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  • Writer's pictureRick

East Malaysia Day 10: Food Trail, Art Trail & Heritage Trail in Sandakan (山打根)

It was great to see a cloudy sky instead of the hot sun early in the morning, but not sure if it would rain later. I would be continuing my own food hunt for the day to seek out uncommon or Sandakan-specialty food. And also to explore the old town albeit more thoroughly.

I left Hotel AeCOTEL at 7:45am, making my way towards Sandakan Central Market and taking photos of murals that I could see along the way. There were two different sets of murals that I found in the old town. One was the official collection of artworks, called Sandakan Art Trail, with official signboards. Another set was a series of simple murals depicting food. There were other stand-alone murals too.

Sandakan food murals

At Sandakan Central Market, I went to the third level to look for a stall named “Original Homemade Kueh Teow with Deep-Fried Pork” (家传正宗炸肉大粉) but it was not opened. I checked Google Maps and it said the stall would open from 10am till 8pm — I did not do my homework.

I did a brief exploration of the central market. Level 1 was the market. Level 2 were mostly shops and a section with food stalls. Level 3 were all food stalls. Near the building was a harbour with several fishing boats in berth.

Sandakan Central Market

There was also a mural of sea animals painted on a wall on the ground floor, one of the Sandakan Art Trail pieces, and two other murals nearby but without signboards.

Sandakan Art Trail

I remembered Kedai Kopi Hap Shing (合盛咖啡室), which I had spotted on the first day, and headed towards the coffee shop. I walked through Laluan Kreatif (Creative Lane), which was also part of the Sandakan Art Trail, with many artworks under the “Little Hong Kong” theme. The start of the art lane was next to a bus terminal and Hap Shing was opposite the terminal, across Jalan Pryer.

"Little Hong Kong" murals

One of Hap Shing’s stalls was selling Coto Makassar, said to be an Indonesian specialty. Apart from various types of meat for the soupy dish, there were peanut soup and spiced soup (not spicy soup) to choose from. And either ketupat (rice dumpling) or rice vermicelli as staple or just the soup. I ordered coto daging (beef) with spiced soup and due to a miscommunication, I was served rice vermicelli instead of ketupat. I also had my usual kopi-o kosong. It was a light breakfast since I intended to have part two in a cafe later.

Kedai Kopi Hap Shing Coto Makassar

Following the map on the signboards of the Sandakan Art Trail, I continued to look for the rest of the artworks which were concentrated around the Malaysia Fountain. It was at a stairway beside the Public Bank with colourful paintings, that the art trail and Sandakan Heritage Trail (Jejak Warisan Sandakan) overlapped. I learnt about the heritage trail from the information displayed along the staircase.

Sandakan Art Trail

I continued on the art trail to Padang Sandakan, a small stadium, which was the last stop. The Padang was the "park view" from my room in Hotel AeCOTEL. Since I was just opposite the hotel, I went back to my room to get my backpack, power bank and water for the heritage trail. The time was 9:30am.

15 minutes later, I came to Bakerfield Cafe with its signboard covered by a piece of red cloth — it was in a "soft-launch" period until an auspicious date for official launch. I ordered their Baker’s Breakfast with a unique hot "Satu Malaysia" or "One Malaysia", which was cham (coffee + tea + evaporated milk) added with Milo chocolate powder. The breakfast set was nice and Satu Malaysia tasted very good with 4-in-1 flavours. Before leaving the cafe, I bought a percik chicken puff as takeaway.

Bakerfield Cafe

I was all set to start the Sandakan Heritage Trail. First stop, or Point #1, was at Masjid Jamik, the more than 100 years old town mosque. The time was 10:50am. It was easier to follow the map along the trail than to use the "Heritage Trail" markers on the walkways, which might not be easy to find in some areas.

Point #2, William Pryer Monument, and Point #3, the 100 Steps, were next to one another and easy to find. Point #10, a structure named "Wisma Warisan", was just opposite Point #2 — I could skip it later since it was the last point on the heritage trail.

Sandakan Heritage Trail

Point #4 was Agnes Keith’s House after climbing the 100 Steps up a hill and required a ticket (RM2 for Malaysian, RM15 for foreigner) to enter the house but photography was not allowed. I skipped it. A short distance from Agnes Keith’s House, the Rotary Observation Pavilion was a great spot to view the old town with the Sulu Sea as its backdrop.

