Monday, May 08, 2017

Discovering Labuan and loving it


LABUAN is steeped in history and sadly, the lesser-known of the three Federal Territories.

The Federal Territory of Labuan, unlike its counterparts Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, is an island located off the northwest coast of Borneo and facing the South China Sea.

Its proximity to Sabah and Brunei makes travelling a breeze for those who commute daily via ferry to the island.

Labuan is only 8km or a 20-minute boat ride from Menumbok, a small fishing town in Sabah.

While Labuan is the main attraction, the smaller islands of Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong are popular among tourists for island-hopping.

Choosing this duty-free port as a holiday destination was frowned upon by some well-meaning colleagues, who suggested I ditch my plans and head to Langkawi instead.

“There is nothing to do there!” an editor exclaimed while another asked, “You can see Labuan in two hours. What are you going to do after that?”

Instead of listening to them, I decided to go down the road less travelled.

With only the Internet to turn to for help with regards to the island’s attractions, I picked out a few must-do things including visiting the Chimney, Layang-Layang Beach, Kampung Bebuloh, Kampung Patau-Patau, World War II Memorial, the market, island hopping and a short hike.

All of that in two hours seemed far-fetched so I turned to some friends, living there, for help.

The fact that I knew people on the island, including my neighbour Dr Ishvinder Singh Parmar, long-time buddy banker Sukhdev Bedi and Dorsett Grand Labuan general manager Susan Carlos, convinced me to head there.

Carlos’ offer to get her concierge team help plan my itinerary was weight off my shoulders.

Visiting Labuan’s water villages, Kampung Bebuloh and Kampung Patau-Patau, was interesting because living in houses on stilts over the sea can be unnerving for some but not for these villagers.

There is no need to experience the village by boat as it is well connected by roads, concrete walkways and wooden rickety bridges.

I met up with local tour guide and self-taught historian Willie Teo who knows everything there is to know about Labuan, past and present.

“The British wanted Labuan for its port and coal.

“The island previously under Brunei, became a British colony on Dec 24, 1846 and the town was named Victoria Town,” said Teo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Discovering Labuan and loving it
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