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SurF tHis SitE RaNdoMly

Trip to Labuan, Sabah (Day 1)

>> Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's been TWO months since I visited Labuan, Sabah, but I never had the time to really sit down & blog about it. It took me quite some time to research on what's good at Labuan. Being the only 'states' in Malaysia that I've never visited 'til this April (yes, I've visited all the other 13 states & 2 FTs!), I sure had to blog about this trip somehow!

The other reason why I "had" to blog about it is also because there aren't many bloggers who have blogged about Labuan! I had such a difficult time finding out on good food places, interesting spots to visit & even good places to stay as there isn't much information online.

So here's an account on my short weekend trip & some tips as well!
When you make a trip to Labuan, make sure you don't expect too much. It's NOT:
1. really your kinda 'island getaway'
2. the most happening of places to visit
3. the most scenic islands to visit
4. the cheapest place to travel to

Since I haven't been there & just wanna getaway for a weekend, I decided to get the best priced airline tickets (in this case, with Air Asia - yes, somehow it's still cheaper than MAS) & fly off for a short break. Ticket price was RM225.00 per person inclusive of taxes (excluding seat selection & meal) & a 20kg check-in luggage shared by 2 persons. Don't ask me how I ended up purchasing the check-in luggage when it's only a local trip *sigh*

The Labuan airport is quite small & clean. You'll not get great signage around, but the airport is small enough to somehow figure out where things are located.

Prior to the trip, I've already watsapped/smsed/called to find out on best prices for car rental. I can be THAT fussy when it comes to prices that I actually contacted almost 10 different car rental people/companies just to find out their best price for a small car for 2 persons around the small island of Labuan. In the end, I settled with Din: +6010-7776996. He offered me a Perodua Viva automatic for RM60.00/day. I took it for 2.5 days for RM150.00 & had to only pump like RM30.00 worth of petrol for those few days of massive drive around with at least 1 level left for the next renter (since there's really nothing much to do)! The car's in good condition, easy to drive (no doubt) & definitely easy to park as well!

Tip: If you're there for more than half the day, just rent a car or even a motorcycle. Taxis & buses are SO rare to be seen (in my opinion) that it's just inconvenient to get around without a vehicle of your own. If you're planning to go places, a bicycle wouldn't be the best mode of transport unless you're an avid cyclist. Trust me, a car will be your best friend even on this small island (30 minutes to round the island without stopping).

The drive from airport to the hotel where we stayed just took us 10 minutes to arrive. On the way, we passed by the Labuan Square, which is just a simple field for all the major events at the island. Apparently listed as one of the "places of interest" on tourism websites, but erm...not very interesting, I would say.

After checking into the hotel, we went out directly according to my planned schedule. Yes, I PREPARED an itinerary!

First stop was actually lunch, which I didn't snap any photos. We were just too hungry, so we ended up having KFC at the Labuan Financial Park, the one & only shopping complex, which became our most frequented place throughout our 3 days there.

After a satisfying meal (when you're hungry, anything just tastes good), we headed off to our 1st spot: The Chimney. It was just SO different from what I imagined it to be. I visualized the place to be somewhere out in the open space where it's easily spot from afar. Instead, we had to drive through some villages & forest-filled area to reach this 'tourist attraction'.

We thought we were lost, but somehow we managed to weasel our way though the 'kampung-ish' areas to get to this place. Which tourist would get here without feeling that they're lost?? *sigh*

Tip: Have your mobile phone with data plan + Waze map + charged up battery (or bring an additional power bank along). You'll find it extremely handy while trying to figure out your way around Labuan although it's a small island.

The Chimney Museum
There are only 2 parts to this place: 1 - the museum & 2 - the out-of-no-where chimney. In the museum, you'll get to read up a little bit of how Labuan's economy thrived & how things began on this small island.

The Chimney
To date, no one has a real clue why there's JUST a chimney right here amongst the villages in Labuan. It's certainly a monument now, but whether or not it was used as a ventilation shaft for an underground tunnel (but excavators found no tunnel beneath) or a lighthouse (no signs of burning on the walls inside the chimney) or even a bell-tower (but I see no bell), none of the hypothesis could be concluded as a fact.

