Sandakan in Pictures

Sunday, 5 June 2005

Finally! This is a photo-intensive post. Here we go…

The first thing I photographed on the trip was cloudscape:

![clouds][clouds]

It was so pretty… 3-4 hours later, I was *still* being entertained by the suspended white puff balls and being completely anti-social. Oh, and this is what we had for breakfast:

![meal][meal]

Yes ladies and gents, that’s what a Business Class breakfast looks like. I enjoyed my overpriced eggs and sausages, thank you very much. Goes to show what kind of silly money floats around in certain companies—this trip was paid for by a certain deep blue local merchant bank. ;)

[clouds]: 20050516-bahb-clouds.jpg “I used to look out for Care Bears when I was small.”
[meal]: 20050516-bahb-mas-meal.jpg “My airplane meal.”


After lunch, we were first given a tour round the fish farm’s (BAHB) hatchery where we saw plenty of very lively knifejaw (aka sea breem) fry:

![knifejaw][knifejaw]

2 hours later, our host whisked us away to have English tea from a lookout point. I thought it was rather incongruous, but I later remembered that this place *was* part of the British colony after all.

(Darn it, now that so many days have passed since I actually visited the place, I can’t quite remember all the details of what we did. >:()

Dinner (yes, there’s a void in my memory on what happened in between tea and the next meal, but then again we were in Sandakan where the local dailies are 5 pages thick) was just shy of gluttony—BAHB’s owner served up at least 5 different kinds of fish from his sea cages, 2 of which were sashimied. On top of that we had lobster noodles and crabs. And the obligatory plate of stir fried vegetables just to make ourselves feel good about completing the food pyramid. And wine.

When all the food was cleared away or packed into doggy bags, we rolled out of the restaurant and piled back into the 4WDs. Our host then took us to the Sandakan equivalent of Bangsar for us to experience the local nightlife.

Never before in my life had I seen a spectacle such as that which presented itself at the open karaoke bar. At 11pm, all mics on the floor were brought back to the sound desk, and a girl who envisioned herself to be something of a Canto-pop diva took to the tiny raised platform of a stage. There was no doubt she could do more than hold her notes, but I was completely distracted by

1. the volume of her backing tracks, which the sound crew must have left at the maximum to pump up the crowd that was stuffed in the 10-table venue. In my crazed state I thought there were cupboard speakers in all 4 corners of the room.
2. her costume. She was decked out in a pale blue something, which looked like it started out as a ballerina’s tutu but the designer decided to tack on Princess Diana’s train to her rump. There was a wire-framed butterfly the size of her head stuck on one shoulder. She wore pale blue knee-high stiletto boots.

The rattling air-cond unit back in the Sandakan Hotel room did well to drive out any possible nightmares I could have had from that ordeal.

We awoke early the next morning to head out to see the adult fishes and broodstock, which were located off 2 nearby islands. Breakfast started out with dim sum and ended with a kind of yummy fish broth made with grouper and lobsters. The sea cages next to the restaurant had this beautiful fish, but I don’t know what it’s called:

![pretty][pretty]

We then hopped on a rented speedboat and headed over to the islands.

![boat][boat]

This is what the sea cages look like:

![cages][cages]

We were told that accidentally falling into the sea cages is not uncommon amongst the staff, but noone has *ever* let his footing slip around the cage of this fella:

![giant][giant]
> The giant grouper. They looked frighteningly large and powerful, and us girls couldn’t help but sense them eyeballing us as we gingerly stepped across the narrow plank walkways.

Here are some other interesting species that were kept in the submersed nets:

![coral][coral]
> Coral trout groupers.

![napoleon][napoleon]
> A Napoleon Wrasse. BAHB’s marine biologist, Akinori, seemed rather proud of this particular breed. They had only 3 of those fish in their cages at that time, and were working on making them commercially viable to farm. Personally I found this fish too handsome to consider serving up on a plate.

