English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I want to do Advanced Open Water at Dive Downbelow!

Blub blub blub....

The sight of colourful corals greets my eyes, some looking like branches of a tree, some like tiny hands with fingers opening and closing, some like little volcanoes... Definitely something you can't see every day, but something you can only find a few metres below sea level.

With several fin-kicks, I drift above a bed of anaemone with clown fish playfully darting in its depths. Barely skimming the surface of the surrounding corals, I hovered over the scene as I took a photo.

'I am a MERMAID!' I told myself confidently.

Being this confident in the water took me a bit more than 20 dives. Previously my biggest fear was shooting up to the surface unwarranted when my tank became a little lighter. I worry about using up my air too fast, I worry about my buoyancy, I worry I worry I worry.

But now, I can feel truly like I am enjoying my dives. Confident enough to stop and take photos.

However, I've been certified in Open Water since 2005, and have not proceeded further since. The girl in the photo doesn't even look like me! That year, I was fresh from finishing my MCom in Accounting & Finance in Queensland and thought about doing something to celebrate.

So I have a new resolution - to achieve an advanced open water certification! I want to try night dives. Or wreck dives. Or anything else that an open water certified diver can't do.

In KK, there are several dive operators to choose from, but somehow  I would love to do the Advanced Open Water Course with Dive Downbelow.

You see, diving safety and comfort is of utmost concern to me, so I tend to choose operators with the best safety measures. And from reading information from their website, I'm convinced!

Winner of  several awards including TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, PADI Dive Centre of the Month and PADI Award of Excellence, Dive Down Below dives are based at The Beach House, Gaya Island, the largest island located just 10 minutes boat-ride off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.

Mmmm.... just 10 minutes from the hustle and bustle of city life, to the tranquility of aquamarine oceans, and lush island rainforests.

The fact that surface intervals and their freshly cooked hot lunches take place at the Beach House makes me wanna go... like NOW! I think that they have their own spot on one of the islands is one of the major things that makes Dive Downbelow unique.

Besides the hot meals you can also find unlimited tea, coffee, water, biscuits and fruit, all day long. And have your nice freshwater showers. Big plus!

For those of you concerned about language gaps, fear not!  The large international guide and instructor team includes British, Malaysian and Chinese staff, and they are able to cater to a variety of nationalities and languages in both course instruction and activities.

And oh, if you just want to check them out, they also have a Dive Shop in KK with huge selection to choose from. I wanna buy mask and fins!



FB friend them at  https://www.facebook.com/divedownbelow  or get Twitter updates at  https://www.facebook.com/divedownbelow !


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Discovering KK - Sembulan Riverpark

I love spending my time exploring new spaces, and nothing pleases me more than to come upon some eye-pleasing sights, especially in my hometown.

After spotting the 'Sembulan River Park' sign as I was having a leisurely drive and walk through KK, I decided to stop by. Have been meaning to do so for weeks but somehow it had always slipped my mind.

The area of Sadong Jaya is not a pleasant area to visit during the weekday, as the streets were lined with errant drivers, and cars parked just about anywhere due to the insufficient parking space available. It would seem as if the Cityhall had to turn a blind eye as the situation is hopeless, as I saw them sitting not too far away.

The beautification of the Sembulan River has begun since the end of 2010 as one of three tourism related projects for the State Capital funded by the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC). Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim (the Mayor at that time) reminded the public not to confuse beautification and transformation of the Sembulan and Karamunsing riverbanks with the cleaning and rehabilitation of the rivers as the matter will be looked into separately by DBKK.

This newly launched park is only the first phase of the Sembulan river park which has a footpath that runs along half of the 1.6km (one-mile) river in Sadong Jaya to Kampung Sembulan Lama. 

It claims to be a well-lit park with fountains and music filling the air, and is the first to be monitored by a police kiosk through 47 close-circuit television cameras round the clock under a safe city programme of Kota Kinabalu City Hall.

I was there before the sunset, so I saw none of the above. But still, I thought it was beautiful. And totally impressed with the facilities.

