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Sandakan, The Bridge of Borneo's Snout

'There is a mental energy in this room, discharged and accumulated from the past, which seems to exhilarate you when you enter it. Not only is it a good place to work in, but it is a good place to stop while the bathwater runs, or when dressing for dinner or waiting for breakfast, for there is always something unfinished to be gone on with there.'

When Agnes Keith penned the above quote, she was illustrating a habitual scene from her study room which overlooked much of the view that inspired her beloved novel 'The Land Below the Wind'. There were no embellishments around it, just an alluring lucidity shrouded by a heart of darkness that has captivated the attention of the world.To many, Borneo, an antipode to the Amazon rainforest, is an intrepid island brimming with rich wildlife, a place of discernible adventures and excitement.

I looked at the clock to see it timed at half past 8 and as I stepped out of the terminal, a whiff of cold air rushed against my countenance. Although it was one of the smallest airports I have seen, its presence was distinguishable simply because there were no other competing structures around it. I waited for my ride and soon hopped into a black Toyota Hilux with incandescence and a heart that was lighter than air itself. I peered outside the tinted window to see darkness completely shrouding a town that is much aloof than its bustling counterpart, Kota Kinabalu.

Sandakan, a town located at the Eastern coast of the state was once the capital city of British North Borneo before World War 2. It has a population of over 300,000 and is the second largest city after Kota Kinabalu, boasting an exponential economical growth which can be attributed to its port town status.

Home away from home

Finding the right accommodation is always challenging given the rising numbers of hotels, and serviced apartments made popular by reputable booking websites. So when it came to winnowing out accommodations based on comfort, affordability with uncompromising standards, it was rather obvious that Sabah Hotel became the best choice.

The hotel is a 4 star establishment with a resort like element set against the backdrop of Sandakan's heart of darkness. From the congenial smile of the receptionist to the comfort of the reasonably priced rooms, I found myself tucked away in a prolific rainforest that exudes serenity and peace with the irony of being located only 2km away from the second largest town in Sabah.

Everything about the place was right, its cleanliness commendable, facilities up to recognized standards with amiable staffs, so much so that returning here again did not become a second option. The hotels reputation is further augmented by its efforts in championing the continuum of wildlife reserves, chiefly the Sun Bear conservation centre as it is one of its sponsors. In a nutshell, this hotel has the perfect concoction of foliage and luxury coupled with a cause that is endearing and vital to the sustainability of ecotourism.

From Dawn to Dusk, 24 Hours in Sandakan

Foodie adventure in Sandakan

1. Restaurant H84 at Jambatan 8 SimSim (Budget)

SimSim is a water village comprising of stilt houses built along the coastline and is connected toland by several bridges labeled according to numerals. Most of the inhabitants are fishermen who have set up restaurants in their own kitchen, offering fresh seafood and delicious local dishes at a variable price range. One of the hidden gems is restaurant H84, located close to the famous SimSim seafood restaurant. From its simple and plain exterior, it is almost impossible to have ventured a guess that behind its main door leading to the kitchen, there is a family run restaurant packed with locals rather than tourists. This restaurant is accessible from either bridge No 7 or 8.