Thursday, November 12, 2015

Staycation in Labuan (Part 3/4)- What to play and where to go in Labuan

Labuan has always been stamped as an oil town in my mind. Being in the oil and gas industry, it has always been business related whenever I hear of it. I never thought of it as a holiday spot until my sister and I had our most recent Sister Trip. By a twist of fate, we landed in the Pearl of South China Sea and I never saw Labuan the same way again. 

My sister and I on our Sister Trip
My sister and I have been desperately looking for a holiday that feels far away enough to get away from the daily grind without burning a hole in our pockets. My sister especially felt the effect of her last break has officially expired. Labuan came in an opportune time and cured both of us. Check out how! (Places are numbered according to chronology of our visit, not to our favourite)

1. The Labuan Museum
Being in a foreign land, knowing the place's history adds value to your trip. If you did not have time to Google about it pre-visit, try visiting the Labuan Museum which is just a 5-minute walk form the Dorsett Grand Labuan. If you are not a museum person, like yours truly, engage a historian to help you absorb the sejarah (history). 
The Labuan Museum displays, preserves and disseminates knowledge about the rich heritage and culture of the island 
Engaging a guide to walk me through museums has become a must in my travels. This guide whom I recommend is a humble historian who claims that he "does not know much" but every piece of story is detailed as if he has been there. Every date and day is at his finger tips. Challenge Mr. Willie with questions like did James Brooke have any children on his own? Why is Labuan neither Sabah nor Sarawak?
How the Labuan flag evolved
I did not have to crunch the words and interpret them myself. Mr. Teoh's story telling made it all very comprehensive and interesting. My sister and I left the museum a little cleverer than when we walked in.
Mr Willie Teoh and his wealth of knowledge in history is exceptional
Guided tour
Mr. Willie Teoh
Tel: +6019-882 0551

Labuan Musem
U0364, Jalan Dewan,
87008 Labuan
Tel: 088-419451
Opening hours: 9:00am-6:00pm
Admission: Free

2. Labuan International Golf Club Driving Range
Golfing is one of the favourite past times in Labuan. It may be inspired by its laid-back nature or populated by oil and gas people frequenting the island for business- I surmise. For golf enthusiasts who hop from green to green, you will want to visit their 18-hole golf course. Its land is facing the sea and has never ending supply of breeze. 
Putting area
Me on the iron
For amateurs like my sister and I, enjoy at their driving range for RM13 per 100 balls. It was an evening well spent as me and my sister hit our pressure and stress away! A ball for the traffic jams, another for the perpetual city rush, another for the demanding boss, another for things getting expensive...and the list went on...
Time to resuscitate the skills
My sister...a pro as always
Labuan International Golf Club
Jalan Sungai Pagar, Kiansam,
87000 Labuan
Tel: +60 87 468468
Opening hours: 6:30am-11:00pm

3. Pantai Batu Manikar- UNESCO Beach
After waving golf sticks, we stopped by Pantai Batu Manikar to watch the sun set. It is just a 10 minute drive away. Labuan is not called the Pearl of South China Sea for nothing. This island is blessed with many beautiful beaches. This one that we that went won the COBSEA Clean Sea award from the UNESCO in 2008.  
This beach won a UNESCO award for being the cleanest beach in the regions of China, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand
Cannot resist a free-style jump!
The well-maintained beach sets a good example of how the rest of the beaches in Malaysia should be. The beach is wide and adorned with casuarinas on the sides where green grass sprawls. The sea breeze invites an evening jog or a romantic stroll all the same.
A romantic sunset is for sisters too
Pantai Batu Manikar
Jalan Batu Manikar,
87000 Labuan

4. Take a Bicycle Ride
Excursions on the bike combines the best of both walking and cruising on wheels. I like cycling as it gives me a little more speed than walking without being encased in a car. I do not need to have a licence and it is fuss free. My sister and I joined a group of tourist on a 3 km cycling excursion that passes a few attractions where we dismounted to admire closely. 
Evy and I going for an excursion on bikes
All geared up
Joining the rest of the cyclists for a warm up
Labuan is a very relaxed place thus making it comfortable for cycling either solo or in groups along the streets. We cycled from Dorsett Grand Labuan to Labuan International Seaport. Along the route we took, traffic jam is far from sight. The journey was pleasant and therapeutic. My sister and I chatted and laughed out loud in the open air, occasionally racing each other.
Sisters on the go
Cycling is a great way to appreciate your surrounding
Our enjoyable bike expedition was sponsored by Tourism Malaysia 
with compliments from Manager Cik Norhidayah Md Noor.
Special thanks to the Chief of Police Tuan Adzhar Othman to provide us traffic escorts from 
PDRM Labuan. 

