though it was not in our visiting schedule we managed to drop by a wildlife clinic in the middle of the jungle which is part of the Sabah Government's rehabilitation effort for Orang Utans

Several lady volunteers from the United Kingdom Orang Utan Appeal participate in this Orang Utan rehabilitation effort

Two young orang utans learning how to swing on the trees

The much more veteran orang utan - its left hand had to be amputated due to an injury

Veterinarian Ms Cecelia (in green) also explained to us about the Centre's ongoing efforts in caring for Orang utans. Gosh I would have loved to be an Orang utan for a day. I would swing the highest canopy walks to get her and these British volunteers some wild flowers in appreciation of their efforts.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Next destination was to watch the Proboscis Monkeys at Labuk Bay. The trip was almost one and half hours - it felt like driving from Kuching to Sri Aman. One gets to see exciting wild sceneries along the way but those in the picture above are not really wild cows

Destination reached: the entrance to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.

Two VIPs - the State Secretary of Sarawak YB Datuk Amar Wilson (left) and the State Secretary of Sabah YB Datuk Sukarti (right) play around with one of the monkeys

We managed to reach there during the monkeys' feeding time - it was also an interesting sight as we observe them enjoying their meal

The Proboscis monkey Alpha male (big boss) will usually lead a group comprising of several female monkeys and infant monkeys. Our Sabahan conterparts are proud of their Proboscis monkeys as they mention that a particular organ of the male species is 24 hours eveready and never goes down. They are trying to find out whether the monkey's special diet on a particular leaf is contributingto this rigid situation. If its true Sabah can reap billions of ringgit by marketing this alternative to tongkat ali. I shared with them about the case in Sarawak where we only fascinated with the monkey's large nose only - that's one Secret about Sabahans, they know their priorities and are able to act on them with results.

The trip was not without adventure as our bus transport had its front tyres stuck in the soft roads of the Labuk Bay oil palm plantation on our return to Sandakan

Sandakan Central Market

Although I am proud of the Sibu Central Market, I have to say that the Sandakan Central market is a must visit to compare notes. I have to say its a tie in some areas but then again I have to admire the traffic flow management here as I do not notice the traffic jams that are typical at Sibu market

The various stalls sell a variety of familiar food like 'Mee kering, Cha Kui", Kopi O kaw kaw and many more

From cheap goods at one of the floors in the building - its a refreshing variety as one don't get to see only China made goods but those from the Phillipines too

The market is orderly and spacious - there's plenty of goods for the eyes to feast on

When I peeked out at one of the floors I notice the sea produce area of the market (wet market). Above it is a sea food restaurant where we had one of our dinners on the night we arrived. Its no wonder that the food was very fresh. Fishing boats that return from a rich harvest will berth just beside it. So its either you purchase several fresh catches down at the market or you just simply have your meals above

I just love the scenery at the food stall section at the upper floor of the market - imagine having a cup of kupi above the market with this as a view.

St. Michael Church and All Angels Church

Our next stop was the St. Michael Church in the heart of Sandakan Town. This church has historic significance which became part of a bigger picture of the Sabahan tourism success story.

St. Michael Church

Well, one has to hand it to the Sabahans, they have managed to package their tourism brand unlike any other States in Malaysia. In the website 'Lest We Forget', there is this heartbreaking tale related to the Second World War. Almost 2,500 Australian and British Prisoners of War lost their lives during the Death March which takes the story from Sandakan to Ranau. The St. Michael Church became the starting point of this history and became a 'must visit' place for tourists be it locals or foreigners to enable one to appreciate the Death March story.

Map of the Death March obtained from Sabah Tourism website

These windows were dedicated by the families and friends of the POWs in April 2005 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War Two.

A majestic scene and scene inside the Church

The Remembrance Window - also another gift from the families and friends of the Prisoners of War (POW)

Sandakan Memorial Park

As the story proceeds, part of the history was entombed in the Sandakan Memorial Park which was set up to commemorates a tragedy and an atrocity. It is located beside the site of the original Sandakan POW camp. Visitors are guided by a number of interpretative and memorial locations situated on the pathway around the Park.

