Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sandakan - Gateway to Borneo's Wildlife

Sandakan, Sabah's second largest town on the east coast, holds a lot of hidden secrets which are gradually being unlocked. It's touted as The Gateway to Borneo's Wildlife.

Englishman William B Pryer founded Sandakan on June 21, 1879. But it was a Scot William Clarke Cowe, who set up the first European settlement on the northeastern coast of Sabah known as Kampung German which was later razed to the ground.

A new settlement sprouted at Buli Sim Sim and came to be known as Elopura - The Beautiful City. A few years later, the name was changed to Sandakan.

World War II saw a lot of destruction to the town and it lost its capital status to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) to the north.

Sandakan's timber wealth has been translated into hotel development. There are the four-star Sabah Hotel and the three-star Sandakan Hotel. A five-star hotel will be built as part of a new urban re-development project - the Sandakan Harbour Square.

The main waterfront street, where the Old Market is situated, is named after Pryer. The hilltop colonial-style house - a former government quarters - in Red Hill overlooking the town of 320,000 inhabitants and its big bay is being turned into a museum to remember author Agnes Keith of Three Came Home and White Man Returns fame.

There is de javu as much for locals as for European tourists with the English Tea House and Restaurant only a stone's throw from the English author's former residence where she and her civil servant husband Harry lived after the last war.

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