13.10.2011 - 16.10.2011 33 °C
On Thursday, we took the bus to Sandakan. We bumped into a Canadian couple we'd been diving with, so managed to share a taxi into town with them. We stayed for three nights at the May Fair Hotel, made infamous by Lonely Planet for its brusque but helpful owner. In fact, Mr Lum was awesome and helped us organise our tour to the Kinabatangan. All his rooms have big TVs and DVD players and you can borrow from his extensive video collection for free.
On the Friday, we went up the "100 steps" to Agnes Keith's House, where we had afternoon tea overlooking Sandakan Bay. Very lovely. Agnes Keith was an American author who has published numerous books about her time living in British North Borneo with her husband, Henry, Conservator of Forests (they could do with another one of those!). Having arranged our tour to the jungle, we just enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and waterfront dining in Sandakan.
On the Saturday, we shared a minivan up to "Mile 14" (with our Canadian couple from Semporna again!). This is where you can visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Feeding time was at 10am, when some of the semi-wild animals that have been released into the jungle come back to take advantage of the free bananas. After seeing orangutans, we walked up the road to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and did a canopy walk through their forest reserve. We also had a look around their plant discovery garden, so we'd know what we were looking at when we found ourselves in the jungle for real.
Then we took a bus a little way back towards the city centre and stopped off at the Sandakan Crocodile Farm. The crocodile show here involved three men poking some crocodiles with sticks and dragging them around the arena by their tails. The pens that the crocodiles and other animals lived in were tiny and not very pleasant. Also, after paying the higher non-malaysian entrance fee, the commentary to the whole show was given in Malay. Not recommended.
Sandakan War Memorial Park was our final stop of the day - built on the site of the old Japanese prisoner of war camp. It was from here that the 2500 British and Australian prisoners of war were marched to Ranau. None survived the death marches. Only six escapees survived the war to tell the tale of the horrors of being prisoners of the Japanese on Borneo.