Located on the north-eastern coast of North Borneo (Sabah), Malaysia, Sandakan is the second largest town after Kota Kinabalu city. Dubbed as the ‘Little Hong Kong’ and has great links to the past, this town is easily accessible by air or road, from major towns in Sabah.
We traveled to this town recently and produced this Travel Journal, presented to you in separate entries. It is about how we see this town according to our own perspective, as travel bloggers. Much has been written about this town, from the history to the food trail and adventurous activities but still many will skip this town when they tour around Sabah. Honestly, we want to change that perception. Being Sabahans, we think that Sandakan has much better offerings for visitors to Sabah.
‘Little Hong Kong’
Our two cents
Historically speaking, the Chinese came to Sandakan in the early part of the 19th century, before William Pryer founded the town in 1882. In the early days, there were mass recruitment of laborers from China for developing the Sandakan area. They came in by tongkang through Hong Kong, the shortest route to Sandakan in those days. Some went back to China through the same route.
Thus Sandakan was well known to the people of Hong Kong in the old days. They were the ones who started calling Sandakan “Little Hong Kong”. In long run, if that ‘Little Hong Kong’ still need to be relevant, we both think that certain feature must be looked into and kept as treasures, like forever. Remember how the Hong Kong movies in 1980’s and 1990’s depicted the common lifestyle in super cramped apartments?
Tamara Thiessen (2008), Wong Dany (2014) and Hutton, Wendy (2004) academically published their thoughts about Sandakan and generally they referred Sandakan as the ‘Little Hong Kong’. It might be due to a strong presence of ethnic Chinese migration from Hong Kong (mainly Cantonese and Hakka), as some people claimed and proven in the records as well. For us, it is about how Sandakan still looks like Hong Kong in the olden days.
We have seen some of the features, right here in Sandakan. In the early 90’s when Hong Kong was still under the British, we actually went around up to the villages and parts of the city in Kowloon, for example. We felt the same thing here in Sandakan. Not only that is obvious that Chinese influences are everywhere, the old buildings resembles older Hong Kong blocks in the early 90’s.
In the olden days (well, parts of Hong Kong still are), there were like many old buildings that housed the people and they were all cramped to smaller apartment units, a fact that is unique for Hong Kong due to its size. Unfortunately, more spaces are being given to developers to build larger commercial buildings or high-end condominiums.
In some parts of Hong Kong, we can still see that especially in Kowloon. There’s no need to re-visit the past as it is being featured here, right here in Sandakan! A haven for photographers. Though it looks a bit run down, we still think that the blocks have sentimental values.
Our hope is to see that these amazing buildings (by the blocks) are kept forever, not being touch by the on-going development of Sandakan Town. Once it’s demolished, it will be quite shameful to use that ‘Little Hong Kong’ name. That feature is the only way to tell people how Sandakan resembles that Hong Kong faces before the hand over by the British to the Chinese Government.
The Sandakan Municipal Coucil must be playing active roles to ensure the longevity of such unique buildings. Though some maintenance and overhaul are needed to beautify the town, do keep the buildings intact to its original position.