Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sandakan Adventures - Part 1

Enjoyed Sandakan even though there wasn't much to do I thought. And it didn't really qualify as a holiday on my own since my brother who's working there brought me around and made it easier to go about. Left after work directly to airport on Friday and came back last night.

I find Sandakan rather different (of course lah) since the town centre is not so happening. The smaller townships are dotted along the main road I think, having names such as Bandar Indah, Bandar Maju, Bandar Kim Fung, etc. And they have nicer roundabouts compared to KK. And there's no shopping complexes, most shops are the shop-block type and are smaller.

Hotel Nak - downtown.

My room

Flyers, key, complimentary water and snack

I stayed at the Nak Hotel, the oldest hotel in town, built in 1966. Surprisingly for an old building, it was a reasonable stay at the rate I paid. Room was a little smaller than I expected but was not an issue at all. Sheets were clean, bed was firm. Had to ask for extra pillows so I can sleep well :). Room was a give a lick of fresh paint, bathroom had the original 1960's fixtures apart from the Joven shower installed, and it looked like they took out the bath tub some time ago. 

The gem of this hotel is its Ba Lin Roof Garden. Wonderful, simple yet gorgeous. Loved the design and concept. I think I'll write about it in another posting since it deserves so.

On Saturday, I did all the tourist thingies. Woke up early headed to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, and stopped on the way at this coffeeshop for breakfast where they had fabulous baked buns. Reaching Sepilok at 9:15 am there was already quite a crowd including four busloads of tourists, French by the sound of it. Got our tickets and went in earlier to the feeding platform. While waiting the orang utans were already around, there was one huge one who was clearly unperturbed by the presence of humans and nonchalantly swaggered his way along the wooden railings and put on a show of hanging from the tree branches. I was about two feet close to it when it passed by me and looked me in the eye. I didn't dare to go closer. Chicken :).

By the time it was 10:00 am, the viewing platform was crowded - there was probably about 200 or more people cramming to see the primates. There were some serious photography going on; people with those fancy cameras and tripods and what nots; they must've captured some good shots of the monkeys. 

When you really look at them, the orangutans really can show emotions on their faces. And those big brown eyes ! We share 96.4% of the same genes, I just learnt - did you know that? 

After deciding that we were happy with the orangutans, we left Sepilok and stopped by the Sandakan Crocodile Farm. I've never seen so many crocodiles in my life and I say, they are really scary creatures even though they're in cages. They just lie there in the sun, not moving a bit; with mouths wide open baring their ferocious looking teeth. Oh they had other creatures too - kois, giant Amazon fish, turtles, catfish, ostrich, peacocks, snakes, a lone porcupine. The staff had a short live show with 2 crocs which I found mildly amusing. On the way out, I threw a coin for luck into the arowana tank and the Golden one came by and swallowed my coin! I hope that's a good omen :).

After that we went to the Sandakan Memorial Park. No other visitors were around - the caretaker was peacefully asleep at the Pavilion building. I like this place - quiet and peaceful feeling all around, befit its status as a remembrance of the atrocities during WWII. It needs better maintenance though. 

By this time it was blazing hot with the mid-day sun, hence we called it a day and went back to rest. 

I'm having problems uploading pictures so I guess this is it for Part 1. 

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