Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Idea of A Fun Day: The Sandakan Heritage Trail

I arrived at the sunny, blue-skied Sandakan last weekend for a super-short Borneo vacation. It may sound crazy to some people, you know, taking an-almost-3-hour flight to a faraway land and spending only one night there. For me, this is a special trip and a memorable one too. I love short weekend trips, experiencing the people and place, and definitely desiring to return for a longer duration in the near future. Sandakan is a place I will want to visit again.

Initially, I had wanted to talk and rave about a book I bought in Sandakan related to this trip, written by Agnes Keith (Land Below the Wind), but then I also wanted to talk about the Sandakan Heritage Trail I had so much fun exploring from morning (the moment I landed) until evening. The thrill was in the walks and finding the spots! Come with me now...

My Sandakan Heritage Trail adventure began here at the Hotel Sandakan. I arrived by the first flight into Sandakan with the intention to first visit the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary but still, I missed the one and only shuttle bus to get there. The good folks at the hotel gave me a map when I asked for one because I decided to do the Heritage Trail instead.

Let the Sandakan Heritage Trail hunt begin!

I started with the first site which is just beside the Hotel Sandakan. Here's the Masjid Jamek (Sandakan Heritage Trail 1). The mosque is situated on the hilltop and overlooks the town centre.

I ventured up the steps but didn't enter the mosque. I wasn't quite sure if I could...

I took some time studying the map and because I'm such a hopeless case with maps, I took a very long time. Somehow I managed to stumble my way to the second site but didn't quite know I was already at the Sandakan Heritage Trail 2, which is the William Pryer Monument at the MPS Square.

The Wisma Warisan (Sandakan Heritage Trail 10 and 11) where the heritage museum is housed was where I'd gone to first without knowing that the William Pryer Monument was just outside. The museum, although old, is informative and oozing with juicy bits about the history of Sandakan and its destruction during the Japanese invasion (World War 2). Sandakan ceased to exist in June 1945.

This is the Malaysia Fountain (Sandakan Heritage Trail 9). I like the super big hibiscuses. From here, I decided to go to my backpacker's hotel to dump my backpack. I've been lugging my bags around and approaching noon I was drenched in sweat and hungry. I was very tempted to continue on with the next heritage trail site because I was already at the starting point of the next spot. BUT, it was time to haul my bum to the hotel and get some food.

Boys and girls, this is the "Stairs with Hundred Steps" (Sandakan Heritage Trail 3) that will lead you to the Agnes Keith House situated on a hill at Jalan Istana. It's not hard at all to climb these babies, I promise.

I've arrived at the top!

And walked my way to the Agnes Keith House. "I am here".

From the main house, I walked some steps down and look who I found? A beautiful Miao!

Not one but two! Here's the second darling.

The Agnes Keith House (Sandakan Heritage Trail 4). This is the home of Conservator of Forests, Harry Keith, and his American wife, Agnes Keith, a writer. The house was destroyed during WW2 but reconstructed when the Keiths returned in 1946. I bought her books and am already more than halfway through the first book, Land Below the Wind. It's about their life in pre-war Sandakan. Loving it! I can't wait to get started on Three Came Home, about their war experience, which was made into a movie. Have you watched it?

This is remains of old staircase (Sandakan Heritage Trail 5).

And then there's more walking...

The tomcat with an attitude.

Arrived at the next site: The Goddess of Mercy Chinese Temple (Sandakan Heritage Trail 6).

On the way to the second last site, the St. Michael's and All Angels Church (Sandakan Heritage Trail 7), I saw these houses surrounded by lush greenery and banana trees.

Almost there at the Church!

We are now at the Sandakan Heritage Trail 7: The St. Michael's and All Angels Church.

I went around the building...

The beautiful stained glass windows.

This is the side of the building with the stained glass windows you saw earlier.

It's a beautiful site and sight.

This is the final one! The Sam Sing Kung Chinese Temple (Sandakan Heritage Trail 8). By the time I made it there, it was closed...

Completing the entire Sandakan Heritage Trail and managing to find all the 11 sites was very satisfying to me. I put the map to good use and it is now a tattered, well-loved piece of colorful paper with pen markings all over it. I believe with more practice I could actually be an expert map reader!