The park caters for all including the handicapped. People in wheelchairs can move around it easily and so can mothers pushing their babies in prams. It has a toilet for handicapped people and a room for mothers to change their baby’s diapers.

It is part of a massive project of the Sabah development corridor to expand Kota Kinabalu southward, and is a three-phase tourism project costing a whopping total of RM45 million under the SDC. Construction of a state-of-the-art Gleneagles medical centre as part of a 500m-ringgit mixed integrated development and a new phase of KK Times Square opposite the Sembulan river park is also taking place.

Hmm... the sign says no skateboarding, lest you should fall into the smelly river. Doesn't help that parts of the river walk does not have railings either! What if it was a runaway toddler?

Money for the project has come from the federal government. The first phase designed by Shim Sie Hong, an architect, itself costs RM 24 milllion and is modeled on the one of the Singapore River.

Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said DBKK planned to create a network of better pedestrian walkways in nearby areas, connecting such spots as the State Museum, Islamic Museum, State Mosque, Sacred Heart Church and the railway station which are within 10 minutes’ walk from the Sembulan River Park.

That is great, and definitely something that KK needs, aside from better public transportation systems. And if not, much more parking spaces for accommodate the community that are largely made up of car owners who need to take there cars everywhere.

I only had my Samsung Galaxy Y to capture the pics, so the quality isn't that great, but still you can see how good the place actually looks.

That aside, I do have some problems with this development.

1. Sustainability. I would say the local authorities are famous for constructing new structures, but are not bothered with maintaining older structures, preferring instead to tear down the old to build spanking new designs. I hope the same fate will not befall this place and that the proper maintainence works should be carried out.

2. Noted still some rubbish in the river, even though it is just a bit. Education is key.

3. Why is it always and always that the measure of our success is in attracting tourists?? Such a facility should be primarily for the enjoyment of our own KK people. Shouldn't our own people matter in public awareness on all KK has to offer? (Yes, I am steaming off about the North Borneo Railway here that is totally elitist, and I am afraid this riverfront development goes about the same way) If it doesn't make a hit with tourism, then it is swept under the carpet and forgotten....

CCTV 24 hours a day

Life ring, to save thee should the unfortunate happen....

Well, for every story, there are 2 sides. While some people may laud the beautification project, there is someone else who would see a less attractive point.

Such is the case for some political parties, such as SAPP.

SAPP Sembulan Selatan Branch, Kassim Busok lamented that the authority should not turn a blind eye on the problems faced by the residents living in Kampung Sembulan in light of bridges with missing planks and the amount of rubbish that the residents have to put up with.

A very large sum of money is set aside for tourism, but not for the people?

“The 800 meters length Sembulan River Park costed RM24 is equivalent to RM30,000 per meter; the same amount of money could have been used to construction a few hundred low cost houses for the local people who could not afford a house", said Kassim.

So what do you think?

To be fair, I think the project was a great idea, and should be appreciated and  utilised by all the citizens of KK as well as visitors. 

But let's not forget the basic things that the people really need first and foremost.

Anyway.... do go and have a visit and enjoy all that KK has to offer!



Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy 49th Year of Independence!

I was driving home one fine sunny afternoon when I came across a great number of buntings proudly proclaiming 55 years of Independence - Promises Kept (Janji Ditepati).

Seriously??? I was completely shocked by the glaring ignorance shown so magnanimously by certain people who really should know better.

As a true Sabahan, born and bred, I was insulted.

Correct me if I am wrong, but here are a few facts that should be studied in history by EVERY Malaysian at school:-

Fact #1
31 August 1957 - Malaya gained independence

Fact #2
22 July 1963 - Sarawak gained independence

Fact #3
31 August 1963 - North Borneo (Sabah) gained independence

Fact #4
16 September 1963 - Malaysia was formed! (Woohooo!! Bring out the fireworks!)

Wow yeah!! 55 years, they say! How awesome! Did you get A+ on your Primary 6 math?