![turtle][turtle]
> A baby turtle. No, they’re not rearing them commercially… but rather, this sweetie was caught by some of the company’s staff when they were out looking for broodstock out in the open sea. I’m inclined to think that it’s a leatherback, but I can’t be sure. Isn’t it an endangered species?

I was quite fascinated by the contents of the sea cages really. After a while we were shown to the company’s main offices:

![office][office]

…and this is the view from the deck where we had our leisurely lunch:

![lunch][lunch]

Yup, we did have more fish. I still can’t decide whether we had seriously healthy meals throughout the trip, or if we were just gorging ourselves silly on what we normally wouldn’t be able to afford to order under normal circumstances.

Anyway, that pretty much wrapped up our trip. To kill the 45 minutes we had before it was time to board our AirAsia flight back, our host took us to the local crocodile farm. The whole ambience of the place felt like a scene out of Sam & Max—we were probably the only visitors there, the place was quiet, and the stunt show was unrepentantly corny thanks to the soundtrack which combined elements of Malaysian patriotism, gunshots, and a high-noon Western flick.

My group was the last but 3 to board the AirAsia flight (which was mandatorily late by 20 minutes), and I was fortunate enough to sit by a window where I could catch the glorious sunset for that evening:

![sunset][sunset]

This photo simply can’t do the actual sight justice. For what seemed like an hour, I gazed out that window into the scene that stretched far into the horizon before me—the clouds were bathed in the warm, golden light cast by that sun that was gradually sinking out of sight.

I wanted to be out there.

I wanted that scene to be frozen in time so I could marvel at His handiwork for longer…but then He reminded me that His art is everywhere, all the time. Aren’t we blessed? :)

[knifejaw]: 20050516-bahb-knifejaw-fry.jpg “20,000 fry per tank, and there were more than 20 of the latter…”
[boat]: 20050517-bahb-boatride.jpg “The sea was calm that day.”
[pretty]: 20050517-bahb-pretty-fish.jpg
[cages]: 20050517-bahb-sea-cages.jpg
[giant]: 20050517-bahb-giant-grouper.jpg “The big uglies.”
[coral]: 20050517-bahb-coral-trout.jpg
[napoleon]: 20050517-bahb-napoleon-wrasse.jpg
[office]: 20050517-bahb-office.jpg “Looking for lobsters under the bridge.”
[lunch]: 20050517-bahb-lunch.jpg
[turtle]: 20050517-bahb-turtle.jpg
[sunset]: 20050517-bahb-sunset_01.jpg “Awe-inspiring.”

5 Comments

#1Gravatar imagevuihow says:

Awesome pixs, may I copy them without your authorisation?

Hehe, your Bangsar equivalent is called Taman Indah, that’s where me friends and I would normally go for drinks @ night. Btw, did you see a school near that place? It’s just across the road, opposite the entrace to Taman Indah. That’s the secondary school I used to go to.

BTW, everybody knows that English Tea House rips customers off. It charges ridiculous prices for drinks and food. Near that area is a Chinese cemetery . I still remember when I was 17 years old me friends and I had a BBQ in the vicinity during the Hungry Ghost Festival and we actually mucked around in the cemetery thereafter. LOL

Also there are/were many mass graves in that area. Many people were decapitated there during the Japanese Occupation in WWII~~ eerie~

#2Gravatar imagekOtAk says:

pretty neat trip u had there… and great pictures!!

altho, i cant tell u wat species that one in ur pix is, the turtle in ur pix isnt a leatherback for sure. they dont hv those knobbly things on their back :D

#3Gravatar imageHilmy says:

That’s a beautiful sunset. Can I put my grubby hands on a high-res version? :P

#4Gravatar imagenicktay says:

I love to look at clouds when I fly. I can spend hours doing it. Just brings back childhood memories :) Nice pics

#5Gravatar imageKeropok Man says:

Thanks for the beautiful write up. 3 friends and I are going to Pulau Selingan (aka Pulau Penyu / Turtle Island ) next month. Every now and then we google about Sandakan, Turtles etc. This is how we found your blog!

Also, congratulations on your coming wedding.

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