Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 8 – Sandakan walk

On the free map you can get at the airport tourist stand, or at hotels, a walk is shown. it’s a pleasant, easy walk.  But as it is the tropics, for me always the best time to go for a walk is first thing in the morning.  If you want to have tea at Agnes Keith house, then time your walk accordingly – not too early. These are photos taken during this walk.

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I started at the Sandakan Hotel

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There is actually a sign, here

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in MPS Square

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In MPS Square

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In MPS Square

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MPS Square

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the stairs start opposite MPS Square

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it’s nice and shady

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no one around, either

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the last few steps up

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looking back

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This sign is at the top of the steps. I didn’t count, so I don’t know if it is accurate, but it’s not a hard climb.

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walking towards the Japanese Cemetary – although I didn’t go that far

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The official residence of the Chief Minister of Sabah – after this I turned back

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not open yet

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nice view here

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the tallest building is the Sheraton

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Clock Tower, in the middle of the roudabout

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after the Sung Siew School I turned left, skipping the Ancient Graveyard found down the road on the right – on the right is a footpath, at the moment

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house next to the temple

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no footpath any more

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just before an ovehead bridge you turn right and follow this covered walkway

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housing for some people

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St Marys Cathedral – Catholic

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St. Francis

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St. Michael – Anglican

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They have time capsules in this rock

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St Michael

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back in MPS Square, having completed the walk

Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 6 – Sandakan

Sandakan seems like it is in the middle of nowhere. It is quiet, clean, quite small and friendly.  From KK it is a short flight, but apparently not an easy drive.  When you arrive the airport is tiny, with only a couple of luggage carousels.  Then it is about 30 minutes drive to the town. The taxi voucher is RM30 to the town. And by the way, a taxi will charge RM30 for the trip back to the airport from town.

The following photos are intended to give an idea of the inner city of Sandakan.

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It’s only about a 40 minute flight – but not an easy drive – to Sandakan. It feels like we are going to the middle of nowhere.

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flying out of KK

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enroute from KK to Sandakan

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a small airport

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A big sign you see on the way into town from the airport

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many houses on stilts on the water that you can see on the way to Sandakan

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the mosque

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the Sheraton on the left, where we stayed

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street in Sandakan

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street in Sandakan

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street in Sandakan

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street in Sandakan

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very very old looking local buses

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a local market

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a local market

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a local market – big pail of milo

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a local market

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a local market

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a local market

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a local market

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a local market

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a local market

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the Malaysian navy

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the hotel from the waterfront

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waterfront restaurants

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waterfront restaurants

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waterfront restaurants

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near the waterfront

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Sandakan streets

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Sandakan streets

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Sandakan streets

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Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 5 – Kota Kinabalu (KK) – hotels and waterfront

In KK we stayed in two different hotels. The first was Gaya Central.

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This is near the waterfront, and not too far from Jesselton Terminal. RM157 for a night. The room has a shower, but no bath, and a safe. The staff were friendly, if not all that knowledgeable. Breakfast was OK. Here are a few photos.

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the view from the window

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the view from the window

Below is Signal Hill lookout, where a went for a walk as depicted in a previous blog in this series on Sabah.

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Signal Hill lookout – you can just see this in the previous photo, on the left.

Following are some photos of the waterfront, starting at the east and moving west.

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And then a little further along is the tousit waterfront area, as depicted in another blog in this series. Opposite this is the second hotel we stayed at in KK.

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This is the Klagan hotel. Again, it is near the waterfront.We were given an upgrade – delux with bath & separate shower. The price was RM225 per night. The staff were helpful and friendly, there was a safe, iron, ironing board, hairdryer, and amenities in the room. And breakfast was good.

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stairs from the 10th floor to the breakfast room

The following is breakfast…

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Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 4 – Kota Kinabalu (KK) – Little Italy restaurant

And as for eating in KK?

Every morning we had a big breakfast at the hotel.

After that we were busy with excursions, and only had two nights free to eat in KK. For one we were very hungry and ate in a nearby hawker centre before we starved.

For the other we wandered around. On the waterfront there are plenty of tourist establishments, with quite high prices.

