Dumaguete - Zamboanga - Sandakan (Sabah, Borneo)
Departed Dumaguete on the Mary Joy II (inter-island ferry with Aleson Shipping Lines) for the 12 hour overnight crossing to Zamboanga (Mindanao Island). We purchased 1st class tickets and occupied Suite No. 2 (at a price of $36 return). The cabin was very roomy, with two single beds, a sink, small table, couch and large portlights overlooking the bow and starboard side. The toilets were located nearby and clean!! We took our own food and snacks aboard. The airconditioning was too efficient, so we actually had to sleep in our scuba skins for warmth!! Arrived in Zamboanga at 5.00am the next morning after a smooth passage. Had to disembark and find some coffee in town until the ticket office at the Port opened at 8.30am. Bought onward tickets to Sandakan on the Sampaguita ferry. Big mistake! The cabin was small and shabby, yet the price was the same! We quickly returned to the ticket office and demanded our money back. After much haggling they agreed but did charge us a 10% cancellation fee. It felt good to be back on the Mary Joy II once again. Ticket prices on this leg were $75 return. Immigration cleared us in the canteen area before departure. We left the dock at 3.00pm (only 1 hour late) and the overnight crossing to Sandakan took 18 hours! Recently the procedure has changed for the better. It is now possible to purchase tickets in Dumaguete for the entire journey, thus eliminating the need to disembark with your luggage in Zamboanga.
Arrived in Sandakan at 7.00am. We stayed in our cabin until the mass exodus cleared. Buses are standing by to transport everyone to the Immigration office. There we met Boy (representative from the Rose Bed & Breakfast) and he suggested we pay some bakeesh to get through Immigration faster. We did this, and did not have to join the queue. Once through however, Boy informed us that the payment was double what was originally stated! Terry thought it was still worth it to avoid the "long" wait in line! A taxi into town should cost RM5.
The Malaysian currency is known as the Ringget (RM) and the exchange rate at this time was US$1 = RM4.
The Rose Bed & Breakfast. The accommodation was basic and clean with shared toilet/shower facility for RM38 p/n. Located within 10 minutes walking distance or short bus ride from the center of town. Boy is usually at the Port whenever a ferry comes in looking for "you"!
New Sabah Hotel (Jalan Singapura). Basic double room with local TV stations for RM50p/n.
Hotel City View (Jalan Tiga). Double room with HBO movies for RM86 p/n.
Places to Eat:
Habeeb III (Muslim eatery)
Sidewalk cafes along Jalan Tiga (main street) selling sate and nasi goreng
A short taxi ride from town takes you to Batu 2 1/2 where buses and mini vans depart for various other locations.
Buses to Kota Kinabalu depart at 7.00am and 8.00am (6 hrs, RM20).
We caught the bus to Semporna at 8.00am (5 1/2 hrs, RM20).
Buses to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center depart near the market. They are sign posted Batu 14 Sepilok (45 mins, RM1.30). Entrance fee is RM10.
Semporna is the gateway to Sipadan Island and other diving resort destinations. We stayed on Sipadan and Kapalai Islands with the Palau Sipadan Resort Company (see other site for details). After our diving adventures we travelled on to Tawau (via Semporna) where we took a local flight to Kota Kinabalu (40 mins, RM105).
Places to stay:
Recommended - Seafest Inn (Manager, Peter Lawless). Double room with Satellite TV for RM68 p/n. Dormitory rooms from RM20 also available. They also arrange budget diving/camping/fishing trips.
Check out their website at http://asiaconect.virtualave.net. Email: email@example.com
Not Recommended - Dragon Inn Hotel (looks impressive, but don't be fooled). Basic Double room for RM82.50 p/n. We met someone recently who stayed in their dormitory accommodation and was bitten by a rat!