But hang on!

If deduced correctly, how can Malaysia celebrate 'Merdeka' day as a 'National Day' far more important than Malaysia Day (D-Day we became a nation) when....

1. Malaysia was NEVER colonised as a nation. What became independent was Malaya (in 1957), Sarawak (in 1963) and Sabah (in 1963) SEPARATELY

2. Malaysia didn't even exist in 1957 (Aha!! Gotcha there!) so how can we say 'Malaysia' became independent in 1957???? Wow, someone built a time machine.

It was not so long ago that Malaysia Day was finally gazetted as a National Holiday. I remember kicking up a fuss way back in 2007 (or was it 2008?) on FB, and people couldn't understand what I was making a big deal out of.

Sorry, I do not understand why ONLY Sabah is celebrating 16th September as the birth of Malaysia. It should be THE National holiday, not Merdeka Day. 

And even when it was gazetted... still... NO marching contingents, NO fireworks, NO great celebration in the Nation's capital to mark this wondrous day. 

The fact that 3 nations got together to form a federation named Malaysia was unimportant.

When I was in school, I didn't even know what 16th September was, as it was hidden under the guise of 'Hari Jadi TYT (Head of State)'. Oh, I still remember my green pompoms as my school made to do some special performance at Padang Merdeka on that day.

Why do we continue to keep quiet about this? Why do we bow down and let other people undermine us, tell us the wrong thing and act as if we are dumb? We are equal partners! 

I refuse to let more of our people be blinded and brainwashed.

55 years?? Puuuuiiiii!!!!!

Cheers to you Sabah. Happy 49th Anniversary! And Happy 49 years of Nationhood.

A True Malaysian


Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday's Child

Mondays child is fair of face,

Tuesdays child is full of grace,

Wednesdays child is full of woe,

Thursdays child has far to go,

Fridays child is loving and giving,

Saturdays child works hard for his living,

And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I am a Monday's child, being born on 20th August 1979. The above is a poem that my mum used to read to me. Alas, the word 'gay' since then has been converted from meaning just simply 'happy' to one implying a bit more negative connotations to some people.

What does 'fair of face' mean?

According to one of the answers I found on Google said "Fair has the meaning: beautiful, but also auspicious and fortunate. So, Monday’s child, in a fortune-telling sense, means that Monday’s child is not only beautiful, but promises good things and a fortunate life."

But of course, it is just a saying that cannot be relied upon ;-)

I was born into a family 2 brothers and 1 sister, maybe 5 years too late to enjoy the real camaraderie of having brothers and sisters growing up together, if only just for a brief few years.

The name Sabrina was chosen for me by my brothers while watching an episode of Charlie's Angels. My mum wanted to name me Tanya, but backed out after thinking about the repercussions of having such a name, especially among unrelenting school kids who would love a reason to bully.

Sabrina \s(a)-bri-na, sab-rina\ as a girl's name is pronounced sa-BREE-nah. It is of Celtic origin.Mythology: the name of a Celtic maiden in a Welsh tale. In Celtic legend, Sabrina was thecharacter who gave her name to the river Severn (in England). Known in modern times through the play and movie "Sabrina Fair". The name was used in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Sabrina has 11 variant forms: Breena, Brina, Sabreen, Sabreena, Sabrena, Sabrene,Sabrinna, Sabryna, Sebreena, Sebrina and Zabrina.

In Arab, Sabarina means a woman of patience.


I grew up an overprotected child. Spoilt, in a certain way, but  I guess I get way more out of my childhood than the rest of my brothers and sisters. More privileged, I would say, than the average kid with my countless dance and music classes.

But still the shy one.

Geekiness is me
Today is my 33rd birthday, and I have no plans for the day. But it is good to look back at how far I've come, and how much I've achieved over the years.

