Malaysia: Sabah

2D1N - Labuan: Duty Free and Financial Hub Island

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Time flies fast. It was more than 10 years ago since I had visited Labuan, Sabah on my free and easy trip started from Friday, 4th of March 2005 to Saturday, 5th of March 2005 for two days. I never had the time to really sit down and blog about it during my study period in Sabah. It take me some quite difficult time to research on what is good about Labuan, through finding out on good attractive tourist spots to visit as there is not much information online. So here is my little travelogue to share with you for my past trip in Labuan.

Labuan, a duty free island located off at the northwest coast of Borneo, north of Brunei and south of Kota Kinabalu, capital of the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. Its capital of Labuan Town is best known for offshore financial center, offering offshore support hub for deepwater oil and gas activities. The island has a population of around 100,000 peoples, if which around 20% are foreigners. 

There are hotels on the island, but not so many resorts. Labuan still has to be ‘discovered’ and local government is working on promoting Labuan Island as a fantastic tourist destination, even plans to build a long bridge to connect the island to the mainland of Sabah and to expand the current airport so it can grow into an international airport which means more tourist arrivals.
Map of Labuan: Labuan Island location in the state of Sabah, Malaysia.

Map of Labuan: Tourist Destination Spots.

How to Get There  

Since I have not yet been there and just want a getaway for weekend. At last option, I had decided to go with my roommates for a short break. In order not to delay our precious time, we woke up a little bit earlier in the morning to buy our first two-way ferry ticket for a fee of RM 60 and paid our additional terminal charge of RM 3.60 per each at Jesselton Point counter, Kota Kinabalu. 

We took a ferry in early morning at 8.00 am sharp and arrived in Labuan jetty at 11.30 am. We found ourselves in a short tour around in this island because we were travelling from Kota Kinabalu. Upon arrival, we past the check-in custom and proceeded to fill up our hungry stomach at nearby fast food chain. We were just too hungry and so we ended up our lunch having KFC at Labuan Shopping Complex, the only one shopping complex in this island.
 Ming Hai Ferry Express: a passenger ferry offering an unstoppable way to Labuan and Brunei neighbouring country. 

After a satisfying meal, we tried to find out the best price for car rental through online by using the wifi connection in KFC. It was so fussy when it came to limited number of car to be rented out to tourist since the rental business there was not so popular at that time. After our hardly searching, we have made it work and rented a local proton car for RM 80 and pumped RM 30 petrol, and just more than enough for 2 days drive since oil tank left one level.

Tips for Wandering Around

If you are there for more than half day, just rent a car or even a motorbike. Taxis and buses are so rare to be seen that it is just inconvenient to get around without a vehicle of your own. If you are planning to go places, a bicycle will not be the best mode of transport unless you are an avid cyclist. A car will be your best friend even on this small island. You just spend 30 minutes to round the island without stopping.

The car that we rented was automatic gear and in good engine condition but the steering was a bit tough to control. After that, we drove to all this attractive places in the afternoon. 

------------------------------------------------<<DAY 1 >>------------------------------------------------

1st Stop - Labuan Chimney and Its Museum

Our first destination place was heading to a historical landmark area. In beginning, it was just so different from what I imagined it to be. I visualized the place to be somewhere out in the open space where it was easily to be spotted from a far. Instead, we had to drive through some villages and forest-filled area to reach this ‘tourist attraction’ place. We thought we were lost, but somehow we managed to find our way through the kampong areas to get to this place. There are only two visited portions in this place which are museum and chimney. In the museum, you will get a chance to read up a little bit of how Labuan's economy thrived and how the things begin on this small island.

A selfie snapshot photo was taken inside chimney museum. 

The chimney is one of the most famous and unique historical landmark in the Federal Terriotry of Labuan. The red brick tower was believed to be built in early 1900, when coal mining was at its peak in Tanjung Kubong here and its surrounding area was a main site of Labuan coal mining industry during the British occupation. 

The chimney remains mysterious as in reality it is not a chimney because inner walls showed no sign of burning. Some said it was a lighthouse beaconing passing ships mainly due to its location near the sea and the existence of a port called Raffles Anchorage in this area. Till this day, the actual purpose of the Chimney is still unknown.
The actual purpose of this mysterious chimney is still unknown until today. 
(Left: Outside, Right: Inside)

Not too far from the chimney were actually few tunnels to the old coal mines. One of the famous tunnels as recommended by their website named Tanjung Kubong Tunnel. After we spoke to a guard at the museum, we were told that we had to track to the tunnels, which were inside the forest. It was too eerie for us to go into the darkness without a clear direction and so we stopped and moved on to our next stop without visiting any of the tunnels.

 A curious and darkness of Tanjung Kubong Tunnel made us felt eerie to enter the underground passage way.

2nd Stop - Batu Manikar Beach  

Up next, we headed to one of the nearest beach from chimney which was Batu Manikar beach. We were not extremely interesting for this beach because it looked quite deserted and not entirely clean which filled with sluggish mud. We did not feel much of the breeze under this crazily hot day. We were just snapped some photos and soon after left the beach.
The sunny and glowing sun rose over me, bringing a gleaming light to the deserted and unclean sand in this Batu Manikar Beach.  