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A couple of blocks in the food is much cheaper.

Little Italy was recommended by a friend, and was full of patrons, with quite a queue outside.  As most waiting groups were larger, we two actually got a table after only a couple of minutes wait.

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The service was not particularly good – I gave up and went and fetched menus, for example, but they were rushed off their feet.

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The food was good though, and the house wine reasonably priced.

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We had hoped to visit again before leaving KK, but we ran out of time.

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Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 3 – Kota Kinabalu (KK) wildlife excursion

We had half a day left in KK, and were leaving the next morning. Our last chance for:

Proboscis Monkey River Cruise & Fireflies tour.  This tour takes you by bus through the countryside  to a place on the river about two hours drive from KK. Then you have coffee and a snack, and board a boat to see wildlife in its natural setting, and after dusk you see fireflies. You have dinner by the river. Then you are driven back to the hotel, arriving between 10PM and 10.30.

But it is dependent on the weather and luck what you actually see, if anything. If it rains, you are unlikely to see anything, and you’ll also probably get wet. We were not at all sure about the weather on that day, but we decided we’d go and hope for the best.  We rang the agent one hour before pickup to ensure we could get on, and they said to book online but pay the guide.  Once we booked online they texted us to confirm.

I did worry about the drive back at night, hoping the driver was going to be safe.


The tour was good. They did as promised. We saw lots of wildlife, enjoyed the dinner, and the driver drove safely.


They picked us up at the hotel on time, did a couple more hotel pickups, and then we were on our way.

the bus

the bus

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The drive was quite pleasant, and with one brief  comfort stop along the way took a little over two hours.

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we followed the rail line for a while

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there were a surprising number of churches along the way

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Afternoon tea was relaxed…

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the view from the restaurant

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…and when we were ready we donned lifejackets and boarded boats, at about 4.45PM. You could hire binoculars for RM10. About eight in our boat, and quite a few more in the other.

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the inlet the boats were moored in

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our boat

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the river

We headed downriver, passing old settlements…

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And we saw some devastation of the jungle…
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We continued for about 25 minutes before one of the guides spotted some proboscis monkeys in trees near the river. We watched and photographed them for a while.

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We moved on, saw a monitor lizard on a tree…

monitor lizard

monitor lizard

then a tree with poisonous fruit that in earlier times was used on darts to make them poisonous…

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the poisonous fruit

…and further on saw some more proboscis monkeys. Then we turned around.

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On heading back upstream it started to rain, and the canopy over the boat was erected. Luckily the rain was light, as the canopy wasn’t very effective. It stopped after a little while. It was getting dark.

We saw the same monkeys, higher up in the trees, settling in for the night.

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Then, as the sun was setting we saw a herd of water buffaloes crossing the river. We stayed and watched for a while.

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Finally, further upstream we came across fireflies.  It was still perhaps too early to see masses of them, but we saw quite a few. And a beautiful sunset…

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Then it was back to the wharf, and dinner.  We’d been on the water a little over two hours. The dinner was very good.  Tiger beer was extra, at RM10, and soft drinks were extra too, but I don’t remember the price.

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A little before 8PM we started back to KK, and the driver was very cautious, so it was a slow, but thankfully safe drive back. We were back in out hotel before 10.30pm.

Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 2 – Kota Kinabalu (KK) islands



One of the main activities in which people partake while in KK is to “island hop” – to visit one or more of the nearby five islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park to swim and snorkle or dive.  The islands are Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik, Gaya and Sulug.

You can also buy tours which include lunch, but this obviously costs more. Hotels also sell these. At the terminal there are lots of shops so you can buy food and drinks to take with you if you wish.

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food stalls at terminal

A quick check online will find many other accounts of how to do this, so this is my quick take.

The weather being unstable, we couldn’t decide until the morning if we were going to do this, and in the morning it looked like it would later rain. But we had only one remaining full day, so we thought we’d try.

A taxi from our hotel to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal cost us RM12.  This seems like another fee fixed by the taxi mafia, or whatever they are. We asked the driver which company at the terminal to use, and he said it doesn’t matter.