Not too far from The Chimney are actually tunnels to the old coal mines, one of it is the Tg Kubong Tunnel. We didn't know there are more than just this tunnel as this was the one & only that I found recommended by others on their websites. After speaking to a guard at the museum, we were told that we had to track to the tunnels, which are inside the forest. Right, nope, no hiking. We moved on without visiting any of the tunnels.

Up next, we head to the Batu Manikar beach, apparently a UN 2008 Award Winning Beach & the Pancur Hitam beach. Erm...how did Batu Manikar beach win an award then was a mystery to us. AP commented that his hometown in Kuantan has nicer beaches than this one. Hahaha... so sad. The park surrounding the so-called popular beach on weekends (we visited on Friday) looked quite deserted & not entirely clean. I wonder what some websites meant as "popular" & "filled with locals & foreigners enjoying picnics".

Batu Manikar Beach
Not extremely interesting. We didn't feel much of a breeze on the crazily hot day as well.

We 'concluded' our Day 1's car-ride around 4+pm in the evening as we started getting bored & slightly tired with the heat of the day. Is that all to Labuan?

Back at the hotel, it was time to just chill out, relax, unwind, have a nice shower, & enjoy the room's facilities before heading out for dinner. 

Frankly speaking, I find that Labuan really lacks 'decent' 3-star like hotels. I would have thought that a place like this, a Federal Territory, would have more than just a handful of good hotels for tourists. No wonder Labuan was never a top destination spot, which it has the potential to be! From my observation, there are only 3 top-range hotels & many shoplot-turned-hotels around town. I won't mind something like Tune Hotel, but to stay in some hotels that has local names feels slightly uneasy. Most of these hotels do not have websites nor many photos to browse through as well.

Tip: Always email/call the hotels to find out the best price that they could offer before booking with other accommodation websites like Agoda.com. Sometimes the hotel could give a better deal. You'll also have to include the taxes charged by websites like Agoda.com before you take up the deal. Don't be lazy to research & read up reviews as well! You won't want to be stuck at some seemingly nice-on-photos hotel for 2-3 nights, which in actual has old, musky & dirty rooms!

Billion Waterfront Resort, Labuan (Front view)
I actually did 2 things before settling for this hotel. Apart from researching for other options within budget, I emailed Billion Waterfront for their best price & also checked on websites like Agoda.com for their prices. In the end, I went ahead with Agoda's deal.You'll be surprised when you find out the price for the Deluxe Pool View room (our room's 'pool view' was blocked by coconut trees...so much for a good view): RM248.00/night/room!! With that price, I could get a good room in KL or even in Kuantan with a good, maybe quite new, hotel!

Back view (this area faces the port)

The port & the BEAUTIFUL sunset
I have to say that this was one of the nicest things in Labuan...hahaha. I went walking around myself just to explore the area while AP took his evening nap. He didn't even know I sneaked out & came back =.="

Every other website/blog that I've come across while researching for this trip mentioned that it's a MUST to visit Anjung Ketam for delicious & cheap crabs. Were they right? Maybe.

None of the websites that I came across informed me that this place is like a 'food court', with a row of different cafes serving pretty much the same thing! Our 1st impression when we walked in was "wow, quite a nice, fresh display of seafood & at decent prices". Little did we know that those belong to stall numbers 3 & 4. There were I think 6 stalls/cafes in total at that ONE place. My understanding of the Malay language seemed to have failed? Anjung = porch (according to Google translate). I expected it to be ONE restaurant in this area, but it's more like a MEDAN Selera Ketam than an ANJUNG Ketam *disappointed with the lack of information online*

Tip: You'll notice that some 'areas' have more people, some have less. Don't be fooled like us. We went to the area with less people thinking that it's served by the same ONE restaurant. Remember, different area = different restaurant's territories. I've no clue which served the better dishes of crabs, but we went to stall #1 (river-view). You may want to try joining the crowd?
Dinner at Anjung Ketam
Looks like a typical restaurant. We were fooled :(

Only after sitting down did we realize we're at stall #1. Anyway, we just gave it a shot. I think I've misplaced the itemized receipt, so from what I could recall, we spent around RM80+ for a 2-persons meal with the following items/dishes. I found it quite costly for the portion + quality that we received. Our trip to KK for a really good seafood meal was MUCH cheaper & for this same price range, it fed 3-4 persons!

