Sandakan & Sepilok
Apr 17, 2006
|An interesting 6 hour journey from KK to Sandakan on local bus....
For some reason, probably to do with space, the long-distance bus terminal is located about 15 mins drive outside of KK, so you need to get one of the infrequently running Shuttle Bus - I mastered that! Climbing out of that Shuttle Bus I stepped into a crowd of about 12 men waiting to persuade you into their bus, no matter which destination you wanted! One over-keen bloke decided to give me a hand and took hold of my plastic bag (only containing my jumper, water and book) and not wanting to loose it I held on tight which almost resulted in my hand being yanked off. Luckily all of the 11 other men started shouting and hitting him saying "don't touch, don't touch". I was very pleased at this point to find a quiet man who spoke good English and took me to the correct bus to get seat no.40 of 42 (this meant I got the back seat my the smelly toilet!!) and the bus departed within 5 mins.....
On the bus was an elderly gentleman who decided he needed to get off, so the bus stopped and we waited about 5 mins for him to get himself very slowly to the door, when he decided to stay! When we stopped for food he was sitting in his seat dressed only in his underpants - worse still, when I returned from food, he had moved seats to be near the now extra-smelly toilet!!
But for 5GBP I got my 6 hour bus ride, a bottle of water and a buffet lunch - no idea what it was apart from rice with something - tasted okay, but I met people later who had all been ill after it!
Something I had forgotten from my previous trip to Malaysia with my Sister in 2000, was just how friendly the Malays are. Walking down the street of Sandakan I could hear "hello" from all angles. It was obviously aimed at me, being the only white tourist I had seen all day. But if they said any more it would be "where you from?" and for the super-confident "where is your husband?" I got very good at lying through my teeth and saying "at home" to which our conversation was over! But they were also super-helpful and spoke great English which always helps. At the out-of-town bus station (a common theme) in Sandakan I stood looking very confused about where to go, not having a map of the town and not wanting to ask a taxi to drive me 100m! So Alfondo helped out and shared a cab to the front door of my hotel, negotiating a good rate with the driver in Malay.
So Sandakan, officially pronounced the capital of British North Borneo in 1884 throughout the rule of the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company rule, was demoted as a result of being destroyed during WWII and Jesseton/KK took over.
A little fact = by 1923 Sandakan had an automatic telephone exchange even before Hong Kong and Shanghai had theirs.
The purpose of coming to Sandakan, because there really is otherwise very little here, was to go to Sepilok and see the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. (Orang utan meaning Man of the Forest). The establishment of the centre was funded by Sabah Government and has grown into one of the world's best known rehabilitation centers. The aim is to return orphaned, injured or displaced orang utans back into the wild. Many orphans have successfully undergone the process of rehabilitation and have been released into the 4294 hectare Kabili-Sepilok Forest, a virgin jungle reserve. The reserve is named after 2 rivers draining the area and flowing into Sandakan Bay. It is rich in tropical rainforest and mangrove swamp.
Deciding to immerge myself into the Borneo life/culture I decided to take a local bus to the centre, which sounded straight-forward enough...if you can find the correct bus!! Eventually I was directed to one which would take me to the junction that was 2.5Km away from the centre down a straight road. I have no problems with walking so jumped in. By the time I eventually got there though I had missed the morning 1000 feed and had to wait for the next at 1500. Turns out I bumped into Neil and Lee who were staying in my hotel and they had got a taxi which I could have jumped in and made it! We had dinner together later which was fun.
After a closure for lunch, and a walk around the area where I saw a monkey and loads of flowers, wrote some postcards and had a couple of drinks and made friends with a group of school girls it was 1500 (feeding time) and pelting with rain!! It really was feeding-time-at-the-zoo but still very interesting. The orang utans knew they had an audience and performed beautifully to us as they approached the feeding platform along ropes. They ate bananas, watermelon and bamboos. One arrived carrying it's baby.
An adult male orang utan may stand up tp 1.4m tall and can weigh up to 100Kg. Their arms are almost twice as long as their legs giving them enormous reach of up to 2.4m (8 foot). The male ape has 4 times the strength of a human male. They are also man's closest living relatives after the chimpanzee and gorilla. An astonishing 96.4% of their genes are identical to our. The major difference is that an orang utan's brain is only 0.6% of the body, while in man it is 2.1%. The orang utans are mainly vegetarian eating fruits, honey, leaves and bark. It costs 5,000RM (just under 1000GBP) per year to care for each orang utan.
In an effort not to miss the last bus I had to dash away quickly, only to learn the bus had left 15 mins ahead of schedule and the last one was unlikely to show-up. So to retrace my morning's walk I finally got back to the hotel, but what could have taken a couple of hours took all day - the beauty of having nothing particularly else to do.
The following day after viewing a very poor Sunday Market full of mainly second-hand clothes I headed to Sabah Hotel, the local 4 star hotel, where I was able to enjoy their beautiful swimming pool in the sun!