KOTA KINABALU (KK)
At the KK airport is a taxi office where you buy coupons for the trip into town (15 mins, RM12). The main three shopping malls are: Wisma Merdeka (Sony had good prices on electronic goods. We bought a digital camera and multisystem VCR); Center Point (Mall known for theft, be careful. We had our passports stolen here at The Net Internet Cafe) and the Kompleks Karamunsing (Location of Malaysian Airlines Head Office and the Mt Kinabalu Nature Resort Office where you make the bookings for Mt Kinabalu National Park). If you are looking for outboard motor parts see Joseph Voon at Tre Segah Store in the Sinsuran Complex (Jalan Pasar Baru).
The Yacht Club is located near the Shangri La's Tanjung Aru Resort. From town the buses depart from Jalan Tugu but can be caught from Jalan Tengku Abdul Rahman (main street). A little tricky at first to know which bus, but it should be sign posted either Beach Resort, No. 2 or Tg Aru!! The fare was 90 sen. Impressive club facilities with good restaurant, bar and hot showers. If arriving by yacht, the first week's membership fee is free! We paid RM25 for one week's temporary membership. You must be a member to use the facility.
The ferry over to the Gayana Island Resort cost RM8 return. We had a nice lunch at the resort restaurant. The resort provides an alternative place for mooring a yacht. The anchorage is protected whereas the Yacht Club is quite exposed.
An impressive fruit and vegetable market is located down near the pier.
The Signal Hill Observatory offers fine views over the town.
Ruby Hotel (Jalan Laiman Diki). Double room, TV (HBO movies) for RM60. Central location.
Places to Eat:
We frequented the Muslim eateries most of the time. Our preferred breakfast treats were roti canai (Indian bread served with curry and dahl sauce) or murtabaks (an omlete type mixture wrapped up in very thin roti dough then fried). A few of our favorite places were:
New Rahmat Restoran (Jalan Tugu)
New Arafat Restoran (Jalan Pasar Baru)
Sri Melaka Restoran (Jalan Laiman Diki)
Sedeco Outdoor Market (a little expensive but the seafood is great)
Transport (Bus station located on Jalan Tengku Abdul Rahman)
Buses to Sandakan depart at 7.00am and 8.00am (6 hrs, RM20). A lunch stop is made at Renau where you can buy local food or Kentucky Fried Chicken!!
Minibuses to Tambunan (for the Rafflesia Forest Reserve) depart from under the Banyon Tree. The trip takes about 1 1/2 hrs up through the Crocker Range (great views if the weather is clear) and costs RM10. Buses leaving Tambunan are often full by the time they reach the Rafflesia Reserve, so we just hitched a ride back to KK with a local family. Check with the Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation (Jalan Gaya) first to determine whether a Rafflesia flower is in bloom.
Buses to Mt Kinabalu National Park depart frequently. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs RM10. We left early to take advantage of the afternoon to start exploring the park trails. These are well maintained and worth doing if you have the time to spare. Prior to the summit climb, check in at the Reception Office where you will be assigned a guide. The following fees are applicable: RM60 (for the guide and entrance), RM3.50 (insurance), RM10 (return minibus trip to the Power Station (definitely recommend this). This totals RM73.50 per person.
KUALA LUMPUR (KL)
Arrived at the new International Airport (KLIA) and caught the shuttle bus into town (RM25 each). There was not much traffic, so the trip only took 1 hour. Taxis waiting outside the hotels were a total rip off! Most of the other drivers who were willing to use their meters were very reasonable. We caught a taxi back out to the airport for RM52, which was better value than the bus when you consider the time taken (45 mins) and comfort level!! We had been advised to allow at least 2 hours!
Ben Soo Homestay (Jalan Tiong Nam, "Little India" area). Very basic room with share toilet/shower facilities for RM32 p/n. Dormitory rooms also available.
Impiana Hotel (Jalan Cheng Lock, Chinatown). All the big hotels were having promotion deals. We stayed in a very nice double room with Satellite TV for RM110 p/n. This class of hotel would normally be out of our price range! Chinatown proved to be quite a handy location. Just around the corner from the hotel, busy daytime streets were blocked off to traffic at night and turned into brightly lantern-lit outside eateries and market stalls.
Places to Eat:
Nantas Thai (Jalan Ampang)
Restoran Anju (opposite Puduraya Bus Station). Great Indian fare, served on a banana leaf!
Street eateries in Chinatown