I've been fat, I've been skinny, I've been a mother. I've travelled around the world all by myself, I've bought (and sold) my first home, I've bought my first car. I've written numerous articles for papers, have printed my own 'book', have one of my stories chosen for publication in a book. Did crazy stuff just for a boy, fell head over heels in love, had my heart broken more times than I care to remember. I've taken risks for causes I believe in, organised several events myself, decided to leave a job I didn't like and started all over just for myself.

No 101 list for me this time, but I think I've done great. Just looking at the above, I think I'm wild! And that's not even the full list.

Today I may be 33, but I don't think I feel any different than if I was 25, or 30. I'm still me, and age makes no difference, not even in the wrinkles in my face. I still love to have fun and approach each day with excitement and awe as if everything is different and new.

The only difference is wisdom gathered along the way

I am looking back now, and I don't think I have any regrets. I'd still do it all over again.

The year I turned 18
A mother at 20 years of age
Graduating with BBus (Accounting) from Victoria University at Sunway

At the end of my Masters at Griffith University, Australia
My first car when I was 27
On my 30th birthday in 2009
Me today at 33!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chanteek Borneo - Beautifully handmade souvenir dolls

Picture this: You are overseas on a trip, and on your last day on a foreign land, you decide to get a little something local to bring back home. Preferably something unique to reflect the culture of that place. Something you can look at and go, "Ahh... I got that beautiful piece when I went on that great trip to So-and-So Land."

You scour the local souvenir shops, only to be disappointed with the selection of goods that are either 100% 'Made In China' but designed locally, or totally common and may easily be found anywhere else on planet Earth. 

So again, you come back home with a bag full of the usual type of souvenirs, but just how many more corny t-shirts or mugs or fridge magnets do you need?

The short story above was kind of like how Ms. Anne Antah, the founder/owner of Chanteek Borneo, first got her idea to start making and selling dolls wearing traditional costumes.

I had the pleasure today of visiting the Chanteek Borneo office today, with all the excitement of seeing something like a Santa's workshop churning out pretty little dolls in full steam. (Yes, I used to play with Barbie dolls... busted!)

Popular with tourists as souvenirs, these beautifully dressed dolls can also be given out as corporate gifts, or used as decorations for places promoting local culture.

The dolls each sport different attires of the various tribes in North Borneo, including Dusun Tambunan, Dusun Papar, Lotud, Murut, Rungus, Brunei Malays, Bajau, and even traditional costumes of the community in Pulau Banggi! They are also currently making dolls wearing traditional clothes of the West Malaysian, for example the Baba-Nyonya, Indian, Malay and Chinese communities.

No details were spared in the designing of the clothes. Great amounts of research has been done in order to replicate the costumes of the real life communities, right down to the headgear, hairstyles and beads. Some people (the local communities) actually do get upset if they find some details that are wrong on the dolls, according to Anne.

I must say I was very impressed with the intricate details, thinking about how much we could learn about the culture of the Land Below The Wind, just by examining the dolls. Details that are mostly lost in today's generation as not much of this has been made publicly known.

According to Anne, they have about 10 - 12 varieties of costumes for offer. However, this is just a small slice of the pie, if you were to consider that there are actually at least 50 different communities / tribes throughout Sabah, each with a different costume. One community might even have more than 1 traditional attire - they may have a different one for say, traditional dances, or weddings.

The most interesting of all the dolls, I found, was the Bobohizan (witch doctor) version. But might have been better if the dolls could be 'aged', as most Bobohizans are in their late 80s or even 90s...

Normally they can manage to make around 3 dolls a day. Each doll has been ordered specially with requested skin, eye and hair colors to match the locals as closely as possible, though the mould could only produce dolls with pointed noses, unlike the flatter noses of locals. "The first dolls that came were Caucasian!" laughs Anne, recalling her first attempts at making the dolls.

The dolls, weighing at 105grams for male and 95 grams for female, is for sale at the recommended retail price of RM218.

Currently, only Shangri-la Rasa Ria has them in stock for a slightly higher price, but the dolls will also be available at various souvenir shops in stages over these next few months.

