A very mysterious thing happened when Steve, Sam and I arrived in Sandakan: the rain stopped. Really, for two whole days, no rain!!! Amazing! Amazing and hot!
Our first day here, we had breakfast at Sandakan Backpacker Hostel and headed of on the Heritage Trail Walking Tour. Equipped with a map from the most friendly and helpful visitor center yet, we headed off to see the sights. The first stop was Hotel Sandakan, not for the tour but because it was right next to the mosque and Sam wanted information on getting to Labuk Bay. I hadn’t heard of Labuk Bay but was quickly energized when I heard more about it.
The first stop, the mosque, was a very short stop. They were attending mid-day prayers so it was packed with people arriving and those already settled for prayers. We didn’t want to intrude so retreated instead. One man with a rather stern look was coming up the steps. He had a “hard” face, thin gray beard clinging to the outline of his chin and wearing the Taqiyah, a hat worn by most Muslim men.
I caught his eye as he glanced my way, smiled and said hello. The hard face crumbled, eyes sparkled, he held his hand up between heart and chin in a manner they do that feels very respectful and then patted me on the shoulder as he continued his way on up. Nice start to the tour.
Here’s a link for you: Sandakan Heritage Trail
Highlights were authentic English Tea house where I had tea and crumpets and the Chinese Temple for the Goddess of Mercy or Kwan Yin. The most interesting man came in and became our tour director. He gave us a lot of information on the temple and the importance it has including showing us a photo of Kwan Yin he said is the real image of her. It appeared to a man in the clouds and he took a picture. Amazing little temple, the oldest in Sandakan.
See more about the English Tea House: English Tea House, Sandakan
We came back, got cold drinks, wandered to the waterfront and selected a table in the shade to sit and drink. The manager of the restaurant politely invited us to look at the menu in case we wanted dinner alter. No pressure and no hassle for bringing drinks from outside. Very nice man and he headed back to his fishing. We decided to come back for dinner.
Great choice as the food was wonderful! His name is Miu (like a cat he said) and he was a real treat. Our food was wonderful so we went back the next night to meet Diego who showed up unexpectedly as we were finishing our dinner. After our delicious “honey chicken with rice”, we decided to meet here the next night before everyone scattered to their next destinations.
The next morning had us up early, finishing out breakfast and searching for “Fat Cat Bakery” on our way to the Hotel Sandakan and our trip to Labuk Bay Sanctuary. There are several Fat Cat Bakeries in our area, actually more than KFC and that is unusual! KFC is extremely popular over here. Fat Cat Bakery has lunch pizza rolls, chicken curry rolls, peanut butter rolls, chocolate rum balls, iced coffee in cans, and tons of other treats. Supplied with travel snacks for about $2 US, we found the shuttle and were taken off for our adventure.
First, I should tell you that Sam is a MAJOR monkey fan. She pulled out two small stuffed monkey traveling companions and put them on her pillow the first night in the hostel. She was thrilled and the excitement was contagious. It only built when we stopped at Sepilok on the way to pick up another passenger, Aarne from Sweden. He went yesterday and his experience was so amazing, he was off to to it again. It sounded like we were in for a great treat!
About 30 minutes later, we pulled up to the ticket office. Van shuttle, entrance fees, and camera fees totaled $100 ringgit for the day, a little over $33 for the day. Normally, that would be about two days of room and board and maybe even travel for me. Small splurge, great adventure!
I hadn’t realized it but this van was ours alone, the four of us. It drove to the first feeding platform, parked and our driver told us where to go and then set off to show us. We walked up the steps and smack into an otter, several Silver Leaf Monkeys and a Hornbill, all before feeding time! Amazing being that close to the wildlife. The Proboscis Monkeys came swinging out of the forest in huge numbers when it was feeding time. Once again, amazing to experience that!
Back on the van, we headed to the resort and restaurant for lunch and a 50 minute video story about the Palm Plantation and the Proboscis Monkey. An extremely comfortable and cushy TV lounge with air conditioning, I think we all nodded of at one time or another and the film was excellent. It’s called “The Biggest Nose In Borneo”.
The Proboscis Monkey has such a large belly because it houses two stomachs. The first stomach removes the poison or toxicity from the mangrove leaves they eat and the second stomach can then digest them and extract the moisture so vital to their survival.
We then left for the second feeding station. A long boardwalk through the Mangrove Swamp full of crab towers and we arrived at a large covered desk with even larger open deck beyond. We started seeing the Proboscis Monkeys, first one slowly moving toward us and then a forest full of swinging and flying monkeys as the food was put out.
I know, I said before that this was amazing but THIS was AMAZING! So many crazy swinging monkeys flying through the trees in a natural environment. One male, the former dominant male, came crashing and pounding onto the deck near us. We thought it might be an aggressive or angry show on his part. He came for food and to pose for pictures. Quite an experience being that close!
Certainly one of the highlights of our trip. We came back and met Diego for dinner. Our dinners came to about $13 ringgit each or roughly $4.00 US, a little more for the beer. Diego was quite surprised that all the food only cost that little.