Malaysia, Travel
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Being a tourist in Sandakan

My weekend was well spent, playing tourist with mom and my six-year-old nephew. We went on a short city break to the east coast district of Sandakan, for an overnight stay.

A night is a very short break indeed. But enough to explore the different sights of Sabah, and indulge ourselves with nature and wildlife, which Sandakan is known for.

I often fly to the east coast for work purpose. But having to visit Sandakan as a tourist, I am slowly learning to love this quaint district.

Our stay in Sandakan was great. If only it was not raining. We stayed at Nak Hotel, just a five-minute walk to the waterfront and the Habour Mall – Sandakan’s only biggest and grand shopping mall.

The mall. Nothing much to browse or be excited about, except for the Popular bookstore and the Mc Donald (which my nephew was pretty much amazed.)

It drizzled when we landed Sandakan Airport at 9.50am. We picked our rental car and headed to the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre (BSCC) – the only sun bear rescue and rehabilitation facility in the world.

In my line of work, I write a lot about BSCC’s effort in protecting sun bear. So, visiting this center is very much important for me to see up close how things are at the centre.

We were told there were 40 sun bears in the wild, within the vicinity of BSCC. We spotted eight of them – one via binocular – from the observation platform. They were either playing, tearing tree trunks, climbing trees, sleeping, exploring or lazing around.

Then, it rained VERY heavily, that we had to skip the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, just adjacent to BSCC. And because my nephew suggested we go the next day. So, we headed straight to our hotel, rested, and had popular ikan bakar (grilled fish) for dinner at Kampung Buli Sim-Sim.

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Playing spot the sun bear

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When in Sandakan, head to Kampung Buli Sim-Sim for ikan bakar.

The following day, weather was being rather friendly but playful. One minute, it gave you the sun, then the next minute, it presented you with light rain. Nonetheless, we managed to visit three main attractions.

In the morning, we stopped at the St Michael’s and All Angels Church – the oldest stone church in Sabah, built in 1888 and survived World War II. We went on Sunday, so it was closed to the public. The church is just like other little stone churches you see in Europe.

If you walk around it, you will see a memorial stone, which was erected in 1988. There are also time capsules – one to be opened in 2038, the other in 2088. Wonder what’s in there…

photo_2019-01-30_17-40-54photo_2019-01-30_17-40-35photo_2019-01-30_17-40-41Then, we made a stop at the Agnes Keith’s House (my favourite, I must say). The house turned museum was once a former British colonial government quarters, called Newlands. It was occupied by American author, Agnes Newton Keith, who arrived Sandakan in 1934 with her British husband.

From 1934 to 1951, she penned three autobiographical accounts of life in North Borneo (now Sabah). It was in Newlands that she spent most of her time writing her two books – Land Below The Wind and White Man Returns. The other book is Three Came Home.

I have all of Agnes’s three books but I only finished reading Land Below The Wind, which is poised-ly written. I need to pick it up again after visiting Agnes Keith House.

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Agnes Newton Keith

Before flying home, we went to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. It was my second visit to the centre. My first was between the ages of three and five but I don’t remember anything from it. I, however, do have a vivid memory of me complaining about my pants because it was “too big”.

The orangutan, literally translated ‘people of the forest’, is my favourite wildlife species, probably because they are the closest resemblance to human beings. Do you know that 97 percent of orang utans DNA match with humans? This is based on 2011 news report (read here).

Their social and problem-solving skills were impressive. They were amusing and we had fun watching their behaviour from a viewing gallery and open platform (the feeding ground). A great ending to our Sandakan trip.

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