Alternatively, the dolls can be ordered directly from Chanteek Borneo, and at a special price. Customers can also put in a customised order for a specific traditional attire, if they wish.

The dolls come covered in bubble wrap before being put into a cardboard box, to ensure that everything is still intact during the envisioned perilous journey home halfway across the world. They also come with a stand each for proper display.

Should they prefer something a little more grand, for example as mementos for VIPs, customers can request the dolls to be placed in a frame or a glass box for display.

Or, they can also choose the dolls to be placed into a beautifully coloured, traditionally designed serdang box, custom-fit for the dolls at an additional cost of between RM30 - RM50 only.

 Check out the selection of dolls in the slideshow video below!

Ready to bring a little piece of North Borneo back home? Or looking for that gift that is uniquely Sabah? Here's how you can contact Chanteek Borneo:-

Facebook page: Chanteek Borneo
Email: chanteek.borneo@gmail.com
Telephone: 088-231018
Mobile: 019-5300018 (Anne) / 016-8287352 (Adeline)


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Coming back 'Home'

8.00 a.m., and I was already in the arrivals hall of the Labuan International Airport. I wasn't supposed to be here this early, but MASwings cancelled the later flight at 9a.m. giving me a choice of either an earlier flight or a much later flight. A stark reminder again of the numerous cancelled flights I have endured during my entire tenure at Labuan.

When I first moved to Labuan, airfares had been so cheap that I could fly back home twice a month. Only RM70 for a one way flight on their little propeller Fokker planes.

Then the whole MAS fiasco happened, bearing millions of losses. As a result, airfares became ridiculously expensive, sometimes charging as high as RM200++ just for a one way flight.And to make things worse, there were no other airline service providers offering the same route, save for Airasia, that cancelled their LBN-BKK-LBN flights within a mere few months of operations.

The only other option to get on and off the island was by 1) the nausea-inducing two and half hours ride in a small cramped ferry all the way to Kota Kinabalu; 2) via 30 mins of hurtling and bouncing on speedboats, appropriately dubbed the 'flying coffins' given it's small space and low roofs, (plus the numerous unplanned incidents such as steering wheels coming off mid-journey) to Menumbok Jetty; or 3) via the strangely renovated big car ferry (2nd hand from China!) that is slightly safer, but takes over 2 hours to arrive at Menumbok Jetty, after which another two and half hours drive or ride by bus is in order to get to Kota Kinabalu.

I say it's strangely renovated because of the seats inside that seem to be collected from a number of different vendors, the gloomy and rather filthy interior, and extremely cold air-conditioning settings. Aside from that, the ferry is often inundated by a number of problems, such as propellers falling off into the deep blue sea, and thus causing ferry services to be suspended for long periods of time, much to the agitation of the locals who wish to drive out to mainland Sabah.

Not exactly attractive options, and I make no effort to disguise my absolute disgust at the services that are available for the residents of Labuan. I paint no pretty pictures, just the sad truth. The whole ferry topic has been an intensely argued topic with certain ferry operators (and ministers!) pretending not to even know what the word 'monopoly' means. Things have been slightly better lately with the entrance of another ferry operator (with problems at the start up), but nothing lasts forever it seems. Especially not here.

So, rather than having to face 1), 2) and 3) above, I decided to splurge and enjoy a much more comfortable trip to Labuan this time, via plane. And enjoy the new facilities and sights of the now completed KKIA.

I already made an appointment at the lawyer's office at 2pm, so a later flight is totally out of the question. So I drag myself out of bed at 5.45am that morning, in a bid to arrive at the airport within good time.

But the question now is... what do I do with the 6 hours left until my appointment? And where shall I stay?

Decided: stay at the centre of town, so that a car is not needed to get around. And I already have in mind a place to stay - Ambassador Hotel 2, a small hotel that I've just passed by a couple of times the last few times I've been back, and looks pretty decent.

The hotel at the centre of town is just a mere 2-3km away from the airport, but it costs RM12.50. Taxis are mainly very old models of Toyota built in the late 80s and painted all white with mint green stripes on the side.

