"Infamous Capital of the Land Below the Wind" Sandakan by DSwede

Sandakan Travel Guide: 228 reviews and 600 photos

I title this page as the "Infamous Capital of the Land Below the Wind". Those who have not done their homework yet may be confused by this. In my mind, it is the most direct way to summarize Sandakan.

The American author, Agnes Keith, made Sandakan home and wrote about her life on Borneo in a book titled Land Below the Wind. Claimed to be so for its location below the heavy winds and storm belt that lies north. While Sandakan was the trade capital in the old Empire, it has a darker history too. It was nearly destroyed during WWII and occupied by the Japanese. Soldiers suffered in the POW camps and all but six died within the walls or on the death marches. Civilians of the area (including Mrs. Kieth) went to great lengths to endure and escape the internment camps. In 1945, the Japanese burnt what was left of the city and erased it from the map. At that time, the capital was moved to Jesselton which was renamed Kota Kinabalu.

Thankfully times have changed and I rather enjoyed my relaxing time in Sandakan. Among other things, it was the stepping place for a few day trips to places like Sepilok, Pulau Selingan (Turtle Island), the wood coffins of Batu Tulug (outside Lahad Datu and Gomantong Caves.

For more general thoughts about my time here, visit my Malaysia page.

(for more pictures, feel free to visit my Malaysia Gallery. If you enjoy the pictures, please leave a comment.)

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Wild orangutans, turtles and flying squirrels... where else?
  • Cons:The nights are very quiet, particularly if you are alone.
  • In a nutshell:With all of the side excursions to make, 4 days would be best for this coastal town.
  • Intro Updated Mar 27, 2011
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Reviews (13)

Comments (3)

  • Mar 11, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    Certainly what you wrote is not the usual coverage on this quiet by night town. It depends on what you want to do here. I went to the Kinabatangan river and spent one night but would reckon at least two as there were lots of wildlife to see :)

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Mar 2, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    I would really enjoy the wildlife preserves here: turtles, orangutans and monkeys! WWII history is an eye-opener! The hotels looked decent, and particularly the one restaurant with great fish you mentioned. Scenery in your opening photo looks great!

  • marvelous_girl's Profile Photo
    Jun 28, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Very nice tips.


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