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Once Sabah’s capital, Sandakan was bombed to pieces during WWII. The layout of this city that faces the Sulu Sea is uninspiringly modern, but you don’t have to look too hard to find remnants of the past, including cemeteries where the war dead and the Chinese community are buried, and the Agnes Keith House Museum, housed in a colonial mansion where the author of the same name wrote the celebrated memoir, "Land Below the Wind." The tourist office has a brochure outlining the Sandakan Heritage Trail. History buffs can also reflect on the infamous WWII Sandakan death marches at the Sandakan Memorial Park. For most visitors, though, Sandakan is ...

Once Sabah’s capital, Sandakan was bombed to pieces during WWII. The layout of this city that faces the Sulu Sea is uninspiringly modern, but you don’t have to look too hard to find remnants of the past, including cemeteries where the war dead and the Chinese community are buried, and the Agnes Keith House Museum, housed in a colonial mansion where the author of the same name wrote the celebrated memoir, "Land Below the Wind." The tourist office has a brochure outlining the Sandakan Heritage Trail. History buffs can also reflect on the infamous WWII Sandakan death marches at the Sandakan Memorial Park. For most visitors, though, Sandakan is the launch pad for the famous Sepilok Orangtan Rehabilitation Centre, 15 miles to the west; be prepared for crowds as this is one of Sabah’s most popular tourist attractions. While at Sepilok you could also visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre. More simian relations can be viewed at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, another day trip possibility from Sandakan. The city is also the access point for the idyllic Sandakan Archipelago, which includes the three islands of the Turtle Islands National Park.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Sandakan, formerly known as Elopura is the second-largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo. It is located on the east coast of the island. It is the gateway to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.
  • Language: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Cantonese and Mandarin
  • Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    March to November