Entrance to the Sandakan Memorial Park

Appreciation to the people who initiated the concept of the Memorial Park is encased in this structure

Original relics of the Sandakan POW camp can still be found here. It was informed that the boiler provided steam to run the generator that produced electricity for the camp. The POW will cut the wood to fire the boiler.

Concrete water tank used by the Camp

This is the Commerative Pavillion which contains text panels, maps and photographs telling the story of the Sandakan POW camp and the ‘death marches’ to Ranau.

Inside the Pavilion one will find the many story panels like this - this is about the the surviving POWs

The plight of the POWs and how the remaining POWs died - the stories in the Pavillion serve to share with visitors the cruelties inflicted on the POWs in World War Two

Model of the original camp can be found here

The model shows how the prisoners were seperated - the officers and the regular soldiers were seperated in the different huts

I managed to take a photo with this polished, granite memorial which is located within the original boundary of the POW camp. Near the memorial stood the famous ‘big tree’ and the camp guardhouse. Also beside the big tree was the ‘cage’ in which many prisoners suffered brutal punishments.
English Tea Anyone?

And I thought we had finished until we were brought to another destination in the heart of Sandakan and that is the English Tea House and Restaurant. Amazingly the experience here was very English - right down to the costumes worn by the waitresses. I deeply regretted not taking them.

The English Tea House and Restaurant - transforming an old British style Government colonial house into an income generating building

Care for a game of English Croquet anyone? Pick a mallet for a round of fun - one wonders if golf started from this game.

What can I say about the menu being offered? Simply Yummy!

An antique telephone and a steam iron shown as exhibits here

A variety of cakes and pastries to choose from

In addition there was a lot of Glorious wine collection - if this was not an official trip I would have gulped all those down

Nothing much I can say about the food pictures here - not that it was not delicous - it was superb but by this time my Sabahan counterparts were especially worried about me. I had been clicking my camera non stop ever since we we landed in Sandakan.

Agnes Keith House Musuem

The name of our next destination intruge me. As time was of the essence and I had to do some urgent shopping in the town of Sandakan, I almost skipped the Agnes Keith House visit. After all, I thought, it is just another house - and boy was I glad that I did not give this visit a miss. Agnes Keith House - its a house that opens you into time travel. What managed to transform this house into a living musuem was the fact that this American lady was such a dedicated writer. She covered most of her life in Sandakan in her books thus enabling readers to visualize and reenact life in those days and how she endured in most trying times. She even wrote about her life as a Prisoner of War in Batu Lintang, Kuching - yeap - it got me there as Sandakan and Batu Lintang is quite a distance in those days. She related how she had to hide her notes and papers while in the prison. It resulted in a book entitled 'Three Came Home' which details about her life in imprisonment.

Entrance to Agnes Keith House Musuem (opened to the public in 2004). It is a popular tourist attraction. It contains display panels on Agnes and her husband Harry Keith including information about colonial life in Sandakan in the first half of the twentieth century.

The tree in front of the restored Agnes Keith house was planted by Harry Keith who was the Conservator of the Forests at that time

The story of Agnes Keith are displayed in frames for visitors to view
According to history, the Keiths built a house named 'Newlands' and lived there until they left Sabah in 1952. After nearly fifty years of gradual deterioration, first under tenants and then as an empty shell, the house was restored by Sabah Museum in collaboration with the Federal Department of Museums and Antiquities in 2001. This house is a rare survival of post-war colonial wooden architecture.

Antiques are properly conserved for visitors to appreciate

Visitors will be able to view the history of Sandakan via old films preserved by the Muzium Department - how it started, how it was bombed to the ground during World War Two and how Agnes Keith and her husband became part of the rebuilding of new Sandakan after the War, until they left in 1952 never to return again

Newspaper cuttings relating to the arrival of ice cream in Borneo!

