Agnes Keith English Tea House and Restaurant
Early rise to get the boat back to Semporna. Breakfast doesn't usually start until 7am and we were leaving at 6:30am! So the resort kindly made breakfast for us before we left. It was sad saying goodbye to Kapalai we had really enjoyed our stay, we would certainly come back again. The boat ride was smooth and didn't take long. On the way we saw what looked like a permanent stilted village in the bay which was probably home to fisherman and their families. Fishing nets were laid out and small canoe type boats with well balanced fisherman were out and about. At Semporna docks we got a lift by the resort taxis to the bus station before they continued on to drop people off at the airport.
Vaughan cools off at the English Tea House!
The resort informed us that there was an express bus that left at 7:30am for Sandakan
. The bus station was a little confusing, a bus was waiting there and it looked a bit worse for wear, the information booth told us that it wasn't the bus to Sandakan. There were plenty of taxi touts hanging around saying they would take us to Sandakan for 350 ringgits and we ignored them until we found out about a bus. We didn't seem to get any useful information out of anyone, one guide pointed to the minibus and told us that was the bus to Sandakan and I was hoping not as it was small and five hours in it wasn't going to be fun. Malcolm was off discussing with locals and trying to find out information, he came back and said that this was the bus to Sandakan so we got on quick before it filled up.
Agnes Keith English Tea House
Ten minutes later we were told it wasn't and there was no bus to Sandakan! So off we got and decided to negotiate with a tout for a private taxi, Malcolm was good and got us a ride for a 200 ringgits. We got into a nice new looking Ute and the trip was actually better than what a bus would have been. It was a good four and half hours and we could stop when we wanted which we did a couple of times for the bathroom and a stretch of legs.
We got to Sandakan about midday, checked in to the Hotel Seafront which was as nice as I saw it on the web, rooms were nice, clean and modern and they had air con. After a brief rest we headed out for lunch, Malcolm and Julie had been to Sandakan before so they knew their way around.
Playing Croquet at the English Tea House
On first impression Sandakan wasn't at all pretty, the streets and shops were aimed at the local market not tourists. This town was still in its infancy as far as tourism went which was good, we were enjoying it, unspoiled by mass tourism. The waterfront is where we headed for lunch there were plenty of cafes and restaurants as well as plenty of construction going on around. They were trying to make Sandakan more trendy so in a few years I think it will be a very different place and very much on the tourist map. We enjoyed a nice slow lunch, the sea breeze was refreshing, it was much hotter and humid here, Kapalai was out at sea so we didn't notice it so much but now we were on the mainland we did! We decided that later in the afternoon we would meet up down in the hotel lobby about 3pm and go up to Agnes Keith English Tea House for afternoon tea.
Playing Croquet at the English Tea House
Malcolm and Julie went and did some shopping and Vaughan and I headed back to the hotel. I was very tired and needed a kip, it wasn't long before I passed out on the bed, Vaughan went downstairs to the Internet. I was awoken by a knock on the door by Julie, we headed downstairs but didn't see them, I think they got tired of waiting and went ahead! Vaughan and I headed up to the Tea House which was on a hill overlooking the town. The walk wasn't too far and was really nice up the steps through the shaded forest. At the top there were some pretty nice big flashy homes. Agnes Keith was an American who came to Sandakan in the 1930's with her British husband who was appointed Conservator of Forests. Their home was a lovely two story colonial wooden house which later was destroyed during World War II and re-built identically when they returned in 1946. The house is now a museum and has detailed displays of the life of the Keiths. We didn't think to go the museum as we thought Malcolm and Julie were at the Tea House so we went straight there. The Tea House was a lovely old colonial house which is now English Tea rooms looking out over manicured gardens and a croquet lawn. We were greeted by a well dressed waiter who directed us to a nice table outside overlooking the sea and town. It was all very prim and proper with my chair pulled out for me and given cool wet neatly rolled towels to cool off with, Vaughan just put his on his head!! I had no idea where Malcolm and Julie had got to so we just went ahead and ordered cream tea. About 15 minutes later they turned up, they had been looking around the Agnes Keith museum. For the rest of the afternoon we sat and enjoyed the view and had some fun playing croquet! It was a really lovely spot, a great way to spend an afternoon, although the cream tea doesn't come cheap! Black clouds started to roll in and looked like a thunderstorm was brewing so we didn't hang around too long. We headed back to the hotel and in the evening Vaughan went out for dinner to the Hawaii restaurant with Malcolm and Julie. He reckoned his curry laksa was to die for! I stayed behind as I had a splitting headache and wasn't hungry. I just got settled writing up my diary when people moved into the room next door and because we had a connecting door which didn't appear soundproof it sounded like they had moved into our room! I wasn't happy so I asked reception if we could move to a quieter room so they gave me a nice corner room with sea view and much better bathroom on the third floor. So I spent the next 20 minutes trundling up and down the stairs as there was no lift, moving our gear! I told reception to let Vaughan know so he didn't come back to an empty room on the first floor.