"Sorry Miss, we can only check you in at around 12pm", the receptionist glanced at me, the strange woman wearing a ripped (artistically, I might add) yellow tee. He must be thinking 'wth...?!'

Undaunted, I cheerily asked if I could just leave my bag at the counter, which he accepted, and off I was on my merry way. At 8.15 in the morning...

Can't sit at a coffee shop and have breakfast, as it was the fasting month. What to do, what to do.....

Ahh... museum!

The museum is located just a stone's throw away from behind the building where the hotel was located. The streets were filled with blue canopies, all ready for the Ramadan bazaar happening every single day starting the earliest at 2pm.

The abandoned Labuan hotel towered gloomily overhead, memories of an era long passed.  I often try to imagine the hotel back in its hey-day - I was old enough to remember going there once upon a time with my parents, who wanted to listen some karaoke. Wonder what kind of scene will greet us should we decide to push open the glass entrance doors one day. Perfect scene for some Halloween party.

The doors of the museum were shut, a little too early to be inviting in guests. Noting that the tourism office next door was open, I decided to make a visit and pick up a few brochures. Perhaps a copy of the Labuan Food Trail that I saw my friend bringing around during my last visit, but there were none.

I sat there for a while, seeking solace from the sun, which burns hot even in the morning. After all, I was a 'tourist', and the place was free for people coming to seek information. Looking through the brochures, I found out that the museum only opens at 9a.m.

Seeing that there's still time before the museum opens, I decided to cross the road towards the Labuan Square which was built in 1990 to commemorate the island of Labuan being made Federal Territory in 1984.

It claims to be "the popular spot for major events and stage performances with its open air stage that has walk-up steps at the front and impressive cascading waterfalls at the back" according the description inscribed on a slab of marble.

The days of glory have ended, it's obvious to see.

I'm sorry to say that not much of an effort has been made to restore or maintain this memorable historic site. The place was in a state of disarray, with stagnant water in an otherwise beautiful fountain breeds mosquito larvae, and broken pieces of wood plus rubbish of all sorts and graffiti can be found on the steps leading downstairs to what I presume to be a storeroom.

Returning back to the museum, I noted that it is at last open. Refreshing gusts of wind from the air-conditioning units greeted me as I walked through the open doors and signed my name in the guestbook.

I found the museum to be highly informative and  great for people who want an in-depth knowledge on the histories of Labuan. Some of the areas seemed a little too dim for reading, but I enjoyed the artifacts that they have brought in, especially the old money and stamps from the British and Japanese invasions. There were also pictures of flags from various eras, and a copy of the Malaysia Agreement. There's also the chair and table and replica of the Labuan Agreement to commemorate the day that Labuan was handed over to the Federal government.

Entry price: Free of charge!

Among interesting snippets of information found:

1775: Survivors of an attack on the British East India Company factory on Balambangan Island took refuge on Labuan 

18 September 1846: Sultan of Brunei signed treaty and handed over Labuan to the British. 6 days later, on Christmas Eve, the Union Jack was hoisted up at Ramsay Point, to confirm Labuan as a British Colony.

Statistics of Labuan Population 1921 - 1991

1921 - 5,908
1931 - 7,507
1941 - 8,963
1951 - 8,784
1960 - 14,904
1970 - 17,189
1980 - 26,413
1991 - 54,811

Labuan population based on ethnic groups in 2000
Malays - 28,974
Kadazan Dusun - 4,884
Bajau - 4,106
Murut - 419
Chinese - 9,484
Indian - 650
Others - 1,889
Non-Malaysian citizens - 16,150

Mining in Tanjung Kubong, Labuan which began in 1847, was the first in Malaysia

Oil was discovered in Labuan in 1852

The railway stretching nine and three quarter of miles long was built in 1981, connected Tanjung Kubong to Victoria, was among the first railway lines in Malaysia, and the first in Borneo.

Labuan became the 2nd territory after Sarawak to issue its own postal stamp in May 1879.