Rental of bicycles
LDA Holdings (Labuan Holdings Sdn. Bhd.)
Ms Syafiqah,
Tel: +60 87 413155, 013-5070795

5. Labuan War Cemetery
Yes we went to a cemetery in October but not for the Halloween thrill. After much frolicking, we took a moment to absorb patriotism and feel the forlorn of World War 2. My friend Susan Carlos assured me (being faint-hearted) that I will have nothing to lose and everything to gain and I trusted her. 
The perpetual resting place of the sailors, soldiers and airmen who are honoured here
Memorial of those who perished in World War 2
I began to read eulogies engraved on the tombs. Some were too young to perish. Some were dearly missed by wives, husbands, parents and children. It is amazing how this place made me feel. I never thought I could feel so deeply for the patriots just by silently visiting their graves and reading. While some plaques had beautiful quotes, some plaques were nameless leaving the unsung hero unknown forever. It is a good place to incubate appreciation for our servicemen. 
Some plaques had beautiful quotes and some left nameless

Labuan War Cemetery
Jalan Tanjung Batu,
87000 Labuan

6. Go for a Hike at Bukit Kubong
Being adventurous monkeys, our next stop was at Bukit Kubong. Although it is the highest natural peak in Labuan, standing at 148m above sea level, it is not too high and it stops comfortably just when you think you have had enough. It gave me the adequate dose of workout for the trip without too much exertion. 
Among the flora and fauna

The route is gentle but do pay attention as it can be slippery. The peak rewarded us with a refreshing view of the sea, fringed with lush greenery. It did a good job transporting me away from the hectic life back in KL. Nothing else was in mind except nature and sister (she is my photographer so I cannot ignore :P)
My sister triumphed with a pose
Sucking it all in
The hill descends to a path leading to the beach
Great advert there Evy! Should have had my blog address there.

Bukit Kubong
Jalan Tanjung Kubong,
87000 Labuan

7. The Chimney Museum
We then arrived at a very iconic structure that is synonymous to Labuan. We came to visit a very mysterious chimney. The chimney was built in the 80's and the purpose of this structure is unknown till now. Nope, there is no trace of smoke that indicates that it channeled smog. However some locals believe that it was a ventilation shaft. But if not for smoke then for what? While some claim that it is an unfinished mansion (as I wrote this, my hair stood with a shiver down my spine), some say that it acted like a lighthouse or land indicator. But no one knows for sure its actual purpose. 
Chimney Museum
The chimney is 106 feet high and built with 23000 pieces of red bricks imported from England. This stop can be a quick one. Although not as amazing as the other attractions, it keeps you wondering why was it built in the first place even after you have left the place.
The Chimney
No trace of smoke like how an actual chimney should function

The Chimney Museum
Lot 2 Tingkat Bawah, Bangunan Tabung Haji,
Jalan Kesuma
87008 Labuan

8. Peace Park and Surrender Point
The Peace Park is a promise from the Japanese to maintain peace and order after all the wreck they have done in World War 2. The park is a tribute to those who were sacrificed in the war. Look out for the huge man-made mound that signifies the renunciation of war. [1]
Peaceful walk at the Peace Park
Credits from thevirtualtourist
The huge man-made mound which says "Peace is the best"
Just next to it is the Surrender Point where the Japanese officially surrendered their ruling on Labuan to the Australian. The handing over of the sword signified the end of World War 2 in Borneo. This is also the place where the trials of the first war crimes were conducted in the whole of South East Asia. [1]
Surrender Point
The place where the trials of the first war crime was conducted in the whole of South East Asia
Peace Park and Surrender Point
Jalan Mohammed Salleh
87008 Labuan

