Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Week In Sabah--Part 2

American writer Agnes Newton Keith lived in this house between 1934 to 1952. It was here she wrote her first book "Land Below The Wind", published in 1939.Two other books she wrote were "Three Came Home" and "White Man returns". "Three Came Home" was published after the WWII in 1947 in Victoria, British Columbia.This bestseller which was a detailed account of her imprisonment in Sandakan and Batu Lintang in Kuching together with her husband and son and also the hardships of the POWs, was turned into a Hollywood motion picture in 1950."White Man Returns" was completed in Sandakan after she reunited with her husband in 1947.

The original house where the Keiths lived was destroyed after the Japanese invading forces retreated. Upon their returned, the Keiths rebuilt the house over the ruined foundations and named it Newlands. Agnes's husband, Henry George Keith was first posted to Sandakan by the North British Company in 1925, serving as Conservator of Forests and also the Director of Agriculture. In 1934 while on leave in California, Henry re-met and married Agnes, bringing her with him to Sandakan the same year. Their first son, George, was born in Sandakan.

The Keiths returned to British Columbia in 1952 where Agnes died in 1982 at the age of 80. Newlands was occupied by subsequent Conservators of Forests and other high ranking government officials until the early 1990s when rumours of the house being haunted frightened away all the occupants. The Sabah Museum finally stepped in and converted the house into a museum in memory of its most famous occupant, Agnes Keith.The museum is tastefully furnished with a reproduction of colonial furniture and displays the works of Agnes Keith and some local artefacts. It is located on top of a hill at Jalan Istana, approximately 20 minutes walking distance from the town centre.

Not far from the Agnes Keith House is the English Tea House & Restaurant serving excellent tea from different parts of the world and authenic English scones. The restaurant also serves local, oriental and western dishes while its bar offers fine wine and liquor.

You can choose between dinning indoor or outdoor under the gazebos where you can have a panoramic and tranquil view of Sandakan bay while at the same time watching a game of croquet. The once very popular lawn game of English croquet first came to Sandakan in 1870.

We discovered from some tourist literature a beer garden on top of Hotel Nak in down town Sandakan. It claimed to offer the best spot to view the sunset. But we were not lucky enough to watch the sun setting over the Sandakan Bay as heavy rain set in before evening.

We had 4 jars of Tiger Draft which only costed RM108 during the happy hours.It was still drizzling when we left for another round of seafood feast and more beer at our hotel, the Swiss Inn.

This picture of the lovely beer garden (above) was taken before the sky turned ugly, and in the below picture from another angle we could see half of the Sandakan Town.

In the good company of the hotel chef and manager, we emptied another 4 jars of Tiger draft. However, we could no longer finish the fish, the cockles and 'Dong Fong Lo'. We called it a night early as morning call was at 5.30 am. I would continue my journey to Tawau while my two other buddies would be flying home early in the morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Week In Sabah--Part 1

Last year our gang went to Sabah together, but we were only in Kota Kinabalu (KK) and Kinabalu National Park area. The same gang this year decided to go to Sandakan. It was the first time for me to fly Air Asia from Sibu to KK and the pleasant journey took only an hour. As we flied pass Brunei, I took the above picture,probably at Brunei Bay where I counted more than 60 oil tankers at anchor. So Brunei must be earning tons of money daily from the black gold.

A few minutes later were were already in Sabah's air space. Brunei is really only a tiny dot from high above. We wasted almost an hour waiting for the transport sent by our hotel...the driver had gone to Terminal 1 to fetch us but we were actually at Terminal 2. Almost immediately after check-in, we ordered many seafood dishes from the food court (above) located just beside our hotel . The good thing was the restaurant was kind enough to send up all the food and beer we ordered to the cosy lounge on the 1st floor of the hotel building. After the first round of a steamed fish, 1 kg of prawns and 1/2 kg of "Dong Fong Lo" or sea snails, we were still not satisfied so we ordered some more prawns,sea snails and beer.

Do you know what is "Special Charcoal Stone"? I took this picture of a seafood stall from the hotel's verandah. Every where you go and everything you eat is seafood in Sabah. Seafood is still abundant and cheap especially in Sandakan and Semporna. Our eating spree didn't just ended here.Later at night we found ourseleves indulged in more good food and drinks at an Irish Bar at the Waterfront.

Our flight to Sandakan was shortly after 7 the next morning. I was lucky enough to be seated where I could have a clear view of Mt. Kinabalu, South East Asia's highest peak. After we flew pass the mountain, I just couldn't stop feeling that I had also reached the summit of Mt. Kinabalu.

My last visit to Sandakan was on April 4, 2003. 6 years later I found no improvement done to the airport terminal building. Being the second largest town in Sabah, isn't it strange that Sandakan, which is also popularly known as "Nature Town" and "Little Hong Kong" would lose out to Tawau which boosts a new airport?

