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.


Big Momma said...

wah!!!! looks like u really enjoyed the food and all the scenery there...:)

Anonymous said...

Let me enlighten you on the senario of the oil tankers. This is the result of the global economic slowdown/recession. The majority are berthed there ( a good sheltered harbour as they have no cargo to carry. It's much cheaper to keep them here than in Singapore. They are from all over the world.

In 1987 we used to go tanker hopping there exchanging gifts with cigarette...yes they have a minimal crew who always seem to run out of cigarettes and understandably too cos the crews cannot land.They have great supplies of good quality food though.

Brunei uses them as floating reserviors stock the crude when the World price is low and only sell them when the price is up..yeap price control.

There are more than 60 there..easily 100. You can see them from Menumbuk...perfectly sheltered by Labuan Island.
...have not forgiven you for not calling me though hahahaha.

p/s I am toying with the idea of conducting a course/degree there for Somalis Pirates now..So many ships for the pratical.LOL..kpenyu

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected but I think Mt Kinabalu is not the highest peak in SEA anymore..kpenyu

Bengbeng said...

i love the orang utan pics... how far were u separated from the orang utans when u took the pic. it seems so near. is there any danger? ?

abana said...

Watch out with the cockles..too much of it will increase your colestrol.

Philip said...

Big Momma: Yes, it was a great trip with lots of seafood and visiting new and nice places.

Kpenyu: Thanks for the update. I heard of that years ago from a relative who is a Shell contractor..thought the bad days for oil industry have long gone.So do they also keep women onboard? know sailors are lonely people when they are at sea.No need Somalis...train some locals and count me in! Haha...still "hot" at me for not contacting you? Sorry penyu.
Btw, which is the highest moutain now in SEA?

bengbeng: It was quite near, must be around 15 feet and the quide later told us to walk pass the lazy orang utan who refused to move.It was a bit frightening as the animal could attack just like what happened some time ago in Kuching.

abana: you are correct...I will stop eating cockles for a year!

-eiling- said...

interesting trip. I really like that picture of cockles and scallops...

Anonymous said...

Mt Kinabalu rank 5th at 4095m. Highest is Hkabo Razi(5881m)of Burma followed by Puncak Jaya(5030),Trikora(4751m),and Mandala(4701) all of Indonesia.
Wonder what the Geography books(Malaysian) say.
p/s What!!! How come you know we bring them women???LOL. They are ok with mermaids la. kpenyu

Philip said...

eiling: You only like them in the picture...not as food?

Kpenyu:That's news to these mountains grow so fast to surpass Mt. Kinabalu? Remember mermaids have no legs so they can't spread their "legs", so how do you think the sailors can have fun?