In Sabah, if you mention you are travelling to Sandakan you may receive looks of curiosity followed by the common statement of ‘Oh you must mean Sepolik for the Organutang’. Frequent interactions such as these along with more upfront recommendations to visit elsewhere, only enticed our inquisitive side and fuelled us with a thirst to check it out for ourselves.
How to get there & back again:
Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah with regular flights daily from KK and Tawau as well as flights from other regional airports. From KK we flew with Air Asia and the journey took us approximately 1 hour.
The airport is small with not too much to do if you are needing to fill in time although it does boast a Gloria Jeans and a small interesting art gallery. Uber is not available in this part of Sabah so taxis have the monopoly.
A taxi into Sandakan city will cost you 30 RM and 50 RM directly to Sepilok. The journey should take approximately 40 minutes to either destination dependent on traffic.
The journey into Sandakan suits the description of a post war torn Eastern European country with its derelict, dilapidated buildings and architecture in hues of grey and tones of bleak.
This landscape spreads right into the inner city with the exception of Four Points by Sheraton, Sandakan. If you are going to spoil yourself at any point on your travels whether it be a week(s) or a months long adventure, then let this be the place. You are greeted with smiling friendly staff, cleanliness and all things shiny to capture the travelers eye.
The rooms are clean, spacious and equiped with hotel comforts. Our room was on the 21st floor overlooking the port, the people and the POW cemetery on the hill. A reminder of what this city has experienced and the struggles which lie within the city walls.
The hotel has immaculate amenities inclusive of a fitness centre, great eateries and an infinity pool. Enjoy a cocktail in the infinity pool whilst you embrace the sights and hardships that Sandakan has endured.
The Four Points offers laundry services too but I’d recommend supporting the locals who do great service and create memorable interactions.
Meet Jum, she is just as friendly and honest as she is quirky. She charges 4.9 RM /kilo and ‘although our place is ugly we still do great service’. If you bring her the complimentary items from the hotel, which you usually don’t use anyway, she will offer you free ironing.
She can be found on the first floor on the right of the ’roundabout’ and you should see her blue painted walls. Her and her husband are absolutely lovely and yes, their service is great as she washed our clothes 3 times, post Maliau Basin trekking, to ensure we had clean, fresh clothes to continue on with.
Despite what you may hear about Sandakan I have to say that our best meals were in this place.
Stepping into Balin Roofgarden Bistro and Bar, which can be located above Nak Hotel, transcends you direct from Asia into a European getaway. With its Hipster decore, salivating western menu accompanied with Westen comforts this place is a nice slice of heaven. The food is delicious, affordable and the cocktails are a treat.
Harbourside Cafe: For cheap Asian eats is what you crave then this place has you covered. Great menu, tasty cuisine and great for he pockets too.
Sandakan has a mall which is located under the Four Seasons which is great for food, shopping and also has a cinema.
Sandakan is riddled with history regarding the War. There are museums, history trails, monuments and cemeteries to name a few places of interest regarding this crucial aspect of Sandakans past.
If you are in Sandakan chances are you are intending on visiting our forest relatives in Sepilok and if you go you won’t be disappointed. Check out my article Sepilok for more information regarding the Orangutan and Sun Bear rehabilitation centres as well as where to stay.