3rd Stop - Labuan Bird Park 

The next stop for our journey was Labuan Bird Park. This pretty park offers refuge to a wide range of species in three geodesic domes, and a swath of rainforest. There are many different species, up to 580 of birds showcased in the bird park which include the  famous cockatoo, kingfishers, peacocks, hornbills, just to name a few. Besides sightseeing while gaining knowledge towards all these exotic birds, one can take photographs with them and enjoy the daily performances featuring live bird show.

A visit to this Labuan Bird Park is definitely worth every penny as it is suitable for all ages. The entrance fee is affordable with only RM 3 for adults, RM 1 for children from ages 5 to 12 and for those under the age of 5, they get free entrance. This amazing bird park is open every day including public holidays from 10 am to 5 pm. The park is located at the north end of the island on Jalan Tanjung Kubong.

The birds here looked a little bored, but healthy! 
(Top Left: Hornbills; Top Right: Female Peacock; Bottom Left: Goose; Bottom Right: Eagle) 

4th Stop – Peace Park Memorial 

After we spent around 30 minutes visited in the bird park, we drove to our next destination, Peace Park Memorial. This is a surrender point where represent an important monument built by the Japanese to show a starting and ending of the past war. The Peace Park acts as a promise to peace and mankind, important bond between Japan and Malaysia, and a tribute to those who sacrified their lives in the World War II. The key feature of this park was a mound located at the centre of the park while just after the entrance lied a slab of stone, on which was inscribed “Peace is the best”.
 “Peace is the best” inscription stone to remind visitors about the important of peace as well as the symbol of harmony, acceptance and reconcialiation between Japan and Malaysia.

After this visit, we looked at our watch and notice that it was around 6 pm in the evening. We were started to getting tired with the heat of the day in our first day car driving road trip. We soon back to our booked hotel, just to chill out, unwind, had a nice shower and enjoyed the room’s facilities before we were heading out for a fruitful dinner.

------------------------------------------------<<DAY 2 >>-------------------------------------------------

5th Stop – Chinese Temple

After having a good night sleep on the comfy bed in the hotel, we started our second day tour with a renewed dose of energy. We headed to one of the Chinese Temple in capital Labuan town named “Sin Ong Kong” for morning praying where it was not too far from our staying hotel and just gave ten minutes drive to reach the destination. 

This Chinese Temple is huge with a total of three storeys. There are quite a few Chinese Temples around in Labuan, but this one is the ten times the size of most of the others I have seen yet. For this place, what so unique about this temple is that it has a Hell Temple. The entrance will lead you down to a dark basement, and with just one dim bulb lighting the place. On the basement walls, it has carving on the scene when bad people go to hell, and punishment made on them. It was built by the local Hokkien people.
“Sin Ong Kong” Chinese Temple also known as the 'eighth' temple, on the ninth month of each lunar cycle the temple conducts a colourful ceremony of the ninth emperor, a deity in Chinese mythology. 

6th Stop – World War II Memorial 

After that, we came across this spectacular graveyard at war memorial. It looks like any other cemetery that you have came across, except it was very well keep in place. Some of the warriors who died in the battle field were as young as 20 years old and please pay your respects to those who fought for our freedom at the War Memorial. In here, you can find some name plaques and unmarked graves here honouring their lives and losses.

There was something that I noticed while I was at the memorial. The gravestones were all facing a certain direction. Those who are Sikhs had their gravestones facing east, while those who are Christians had their gravestones facing the Cross of Jesus.  
  Labuan War Memorial: Honour The Dead!

7th Stop - Labuan Clock Tower 

This Labuan Clock Tower is located at International Sea Sport Complex. It was one of the four standing structure in Labuan Town (Victoria) that survived the allied bombardment of 1945 during World War II after three other structures namely the chimney, hospital on Papan Island and lighthouse on Kuraman Island. The British administration demolished the clock tower in 1948 but failed to rebuild. Half a century later in 2002, Labuan Corporation reconstructed this historical clock using funds provided by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia.

Just in front of the International Sea Sport Complex is Clock Tower! 

8th Stop - Labuan Marine Museum and Labuan Square 

The Labuan Marine Museum is housed in the International Sea Sports Complex, just east of the city center. We were just walked few steps away from clock tower to reach this museum. The museum contains interesting array of artifact from shipwrecks as well as live and preserved sea life.  The museum has several exhibits catering to children and even an aquarium where they may touch live sea cucumbers and starfish. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and the admission is free to the public.
No photography is allowed inside Labuan Marine Museum. 

Just opposite the Labuan Marine Museum is the Labuan Square. There was nothing to say about this under hot sun. I was just quickly snapped some photos and left this place to our last visiting point, Labuan International Airport.

Labuan Square, one of the famous landmarks in Labuan, held for many events such as celebration of Malaysia Day and Independence Day of Labuan.

9th Stop - Labuan International Airport 

We were just making round the airport vicinity on our rental car and never get off to take a visit walk. At around 12noon, we returned back the rental car to the owner. Finally our two days one night trip in Labuan had reached to the end.
Labuan International Airport! 

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