Taking high tea in Sandakan

Proboscis monkey creche, Labuk Bay

Wonders will never cease. The new propeller from Denmark arrived in Sandakan, Borneo in 9 days! We might wait until we get out of these crocodile waters until we fit it, however. 

Sarah finds the Sandakan English Tea Room
Sandakan used to be the capital of Sabah until the WWII bombing razed it to the ground. Then the capital was shifted across the mountain range to Kota Kinabalu. Of course, North Borneo has a long history with its indigenous people and Chinese settlement dating back to the fourteenth century. The British, with their unfortunate habit of deciding that they can run a place better than the locals, turned up in the mid 19th century to give the place a jolly good sorting out. In the war, the Japanese occupied North Borneo for some four years, setting up prisoner of war camps in a number of locations and capturing thousands Australian, Malay and British soldiers. Non-military allied personnel were also imprisoned in these camps. Scott visited the Australian War Memorial today and paid his respects. 

Silver Lipped monkey (photo by Seth)
Those of you who like a bit of sailing action rather than a travelogue will have to wait a few more days, when our next passage comes up - crossing the Celebes Sea to Sulawesi. It should take us a few days. Scott did the usual trek around Customs and Immigration today and checked us out of Malaysia - we'll be entering into Indonesia next week. Before that, though, we're planning to head up the Kinabatangan River tomorrow to search for wildlife. The Kinabatangan is one of the remaining wildernesses in Borneo, where pygmy elephants are apparently hiding. Hopefully we'll find them! 

An hour out of Sandakan we visited a proboscis monkey sanctuary. They are seriously ugly monkeys. The sanctuary is a pocket of forest bordering the mangroves that a kindly oil palm plantation owner saved, having taken pity on the proboscis living there. Not to take the gloss off this gesture, he has probably found the many tourists more profitable that another hundred acres of oil palms!

As those close to me will know, I am always able to sniff out a tea room or coffee shop and in Sandakan I excelled myself, tracking down the English Tea Room. Set high on the hill, where the breeze blows much cooler than in the heat of the town, we found cream teas, starched linen and cakes to die for! The cafe is in the grounds of the house formerly inhabited by the author Agnes Keith, who was stationed with her English husband  here in the late 30's. She fell in love with the country and its people and wrote three books about her life here. When the war came, the writer and her family were imprisoned by the Japanese and spent four years in camps until the war ended. She sounds like a formidable lady, who brushed off the fuss people would make of her 'fortitude' in the camps. She wrote her second book, 'Three Came Home' on tiny scraps of paper that she buried around the camp in old cans. 

Well, that's about it for the history of Borneo for today. We're all excited about the river. It's damned hot. Don't think I've mentioned that for a while. The blog might have slightly bigger gaps between installments from now on, as we're not sure what kind of internet access we'll have over the next two months in Indonesia - and we know that the two months in PNG we'll have absolutely no coverage at all - but rest assured that we'll be saving up all the news. After all these many months of easy phone and internet I'm sure I'll suffer withdrawal for a while.


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