9. Central Market
They say the best way to feel the economy of a place is to go to the market. From there, prices can be easily compared. Other than those very intellectual insights, grab the opportunity to shop for some dried seafood and local food like sago which are cheaper or rarely seen in Semenanjung.
Labuan Central Market
Guess what time is this? Quite a lot of sunlight for 7am in the morning!
Fruits and vegetable
Wet market
Sago gum
Labuan Central Market
Jalan Bunga Tanjung
87000 Labuan

10. Island Hopping to Pulau Kuraman
Island hopping was the highlight of our trip in Borneo. Choose between Pulau Papan, Pulau Tiga (Of Survivor fame) and Pulau Kuraman or just hop to all three! DO NOTHING would be an activity of my suggestion. My sister and I found ourselves a hammock each to just be lazy underneath the swaying coconut trees. I occasionally peep from my closed lids to savour the picturesque view of the beach that looks like it is taken straight out of a postcard.
On the roaring boat to Pulau Kuraman
Be sure to spot oil rigs on the way
Sister striking a winning pose again
DO NOTHING. Do not say I didn't tell you so when you return to the city where you are doing something all the time
Under the swaying coconut trees
Time for a dip
Snorkelling is also another activity you can do other than DO NOTHING
Alright alright...if you are the kind who cannot DO NOTHING, you can snorkel. In my opinion, there is not much to see in the shallow waters other than sand but we had fun nonetheless.
Evy in the waters
Having fun in the sun
Lovely sisterly moments
Waddle in the water

Hire a boat for island hopping
Tel: 016-328 1689

11. Borneo Paradize Spa
What is an island trip without a massage. As if the hammock did not spoil us enough, we checked in a SPA for a good body massage. To save you from the search, The Borneo Paradize Spa does not only offer good massage skills, their price is affordable. My sister and I induldged in a 1-hour body massage for RM75.00 each. Masseurs are mostly Thais.
Paradize SPA and Reflexology Centre
Enjoying my foot scrub
Clean rooms and sheets
Paradise Spa and Reflexology
Lot 33, Lazenda Centre,
Jalan OKK Abdullah
87000 Labuan
Tel: +06 87 443655, 010-948 9911

12. Labuan Fisheries
We answered the call of fresh fish at 5am in the morning the next day. We decided to beat the fishmongers to get our fresh supply of seafood. Labuan Fisheries is where the fishermen sell their sea harvest to the fishmongers from the market. This place closes at 6am or after the fish has been swept up for sale at the market, whichever comes first. 
Labuan Fisheries
Any fresher than this, you have to dive into the sea yourself
Abundance of freshness
My sister and I decided to give our mother a practical souvenir that she will surely relish. Freshness makes all the difference in seafood. The inherent sweetness from the ocean is key ingredient to make the simplest cooking taste divine.
Sister picking prawns to be flown back to KL
Fishermen taking a well deserved rest after work at sea
Fishermen boat docked at the jetty
Even to the untrained tongue, the firmness and delicacy of the flesh can be distinguished.
Packed at a minimal price by Dorsett Grand Labuan to be checked in for mom
Sweet sweet Tenggiri.
Labuan Fisheries
Jalan Merdeka, 
87000 Labuan

13. One Stop Duty Free
Do not forget that this island is one of the 2 main duty free islands in Malaysia (the other being Langkawi). On this land where alcohol can be cheaper than water, do be careful of counterfeit products eg. diluted beer. We were brought to one recommended as trustworthy. 
Victoria Point One Stop Duty Free Centre
Do your alcohol and chocolate hunting here! If you have not bought one of those, it is as if you have not been to Labuan. Do bear in mind, only one bottle of alcohol per person allowed to be brought out of Labuan.
My sister Evy searching for chocolates
Alcohol duty free

One Stop Duty Free
Lot A Ground Floor
Victoria Point, 
Jalan OKK Awang Besar,
87000 Labuan 
Tel: +60 87 421178

There you have it, what to play and where to go in the Federal Territory of Labuan. It felt like we went "overseas" without suffering from the shrinking Ringgit. My sister and I had a good 3D2N staycation that can last us for at least a few months before the next wanderlust starts to kick in. The next time you are searching for a weekend getaway, keep Labuan in mind!
Ended the trip with beautiful memories and fresh fish