Day 3, Thu, 30 October 2014:
According to my uncle who once worked in Labuan oil & gas industry as Oil-field Inspector for a few years, he mentioned that Labuan is well known in the Oil & Gas Industry Asian Supply Base (ASB). If you click on the link, you’ll get more information on the ASB.
Labuan name is derived from the Malay word “pelabuhan”, which translates to “port”. One of three federal territories in Malaysia, Labuan is located 8km off the coast of Borneo in East Malaysia and is located off the coast of the state of Sabah. Labuan’s capital is Victoria and is best known as an offshore financial centre offering international financial and business services via Labuan IBFC since October 1990 as well as being an offshore support hub for deepwater oil and gas activities in the region, making it Malaysia’s only offshore financial centre. It is also a tourist destination for people traveling through Sabah, nearby Bruneians and scuba divers.
Labuan is a very small Island, which is approximately 92km², approximately 1/8 size of Singapore (app 716km²). The population of Labuan is approximately 87,000 people (2010), of which 76% are Muslims, 12% Christians and 9% Buddhists. The main languages are Malay and English, and also certain indigenous dialects such as Kadayan and Kadazandusun.
The Island experience a tropical climate and is mostly hot and humid, with temperatures ranging between 24°C to 34°C. The weather gets wet towards year-ends. It’s a no surprise why I get very dark during my 2 days in Labuan.
How to get here?
From Kota Kinabalu, you’ll have to take the Menumbok Express bus from City Park Terminal to get to Menumbok Jetty. The bus leaves in 4 different timings daily, 6.50am, 11am, 1230pm, 2.30pm. It will cost you RM18 for a 2 hours journey. Then take a speedboat to Labuan from Menumbok Jetty which will cost you RM15 for foreigners and RM7.50 for Malaysians.
The 2 hour bus ride allows you to view houses after houses along the road, coconut plantations and a view of the Crocker Range that spans across 8 districts, (Tenom, Beaufort, Keningau, Papar, Tambunan, Penampang, Tuaran and Ranau). Being born and raise in a city area where no mountains or mass greenness can be seen, this is such a wonderful sight for me. Initially, I plan to sleep in the bus but I couldn’t because I was too busy looking out the window most of the time. I LOVE bus rides.
The bus stops right outside the gate of Menumbok Jetty and you’ll just have to walk in a little to purchase your tickets at the counter which is easy to locate. The speedboat to Labuan from Menumbok Jetty will cost you RM15 for foreigners and RM7.50 for Malaysians (50% disc for all Malaysians). The boat ride takes about 20-45 minutes depending on the tide conditions. There’s also the passenger ferry which departs only in 2 timings as shown below and a vehicle ferry.
As soon as I alight from the boat and went out of the terminal, I saw this signboard. I wasn’t sure where I want to go or where I’m going to stay for the night. I googled for the cheapest homestay or backpackers hostel and found one close by named Uncle Jacks Bed & Breakfast located opposite Utama Java Superstore, Labuan Island 80900, Malaysia.
I decided to walk because the place seems like it’s pretty close, looking from the map on my phone. However, my handphone battery was very low and my powerbanks are totally empty so I didn’t get to read any reviews. And guess what? After walking around for a good 10-15 minutes, I found out that the hostel had closed down long time ago. =) That is only after I asked one of the tailor located at level 1. I should have known when I tried calling many times and there isn’t any answer. So I searched for other options. I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. So I looked for homestays, thinking that there might be activities available as mentioned.
So I called Tn. Hj. Mustapha Tangkim, the owner of Homestay Kampung Bukit Kuda. I managed to check on the price and was informed that I’ll be staying alone in a big room and he asked if I’m alright with that and because this is a last minute, therefore it’s hard for him to arrange any activities for me as activities are planned for groups who book atleast 3 days in advanced. Well, I needed a space for a night, so yeah, I told him it’s fine. There are hotels nearby the airport and bus interchange but it is kind of pricey to me. Plus, most rooms were fully booked as I understood from the hotel managers, it’s the peak season where alot of engineers are there during this time.
If you’d like to enroll in any activities or program, it’s wise to book atleast a few days in advance. Tuan Haji Mustapha fetched me from the bus interchange and sent me over to the homestay. We past by their community club for him to drop off some items in the office. Then he showed me my homestay and I make payment of RM 65 and receive the receipt. He left after answering my questions. The homestay consist of a living room, a bedroom with 2 queen size bed, a toilet at the back, mini kitchen next to it. So you can imagine my fear of staying alone and especially when it’s all forest at the back of this homestay. Well, I actually leave all of the toilet lights on – living room and kitchen when I sleep.
There isn’t any coffeeshops nearby. I thought of cycling but looking at the lamp post which is located further away from each other, I knew that when dusk falls, it will be very dark. So I walk up a little and saw a middle aged lady cleaning her parameters. And she is actually the homestay owner, Hj Mustapha’s sister.