We stayed in Swiss-Inn Waterfront, one of the latest and best hotels in Sandakan. The 138-room hotel property is owned by a businessman from Sibu.The RM290 deluxe twin sea view room offered me a panoramic view of the Sandakan Bay.The hotel,the adjacent new shophouses and a 5-star hotel under construction are all part of the Sandakan Harbour Square project.

A very big difference if you compare these buildings....the above flats at the town centre and the new shophouses (below) at the Sandakan Harbour Square. The very run-down buildings housing the flats probably have not been repainted for more than 15 years. It is an eyesore?, but I would rather call it a landmark.

The site of the new 5-star hotel which is in between the Swiss-Inn and the Central Market.

Sandakan Town from a roof-top beer garden.

We had seafood Bah Kut Teh for lunch at Good Taste Restaurant at Bandar Nam Tung, 10 minutes drive from the town centre. We also ordered a bowl of "Hwang Chiu" chicken. (Chicken in yellow wine) The place was recommened by an ASP friend who was also holidaying in Sandakan.

In the afternoon we visited the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, my 3rd time there. I managed to capture the below picture of the human and orang utan skulls. Do you think they were our ancestors?

Eyos, the 10-year old orang utan is pregnant and she was too lazy to walk or climb. This British volunteer has to carry her like a baby.

Three other orang utan we saw during feeding time were Miskan, the dominant male at the centre, Brit and her baby Britania.Look at how the little baby clung to her mother like a human.The father was very protective of the family and he was seen most of the time standing guard over the baby and her mother.

The next day I spent the early hours of the morning at the wharf near the fish market. Even at this very congested wharf a man was seen casually throwing a net and catching several fish in a short time.

I was told each day from as early as 2 am, the wharf is already crowded with fishing boats and fishermen returning with their catches. The fish are sorted according to their species and grades and then weighed before being taken away by the traders.They are for local consumption as well as for export to neighbouring Brunei, Sarawak and also West Malaysia.

Many varieties of cockles, snails, scallops, oysters, clams etc are available at very cheap prices.What is RM30 a kilo at home is only RM3-5 here in Sandakan.The hotel's Chef was kind enough to let us buy the fresh seafood from the market and he cooked them personally for our lunch and dinner. Below was what we had for lunch...starting from 10.30 am!. In the evening we had more for dinner and were honoured to have both the Chef and the hotel's Manager to accompany us.
In Part 2, I will write about visiting the Agnes Keith House, the English Tea House & Restaurant and happy hours at a roof top beer garden.

Sweet Love Band At Premier Hotel

A short posting announcing the arrival of the Sweet Love Band from the Philippines. The 1-man 3-lady band is now singing and performing nightly at the Bamboo House Lounge of the Premier Hotel, Sibu. Leah, Dianne and Chicca are all gifted singers, especially good at sentimental and love songs. Jojo is normally behind the keyboard but he also sings well. The last picture shows Mr. Tony Hii, the hotel's Sales Manager jotting down the singers' particulars. Do find out more information at:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A week In Sabah

Hi ALL,I just returned from a week of adventure holiday in Sabah. I left home on June 7 and during the past week I had been to Kota Kinabalu,Sandakan,Tawau, Semporna and Mabul Island. The above are some of the more than 3,000 pictures I took during the very interesting and eventful trip. I will share with you the adventures of the whole trip in the coming days. Do Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gawai Celebration At Rumah Anthony Philip

I was invited to celebrate Gawai Dayak at Rumah Anthony Philip at Bawang Asan on May 31. My host was Miss Christina Anthony (above), daughter of Tuai Rumah (Longhouse Headman), Mr. Anthony Philip

Our group of 7 included 2 Editors from United Daily News head office in Miri.

After a welcoming dinner on the Ruai (communal verandah), we waited for a series of competitions to begin.Dozens of trophies and prizes were up for grab in the beauty contest for children, karaoke singing competition,ketupat making competition, the best Tuak (rice wine) competition,Ngajat dancing (traditional dance) competition etc.

In the ketupat making competition, two ladies had a tie of 18 pieces, so to make a quick decision, the judges decided to toss a 20-cent coin. Finally, the one who chose "head" won.

The eight contestants for the "Miss Gawai 2009"

Tuai Rumah Anthony Philip giving away a prize to a winner and his wife (below) presenting a trophy to another winner.

I have many Dayak friends and almost every year I will make it a point to visit some longhouses during Gawai Dayak. This year is more special as I am visiting a new friend and her family. I become acquainted with Miss Christina Anthony ( through blogging. We used to comment on each other's blog and a few days ago she emailed to invite me to join in their Gawai celebration. Christina comes from a family of educationist. Her father was a former head master, her brother, sister and many uncles, aunties and cousins are all in the teaching profession. Christina herself is now attached to a government secondary school in Bintangor. Rumah Anthony Philip is one of the 8 longhouse communities in Bawang Asan, 30 km away from Sibu.