Booking Hall

Booking Hall

So we picked one at random, as we’d heard they more or less provide the same services, at around the same price.  We used a company called, “Sunny Rainbow.” It’s popular to arrange to go to two or more islands, but we opted for only one due to potential later rain, and this is what the person at the counter suggested, too. We chose to go to Sapi.

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inside booking hall

inside booking hall

inside booking hall

The amount you pay depends on how many of the islands you visit, and what equipment you hire. Here is a photo of the prices:

schedule and prices

schedule and prices

Once you’ve paid you immediately collect any gear you’ve hired. A mask and snorkel is a good idea if you want to snorkel. I easily float without a life jacket, and you are swimming very close to shore, mostly where you can stand, so that’s all I hire. Mrs Tropical Expat, however, also hired a life jacket.

So, it cost us:

20 – hire of two mask & snorkels

10 – hire of one life jacket

46 – fare for two to one island

14.40 – Ferry terminal charge for two



Then you go and wait at the seats at the end of the pier after showing your tickets to the company’s representative there.

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waiting area

When the boat is about to depart they will escort you to the boat.

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If you didn’t rent a life jacket there are plenty on the boat to use for the ride.

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life jackets

The boats are quite small, as you’ll see in the photos, and the ride is a little bit bumpy.

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donning life jackets

Depending on which island you go to it takes perhaps 10 – 20 minutes boat ride to get there.

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The boat departs and arrives at a jetty on the island with little fuss.

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At the jetty a company representative meets you, and you tell him what time you want to catch the boat back or to other islands if that’s what you’re doing.  But if you decide to return at a different time just go to the jetty 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time you want.

20130711 (37)sYou can see fish from the jetty.

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view from the jetty

When you walk off the jetty there is a little booth where you pay yet another charge – this time to Sabah Parks. This covers any islands you visit that day.  Here is a chart of the charges:

We showed we were Malaysian residents, and paid the Malaysian price of RM3 each.  There were no further charges.

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After this we were escorted by the representative to a picnic table and bench under the shade of trees at the beach, and we were told we could sit there, or leave our things there, covered, if we go in the water, or elsewhere. So we were well looked after.

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picnic table

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Behind the beach are toilets – the usual Malaysian standard …

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toilet block

…and outside showers.

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There are some shops, too.

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We went in the water…

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and I could see some fish, but nothing that special.

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There were a lot of jelly bugs – like jelly fish, but they only irritate your skin a little, and it soon fades. I put a t-shirt on to protect myself a little.

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Even though we’d gone quite early there were so many people on the beach, and in the water.

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A storm appeared to be on the way, so we actually left early, and that was no problem – the boat took us back with no fuss.

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There is even a pub when you get back.

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Well, I guess it is the high season, but there were too many people for my liking.  I’d suggest getting the first boat of the morning to get some peaceful time. To be honest, I much preferred the Perhentian Islands for snorkelling. But while you are in Sabah, it is worth considering. But read a few more online accounts to see which islands you might prefer, what other strategies you might employ etc.

Langkawi – December 2012. Holidaying here. Retiring here?

One Malay word you should know if you are in Langkawi – “Pantai” = “Beach”.

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Tanjong Rhu beach – in the north of Langkawi

I wrote a blog about Langkawi after my visit in April 2012, and I have just returned from my third holiday in Langkawi in about four years. I will combine my previous blog with this, adding more information. The smaller photos are from April 2012, the larger from December 2012 – so you can tell


  • In August 2008 we drove up to Kuala Perlis and caught the ferry over to the main ferry terminal in Langkawi.  All we had to do was phone a contact who ran a parking lot, give an approximate arrival time, and he bought the ferry tickets.  When we arrived we could park undercover and he gave us the tickets, and pointed out where to catch the ferry.
  • In April we flew on Air Asia from Penang to Langkawi, which is about 25 minutes in the air, but from when we left home by taxi to when we were in our hotel room about four hours had elapsed.  Which was about the same amount of time as driving and catching the ferry, although the flight was less strenuous.