I asked her politely if there is anywhere I can get food nearby. She said that I would have to travel out where I can get those eateries. Then, she quickly ask if I would like to join her for dinner and then follow her out to the airport to fetch her daughter who came back from her studies break.
I was lightening up by then and so agree to it. She invited me in to her little cozy house and helped her with getting the food ready for us. It was a humble yet fulfilling meal. I couldn’t even remember the dishes because as soon as we sat down, we talked about many topics after topics after topics, sharing, laughing and just simply chatting. It was truly a very chilling and relaxing night. Once we’re done with the dishes, we got ready and waited for the homestay owner, Hj Mustapha to fetch us.
We shared stories and she was still shocked to learn that I traveled to Sabah all alone despite all those ‘Terrorism’ that’s been spread in the news lately. I could only shrugged my shoulders and smile. Once Mr Hj. Mustapha reached with his wife in his black car, we head on to the airport. Labuan airport is really small but nonetheless it is clean, well maintained and enough just to accommodate passengers who are flying in and out. There are a few number of cafes and even McDonald’s for you to eat and drink while waiting.
In less than half hour, her daughter appears and they were excited to see each other that it seems like the world is disconnected from there for awhile. I was watching in awe that I did not even managed to snap any photos of it. I love the airport. It looks modernized and pretty, different from all the airports in Malaysia so far. However it was pretty dark and my camera which has died earlier on is back at the homestay charging and my Samsung S3 handphone won’t do any justice to it.
They introduced me to the girl who is about 4 yrs younger than me then we proceed off to abit of exploration around the Island.
As mentioned earlier, Labuan is really small that you can do a 1 day tour. By getting on the earliest bus to menumbok and get the earliest ferry to Labuan and then taking the 2nd last boat back to menumbok and then head back to KK or wherever you’d like to proceed from there.
They showed me the University, Industrial Area, the main tourist areas such as the World War II Memorial, the Peace Park, cemeteries of the fallen soldiers, Royal Navy Coaling Station (the Chimney), Labuan Town, Labuan Museum, Labuan Bird Park, the Tanjung Kubong Tunnel and water village. We only pass by and they slowed down as they share information about the area. While on the way back, we passed by one of the beach with a beautiful full moon view.
I love winding down windows to feel the wind. So after I asked permission to do so and got the green light, I put my head and hand out to enjoy. That hand belongs to Mr Hj. Mustapha’s wife though, not mine. =)
They showed me Patau-Patau and kampung Air water village and shared some interesting stories about it. It took us about 1 hour and half to really go around Labuan with a fast and slow drive and finally went back home. I was exhausted that fears are no longer within me. I was able to get a good warm shower although the toilet ceilings doesn’t seem attractive at all.
I did get a great night rest without any disturbance.
The next day, I went off early. After bidding farewell to everyone, Mr Hj, Mustapha was kind enough to send me back to Labuan Town. There, I had my breakfast of the local delights, Siumai.
This is where I had my breakfast. A fulfilling one at an affordable price. The place is clean, staffs are friendly and they have a strict policy where all the staffs are required to wear a goggle and mask for hygiene purpose.
I then went on to explore the Labuan Museum to read up on my late paternal grandma’s culture as a Kadazandusun. She was born into a Chinese family in Sarawak and was then given to a Malay family. I’m not sure who brought her to Singapore but it was one of the aunts if I’m not mistaken. And she grew up here, met my late paternal grandpa, got married, have kids and my dad is the number 6th child and then here I am. That’s a reason why some people say I look like a Chinese and believe it or not, during my 1 month solo trip in Sabah, I came acrossed 2 people who looked at me and asked if I am a ‘Kadazan’. I was shocked but I just smile without responding and walk away. Cause I believe that it’s better left unknown.
There are about 6 different cultures in Labuan. They are mainly consist of the Sikhs, Kadazan, Cina, Kadayan, Melayu-Brunei, India and Kadayan. Remember my host family? They are the Kadayans.
The picture above shows the traditional clothes of the Kadazandusun’s tribe. Very simple yet elegant. I love the gold lining on black. It makes the clothes look very exquisite. I wished I could try it on. You can read up on their background in the photos above which I’ve provided you in English and Malay.
From the museum, I continue to explore Labuan, passing by the Financial Hub, Mosque, Police Headquarter and Labuan Square. I did not go to any of the cemeteries nor the historical site on that day as I was catching up for noon’s ferry timing.
You can find some graffiti here too.
From here, I head on to Sipitang. I manage to catch the 1pm speedboat and it cost me RM30 for a 45 minutes ride. Depending on the tide conditions, the journey make take an hour or a little bit off an hour.
My visit to Labuan has gained me a new found friends and family who happens to have some relatives in Singapore. That is the homestay family. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch. For my 1 month trip, the host sister is always checking on me and making sure that I am safe. It was really nice of her. Well, that’s all for now.
***PS: Kindly note that all informations here are based in 2014. So please check out new informations if you need any from the web.