A Travellerspoint blog

Monkey Business in Sandakan

sunny 35 °C
View Karl & Paula's Adventure (so far...) on karlnpaula's travel map.

After making the trek up the hill from our hostel in Mount Kinabalu with our heavy backpacks we waited for the bus heading to Sandakan, which we were informed would take roughly 3 hours. In actual fact the journey took 4 hours and 30 minutes. The bus itself was very comfy and the long journey would not have been much of a problem if it wasn’t for the dramatic speed at which the bus was moving or by the constant ‘beedy eyes’ staring back at me. Just to mention this is my first trip to Asia and Karl had warned me to be prepared for the staring locals as “they are not used to seeing white people with blonde hair.” For the first week of my trip I am not going to lie I found the staring extremely uncomfortable. KK was my first experience of this. Everyone stared! From the children’s curiosity stares, the female evil stares and the men I just want to suck your blood stares. I began to wonder how I would handle this new found celebrity status!

Anyway back to the point, arriving in Sandakan was easy as we were travelling with Jo (an English girl) who was recommended a great hostel in the thick of things. We arrived in the city centre by taxi at 8pm and got settled into our room. Sandakan Backpackers was a great place to stay and I felt a lot more relaxed here than our first dodgey hostel (Borneo Global Backpackers, see blog 2) as there was no ‘beedy eyes’ here as they were just accommodating backpackers. Once we got settled in, we went for a late night meal at the waterfront and it became very apparent that I am just going to love the seafood in Borneo. It was just so fresh, tasty and CHEAP! I thought Australia was good for seafood, but this was on a whole new level.

Sandakan is located in Far Eastern Boreno and is a major shipping port. Apparently Sandakan was once home to the worlds largest amount of millionaires, but the city certainly didn’t give off this affluent impression as most of buildings appeared to be almost falling down. However, the main reason we came all the way to Sandakan was to see the Sepilok Orang-Utan rehabilitation centre. We were on a tight schedule but as I am here with Karl this means that tight schedules become even tighter. And of course in the morning I was up, showered and raring to go, Jo and Karl on the other hand were still in bed sleeping so peacefully. Long story short we missed the morning bus (thanks Karl), so had to get a taxi which was 10 times more expensive than the bus (thanks Karl). Taxi rides in Malaysia have so far not been normal, well in comparison to the Western World. For example, as we were in a rush to see the orang-utans, our Malaysian driver decides to take a detour and stop at the local shops to pick up his wife who greets us with a toothless smile “Hellooo welcome.” Then (all ready very late) he decides to stop for petrol with his wife still showering us with that beautiful smile. Long story short, we get to the centre at 10:30am to be told by the not so polite man behind the desk that we will not see any orang-utans as we have missed the 10am feeding, and we must wait until the 3pm feeding. This was when we said our goodbyes to Jo as she was heading on a jungle safari and it was back to me and Karl. We then had to make a decision, is it worth staying here for 4.5 hours in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do in the deadly heat? Not even a book to read!


It was worth it! The orang-utans are one of the most endangered creatures in the world and can only be found wild in Borneo and Indonesia, however seeing them in the forest rehabilitation centre was just like seeing them in the wild. We got so close to a young male who was just dancing about in the trees sometimes hanging down from branches right in front of our noses. He was a total attention seeker and we later saw other orang-utans who all had very distinctive personalities.


After the tour, we took the bus back to our hostel and headed out for another great meal. This time we were accompanied by a singing waiter with a guitar, who was just hilarious, but was short lived as he only played three songs and became very annoying. There’s only so much pretend smiling you can do.


The next day, we left Sandakan to head back to KK and again, this was an experience. We got the same taxi driver who already had his wife in the car and I must say I was growing fond of her cheeky gummy smile. They then helped us out and made sure we got the cheapest bus back to KK. On arriving in the bus station we were greeted by a dozen screaming men running at the taxi, pulling my door open and grabbing my bag. Luckily Mr and Mrs Taxi shouted at them and retrieved my bag as I was a little taken a back at the fastness of it. They were just trying to get you to spend your money on their bus. The bus journey was a tad strange, it was empty so Karl and I took a row of seats each but every time we picked someone up, they would try and sit down next to me even though there were loads of other available seats. First an old lady then a pregnant lady? What can I say I must just look inviting? Thankfully, there were no ‘beedy eyes’

Until next time....xxxxxx


Sandakan, Borneo.

Posted by karlnpaula 11:47 Archived in Malaysia

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