Friday, November 1, 2019

Attractions in Sandakan Town

Sandakan Town is located at the northeast of Borneo Island. As a part of Borneo Island, the town is famous with its biodiversity and rain forest. As a town by the sea, the town is rich in seafood. 

We took a 3-day trip to Sandakan, visited several tourist attractions in the town. Due to time constraint, we couldn't visit every single corner of the town. So, our list of the top places to visit - Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (orang utan sanctuary), Sepilok Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre (sun bear sanctuary),  Sandakan Heritage Trail, and Sandakan Central Market. Sandakan is famous with seafood. Well, we will share about the food in another post. Let us start from the attractions nearby the old township area.

Sandakan Heritage Trail
Sandakan Heritage Trail is well-designed for us to walk around the town area, to see and learn more about the history of the town. The starting point of the trail- Sandakan Liberation Monument, is located in front of the town council building. The monument is located around 700 meters from our hotel- Four Points by Sheraton. From there, we walked up the 100-step staircase to Agnes Keith House and Sandakan Rotary Observation Pavilion (walked for 15 minutes), then to the remains of old staircase (walked for 10 minutes). We continued to walk for 10 minutes to St. Michael's and All Angels Church, and another 10 minutes from the church to our final stop - Malaysia Fountain. 

Agnes Keith House and St. Michael's and All Angles Church are beautiful, well preserved, and really worth a visit. The monument and the remains of old staircase on the other hand, are not well-maintained. The trail is longer than it looks on the map, but still not too bad. The whole trip took us 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The heritage trail is now managed by a group of volunteers, with the purpose to educate the younger generation about the history of Sandakan. The person-in-charge, Lai King Hang and his team are trying very hard to keep their effort moving by organizing at least one activity annually to promote the trail to local community. He is glad that the trail is now a tourist attraction. We can follow the team on Facebook (

The trail starts right in front of the town council building (upper left), with a few memorials built at the middle of a square, commemorating the falling soldiers in World War 2 (upper right), William Pryer, the founder of Sandakan (lower right), and several Western explorers who died in Sandakan. The surrounding area was clean and tidy. The memorials however, were not well maintained. Kundasang War Memorial is an example of well maintained memorial park.  

The 100-step staircase is located on the left of the memorials. We couldn't find much history about the staircase, so we just climbed it without asking any question.

We missed the main entrance to Agnes Keith's house, and the hilly road led us to the Rotary Observation Pavilion (upper left). We found that the town view was blocked by untrimmed trees. We entered Agnes Keith House from the side entrance (upper right). The house is now conserved by the state museum. We needed to buy ticket at the administration building before entering the house. There is a very nice English tea garden beside the entrance to the house (lower right). 

Agnes Keith is a famous with her book "The Land Below the Wind". Sabah is now called the Land Below the Wind because of her book. She stayed in this house with her family before she left Borneo in 1952.

We found that the clock tower in the leaflet is just a tower without a clock (upper left). The remain of the old staircase is located on the left of the Basel Christian Church (upper right). We couldn't find anything meaningful nearby (lower right), except a few wooden houses nearby the staircase. The staircase is believed to be a part of Chinese Consulate Building before the 2nd World War.

St. Michael's and All Angels Church was built by Rev. Henry Elton. The church was the first stone building in Sandakan. The construction of the church started in 1893, and the whole church was completed 32 years later in 1925. The church is a beautiful building which worth a visit. The church is now located within a school compound, so we have to go through the school security before visiting the church.

There are two Chinese temples along the heritage trail. Both temples are small and less attractive. Anyway, both temples have served the locals for a long period of time. Sam Sing Kung or Sam Sing Temple was built in 1885. It is one of the oldest temples in the town. The temple is located opposite of Padang. We could see local kids playing in front of the temple in the evening.

We could see local people were having their activities at Padang. This area is happening at night.

We reached Malaysia Fountain at last. The fountain is in the middle of a roundabout, beside Padang.

The leaflet for Sandakan Heritage Trail. The trail is longer than it looks on the map.

Sandakan Central Market, Sandakan
Sandakan Central Market is located strategically next to Four Point by Sheraton. The wet market is located at the ground floor. The first floor is designated for clothes and Muslim food, while non-Muslim food can be found at second floor. The market is extremely busy starting from 4 am till 9 am. 

The market is clean and tidy. We visited the market twice and bought some really cheap stuff- dried prawn, local snack called amplang, and fruits. There is a souvenir shop nearby the entrance of the market, selling cheap shirts and books, including the book "The Land Below the Wind".  

Fishing boats unloading fresh seafood right from the sea all day long (upper left). The market is clean and tidy (upper right), selling wide variety of local products and vegetables (lower right). Food stalls are available on first and the second floor.

Amplang (upper left), dried prawn (upper right), dried fish (lower right) and local fruits are sold with very low price.

We will share the information on nice food we have in Sandakan in our next post. Our experience in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is available as well.

More information about our trip in Sabah are available at:


  1. Betty, Welcome to Sandakan. Feel free to stay with us at Hotel Sandakan