Labuan achieve independence from the British under Sabah on 31st August 1963

On 16th April 1984, Labuan was signed over to the Federal government under the Labuan Agreement

In 1990, Labuan became an offshore financial centre.

I have deep-rooted family connections in Labuan, thus my interest in their affairs( read my blogs on Thoughts of Labuan and Labuan). While most of the family no longer lives on the island, the feeling of personal connection lingers on.

After the visit to the museum, decided to walk over to the Financial Park to find a bank and other things since I still had plenty of time. One of the first things I saw there was a coffee machine! Drinks at RM1 each. We don't even have this in KK!!

Found a whole slew of massage chairs all around the complex, so I sat on one and tried to get it going. Not functioning, hmmm... then a friendly local came and assisted me in switching it on, him (and a couple of other people) too seemingly interested in the chairs when I sat down. I decided to spoil myself and get a full 30 mins massage for RM10, almost dozing off in the process.

15 mins before 12pm, I decided that it was enough time to walk back to the hotel and try to check-in again. Labuan is a pretty walkable place, in spite of the heat. There are plenty of unobstructed walkways for pedestrians, most of them either covered or underneath some shade. There's also a lighted zebra-crossing for pedestrians to pass, and I found the motorists are generally very well behaved and disciplined when it comes to red-lights. As it is also quite a small town, everything seems to be within walking distance, or at least reasonably so. I spent a lot of time those 2 days walking around quite comfortably, unlike back home.

I arrived at the hotel, and they have a room for me! A Queen Superior room at RM108, but with the deposit I have to pay RM150. I wanted a single room, but I'm not going to wait, so I took it.

Proud. This would be the first time ever that I booked myself into a hotel alone, apart from my travelling days outside of Malaysia. Was very curious (and fearful) to see how good the room was.

They gave me a ground floor room, and down a long corridor with white washed walls I went. Obviously the hotel had just been renovated, judging by the boxes of tiles lining the sides of the corridor.

I switched on the light in the room, and was greeted by the sight of a big white bed and 4 fluffy pillows, a television set, fridge, cupboard, a small chair and coffee table. The bathroom too was very nice and clean and tasteful. Aside from the cigarette smells, I was very very pleased with my choice of accommodation for the night. It was also in a strategic location:- right smack in the middle of town, in a less busy street, close to everything, a hairdresser just a few doors down (whose services I used) and a taxi stand nearby.

Rested for a bit, and it was soon time to go to the lawyer's office in Lazenda Shophouse, again just a short distance away, and in the same area where my first job as an auditor in Labuan was. After signing the necessary paperwork, I decided to buy some pastries from one of the more famous coffee shops in Labuan - Hup Juan. For a little over RM3, I bought a chicken curry puff and an egg tart. It would have tasted really great piping hot, but as it was the fasting month, I had no choice but to wait.

The rest of the day was spent walking around town while waiting for the time for my good friend Peny to pick me up so we can have dinner / breaking of fast.

First stop was the D'One Mart, a 24-hour supermarket. I still remember many years back, it used to be just a small shop that was famous for selling Gardenia bread products, including cake items such as Twiggys, that can be found only in West Malaysia. Guess that business was so good that the shop has expanded into a large supermarket that can rival the other big (and long-established) supermarkets such as Milimewa, Giant and Utama Jaya.

Next, was finding the shop where I last found a large bottle of Nutella for a reasonable price. It was also very tempting to buy more than what I came for, but I reminded myself that however cheap things are, they still cost money. And I was on a tight budget.

Yay!! My favourite :-p

It seems that Starbucks has arrived in Labuan at last! In the form of bottled coffee, not the cafe. Tempting

Dr Pepper has arrived on the shores of Labuan as well.

More pics.....

Don't believe we have a coin-operated laundromat in KK either?

I was wondering what happened to the library at Labuan Corporation, when I found it. Now in the formerly abandoned Wisma Oceanic, where lots of offices used to be located before the Financial Park was built.

