Our way to Sandakan starts at Sabah Tea Plantation. Great view, a very big Tea pot but unfortunately very dry ( and old?) scones. We had our first history lesson regarding the death march between Sandakan and Ranau, 2500 Australian and Brittish war prisoner walked the 260km only 6 survived. All the different POW stop along the way are clearly marked with this sign.
The Memorial Park in Sandakan give the full story of this episode, well worth visiting!
We had not really decided if we should go straight to Sandakan or try to go to the Kinabatangen River. As we did not know if we could do this independently or needed to buy it as a package tour we decided to go to Sandakan first. And after two cool days in the Mountain area it would be nice with at least one night in a dry hotel room. According to Google maps it should take 3,5 hours to from Sabah Tea to Sandakan and it took us……..exactly that time ( Thanks to not too much traffic, decent road quality and some aggressive driving) including some stops to achieve more photograph moments.
In Sandakan we stayed at the very friendly Sanbay hotel, about 1,5km outside town. Our first mission was to go looking for a tour agency to book our Kinabantangen jungle experience. Tripadvisor had some recent (good reviews) of Mr. Aji’s Expedition, and a few e-mails later we were settled for departure 4 days later.
Sandakan is not very big, and not particular beautiful or charming. It has a water front area, but with all the trash laying around the area also included rats. We were inside the big fish market, looking at all the big fish on display, quite nice until you see all the rats rundning around. Also when visiting the sea village, it looks nice as long as you dont look down……
Sandakan offer very fresh seafood, and we had an excellent dining at the Sim-Sim sea village. First we did not really know how to find the restaurant, but following some Asian tourist that seemed to know where they were heading and the did not look like residents of the sea village itself. The food was delicious, for 45 ringit we had prawns, squids, vegetables, rice, Tea and water. A benefit of eating seafood in Malaysia, is that every restaurant always have a place to wash your hands, and after eating the prawns, plenty of water and soap was essential. We also found a small restaurant in the sea village close to our hotel. Here we had a very good noodle soup with plenty of fresh seafood.
One spot you can miss, is the English Tea House. The location looked so nice up on a hill next to the Agnes Keith house, being in a Garden playing a game of crocket if you like, but the Afternoon Tea the served contains a very small pot of tea, hardly enough to serve one person, with dry scones, only one kind of marmalade, no whipped cream, huge disappointment!