Tip: Find out the price per kilo for each seafood item prior to ordering. Each stall may offer a different price. You may want to find out the price from your hometown/city before leaving to Labuan for a 'seafood feast'.

Fresh Young Coconut
Nothing to shout about. It wasn't exceptionally sweet nor anything bad.

Udang Masak Telur Masin (Salted Egg Prawns)
*eek!!* That was my 1st reaction! "What is this??!" Lesson learned: when you're in East Malaysia + a Malay-operated restaurant, DO NOT assume that the style of cooking/interpreting of your usual delights are the same as the Chinese-style. This was a wet version of deep-fried prawns in its shell, stir-fried with diced salted eggs, curry leaves & chillies. SO different!! Tastes alright, but SO not what I expected.

Ketam Masak "Butter-Milk" (Crabs cooked in Butter-Milk style)
This was my 2nd horror of horrors! Hahaha. You can just imagine how my jaw dropped. "Why is this white??! Did they cook it with sweet, condensed milk???" The taste of the milk was indeed quite pungent & so goes the 'marjerin'. I doubt they used real butter. It felts too weird to describe although the flesh of the crabs were still fresh. I found this dish too sweet for my liking. Once bitten, twice shy. No more.

Sotong Goreng Tepung (Deep-Fried Squid in Flour-Batter)
Finally something that didn't look too foreign to a local Malaysian! *phew* I was quite relieved. Twice shocked in a meal is more than my heart & stomach could handle. Having said that, the batter was somewhat too salty. *sigh* The crabs were too sweet, the squids were too salty, & the prawns were too 'wet'. What's next? Just bring it on....

Kailan Goreng Ikan Masin (Stir-Fried Chinese Kale with Salted Fish)
I wasn't expecting this (again). I was expecting more on the usual leaves with stem kinda dark green kailan. But oh well, this works too. It was probably one of the nicer dishes among the rest!

After quite a number of surprises for the day, I had to get some rest. There isn't any 'night-life' in Labuan unless you're a party-goer. Booze & cigs are VERY cheap there (although some say that it's cheaper in Langkawi, it it's certainly cheaper than KL & Kuantan), so drinking & smoking is a common sight in Labuan. Probably a common past-time as well.

I ended the day with movie & a nice rest on the clean, comfy bed. At least there aren't any unexpected surprises right before I drift off to dreamland!

I'll be sharing more on Day 2 & 3 of the trip! Stay tuned!

Not entirely missing the booze,


Henry Lee June 5, 2014 at 2:26 AM  

Huahhh... u did quite a lot of things on day 1 itself. Where is that anjung ketam place? Never in my life i heard about that place... hahaha... maybe cause i am a typical chinese seafood person plus my dad only go for chinese restaurant for seafood.

Yeah there are 2 chimneys in Labuan. I really wish they didn't have refurbished it cause previously u can feel the wind blowing upright and it somehow gives u a mysterious feel about the chimney.

Told u there's nothing much about Labuan. I started off blogging in KK that's why there's not many ppl blog about Labuan. Even my friend has trouble looking for a lifestyle blogger there.

Looking forward to read ur day 2 & 3 to discover more strange place in Labuan! :P

P/S: There's not one hotel in Labuan is dodgy. Even the new ones, seeing foreign girls coming out from the room with just a towel on is so common... LOL

PerutBesi June 5, 2014 at 9:34 PM  

@Henry Lee: That's a lot?? My original itinerary had more! Hahaha...just that we didn't get to achieve much cos we got a 'lil bored & tired with the driving around :P

Hey, the hotels from outside looks "dodgy" la...maybe cos I'm not used to it. It reminded me of those old school motels available in the older parts of KL & Kuantan! But my bad for not really knowing the hotel from the inside out :D I look forward to day 2 & 3 as well...still working on it!

icca July 4, 2015 at 5:43 PM  

infonya sangat bermanfaat,,,

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