 Dinner was at Black and Gold Cafe. Quite reasonable portion for RM20.

Another popular food outlet in Labuan - Island Garden, an open air hawker stall serving Chinese and Western dishes

Labuan town seems to have ample spaces for public use. Park benches like these can be found in many places, and in good condition!

Strangling figs seem to be taking root everywhere in this island. Even on the smallest of trees.

Seeing I had a few hours left, and too tired to walk... I decided to do my hair at a local salon, as I was going to attend some expensive dinner at a 5-star resort on the same night, in aid of sun bears.

As I wasn't too vain either, I decided to risk having my hair reshaped at cut at Gaya salon, just next to Ambassador Hotel 2. That was the first time in a very long time that anyone gushed over my natural curls. Though I was trying hard not to be alarmed by the large chunks of hair flying past me as the hairdresser enthusiasticly chopped off my hair to give it 'more layers' and look 'sexy'.

The ending result for RM57?

They used only very good products, I noted.

All too soon it was time for me to leave Labuan again. If I had more time, and a means of transport, then I'd definitely explore more. Labuan is a very cheap place to visit, and plenty of places do not charge an entry fee at all, for example the Labuan Aquarium. But then, with no fee, we will have to be contented with places that have not been maintained very well.

Other places I love in Labuan:-

1. Botanical Gardens - where the remains of the bombed Government House can be found. A great place to go for an evening run, but I love the lakes that are there. I used to know every route through the gardens as I spent a lot of time there, though people tell me it's haunted. There is also a water park, or used to be, as it is now run down. It is located on the road where the old airport terminal used to be. Entrance is free.

2. Japanese Peace park - definitely a car required, as it is located in Layang-Layangan, a distance away from town. It was also the location where the Japanese army surrendered. It is again one of those places forgotten by time and crumbling away. But I love it there, and I used to spend many weekends at one of the stalls nearby selling the best barbecue chicken wings and satay with ketupat and peanut sauce ever! Salivating now...

3. Pancur Hitam - also requiring a car for a beach gathering. Lots of barbecue pits you can use here free of charge, and the place is kept really clean. Beaches are still so wild you can spot a few hermit crabs here and there. Not advisable to swim though.

Must haves:-
1. Labuan makes its own bottled drinks - 5-Star which bottles drinking water and Skyblue, which makes it's own drinks such as cola, ice cream soda and other flavoured drinks. Used to be that they made aerated drinks, but I couldn't find any anymore, just cordial types. My mum used to share her fond memories of those glass bottled aerated drinks that they used to have every Hari Raya, which they called 'lemned' or actually 'lemonade'.

2. Lots of duty-free imported chocolates! Buy from the shops in town, not at airports or ferry terminals as they will cost far more. Where else can you find Danish, Swiss or Belgian choccies at reasonable prices?

3. Alcohol is also duty-free. I had a German friend who came and said the prices were way cheaper than back home.

4. For Sabahans having a hankering for snacks or breads that you can find in KL, they have Gardenia and High 5 here ;-)

Good (and cheap) Eats:-

1. Blueberries Cafe on 1st Floor, Financial Park. Halal. Very cheap and delicious. You can get bubble tea and a yummy piece of homemade chocolate cake for very low prices. Very popular during lunch hour as they have economy mixed rice on offer.

2. I absolutely love the nasi lemak at the Labuan Watersports Centre. I used to tapau every few mornings on my way to work.

3. Yummy Chicken? (Gosh, I can't remember the name!) - I love the tomyam mee, chicken rice is not bad either.

4. Choice - Indian food. Briyani, my favourite ;-) and mango lassi.

5. If you're looking to impress someone on a date, there's always Fratini's. The only Italian restaurant (I think?) on the island.

Oh, I can probably go on and on and add on more to my list as I think about it. But I better stop. I guess it is after all because 4 years of my life was spent on this island that I fondly think of as my second home.

" I'll be back soon!" was my only thought as I soared over the town on my flight home.

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