The refrigerator which made these ice creams

And after two days of hectic touring and meetings I managed to catch up with family members in Sandakan. My Uncles and Aunties from my wife's side dropped by at the Sabah Hotel where most of the Sarawak delgates stayed. We managed to do a quick catch up on the family. Uncle and Aunty were still well versed in Iban but the kids were not and so I had to retrace my poor Sabahan slang for them to understand me.

In fact I can go on and on but I do not wish to spoil it for those who wish to experience the Sandakan Secrets. I am still in awe at what this town has to offer visitors as an alternative to Kuala Lumpur or other destinations in the country. That's another Sabahan Secret that managed to transform Sabah into a premium tourist destination. The dedication that the various government agencies and non government agencies go working together to make this town a beehive of activity even after it was leveled to the ground in World War Two. The people who head the agencies themselves are quite special in their own way. They speak of their work with great passion and are always looking for new ways to improve. Sabah is enjoying the benefits of its labour as tourists come in droves - not only to Kota Kinabalu but as far as Sandakan. Which brings my mind to Sri Aman and Fort Alice.....
Okay what about Sri Aman? I hope the relevant agencies in the State are able to learn from Sabah's effort in turning its history into a major and attractive tourist package. The Sarawak Muzium has been writing proposals and proposals to the Federal Ministry in charge of Heritage but well - we have to yet get some solid feedback. So sad. If we bundle all the Forts in Sarawak throughout the State and package it for tourists to go from here, spread over to forts in Kuching, Kapi, Marudi and Betong, won't that be just dandy - that could be a starting point, but it has to start off with Fort Alice. After all, Fort Alice is one of the first few Forts which led to the birth of Sarawak. Enough said.... its time for action.


headsteadi said…
hahaha. ada2 jak bro Desmond tok. Cyril punya cerita pun pande sampe blog tok juak.
IS the crocodile for real?
Pn Hamidah said…
Btw, what's that 'croc' doing in that premise,it could easily prey on someone nearest by hehe..
Tia said…
no comment (still want to write something here.... he he he)
Amiey Alen said…
you're just nice!!!
we okay sudah la... have coer up the fight..and we just oke before...
cyrildason said…
hahaha.. dah okey ba.. sampai sini dia bawa cerita:P
Amiey Alen said…
i da okay with cyril!!!!!!!hahahaha
Ok great - i just have to get myself out of the crocodile first :)
abang sardon said…
o wai...cant help it when i read you talking abt sigat taking layar bestari to sri aman...:) is that org utan at sepilok? been there several years ago. nama berita bala sidak ba" sepilok?
Pn Hamidah said…
Thanks for all this info and pictures on Sandakan. What a great effort !.Can't wait to make a trip there someday.
Pn Hamidah said…
Posted a comment here last night but then I guess I lost the connection.Nice pics and so much info on Sandakan.Such a great effort ! Can't wait to make a trip there someday. Thanks.
Uchu Keling said…
Now, there are good reasons to be in Sandakan. All these while we only know about Sepilok, but today, there are more than Sepilok that we should check out in Sandakan.

Thanks bro.. this is indeed an eye opener (and u need wine opener of those good looking bottles).
Coffee Girl said…
(DUN? sempat juak...)

Anyway, those pics are lovely. Brings back memories. I've been on the canopy walk! Yeay! it was really awesome, terrifying at some point, but i love heights.

the monkey pose looks obsene though. Haha. i guess they just didnt know better.
Apaienduq said…
Ha ha ha, you went to Sabah with DSS, visited Orangutan. Very interesting and adventure, but you forgot to visit Mt Kinabalu!!!
= FLoReNcE = said…
Wow...good...can go to visit Sandakan. Y dun have Kadazan gals? :)
I think i dont have to fly to sabah because i have seen enough photos.
kenergy_ichi said…
WOW.. wat a nice advanture!
Unknown said…
Hi Desmond,
Thank you very much for all the photos and information along your working life as Timbalan Residen of Sri Aman.