Sandakan Heritage Trail

Following the trail would then passed by Jaycee Clock Tower at a roundabout, but it was not part of the heritage trail. Point #5, Remains of Old Staircase, and Point #6, Goddess of Mercy Chinese Temple (观音庙), were again easy to find.

Sandakan Heritage Trail

The road from Point #5 to the Padang was called Jalan Singapura (Singapore Road) but nothing here was related to Singapore — it was probably named a long time ago. I ate the percik chicken puff that I bought from BakerField Cafe, which was similar to curry puff but with some additional spices. Nice taste.

I missed Point #7 when I came to the Padang. Following the map, I retraced my way back to an overhead bridge along Jalan Singapura where a sidewalk led me up a small hill and I came to Point #7, St. Michael's & All Angels Church. It was a beautiful old church. But as it was lunch time, I could not purchase a ticket (RM5 for Malaysian, RM10 for foreigner) to take some photos inside. I was told the ticket office (or Elton Resource Centre) would open again at 2pm. Unwilling to wait for around 2 hours, I continued to the next point.

Point #8, Sam Sing Kung Chinese Temple (三圣宫), was just beside the Padang. And after cutting through the stadium, I came to Point #9, Malaysia Fountain, but without any water. I actually passed by the fountain every night. And I was back at the staircase leading to Jejak Warisan Sandakan and the building on top of the steps was Point #10, Wisma Warisan. I did not go up. The time was 12:38pm. Slightly less than 2 hours — even shorter if I had not missed Point #7 and had to double back.

Sandakan Heritage Trail

I went back to Sandakan Central Market again to see if the “Original Homemade Kueh Teow with Deep-Fried Pork” stall was opened after 10am — it did not. In fact, all the stalls on the 3rd level that were opened in the morning were already closed. Seemed like I would not be able to try the dish. Fortunately, I had tried a similar version at King Cheong — the kon lo noodle with deep-fried pork the day before. So, it was not really missed.

Original Homemade Kueh Teow with Deep-Fried Pork

I went to San Da Gen Kopitiam again and ordered their nasi lemak with oxtail asam pedas with a hot Americano. The dish was a little pricey but I was sure I would not be able to find oxtail asam pedas elsewhere. The Americano was made from a different coffee bean this time with a different taste, higher acidity and strong aroma.

After the meal, I added on a UFO tart which seemed very popular and on most other tables. It was shaped like "cow dung" and named so in Chinese ("牛屎"挞) on the menu. It was not very big and just RM3.50.

San Da Gen Kopitiam: Nasi Lemak, Oxtail asam pedas, UFO tart

2:50pm, I left the cafe and decided to go back to St. Michael’s & All Angels Church (Point #7) to take photos of the interior of the church. I was willing to pay the entrance ticket since I would not know when I would come back to Sandakan.

It was about 10 minutes' walk to the church. I bought a ticket (RM10) from Elton Resource Centre opposite the church and the lady behind the counter had to open the door just for me since there was nobody else. 5 minutes was enough for me to take photos of the interior — it was really beautiful and well-maintained.

Interior of St. Michael’s & All Angels Church

3:15pm, back at the hotel. The sun had broken through the clouds and focused its rays on me to fry and force out my sweat — I wished it was fats.

6pm, time for dinner. I had been trying all the unusual stuff for the whole day and would like to end the day with another unusual food. I hailed a Grab car (RM5) to Good Taste Bak Kut Teh (好味肉骨茶) some 3Km away.

Sandakan was well-known for fresh and cheap seafood, so it was a must to go for them. To have seafood and yet something unusual, it would be "seafood bak kut teh" at Good Taste — the naming was weird because it meant seafood and pork ribs in soup. I ordered the seafood "bak kut teh" with rice and fried dough, a dish of lettuce and winter melon tea — seemed not a lot. I had a surprise when the food came.

The seafood was in a bowl of soup alright. But the fried dough was served as a dish with its own bowl of soup. The lettuce was boiled yet in another bowl of soup. I tasted the three bowl of soups and they were all different. I did not try to finish the soups, of course. But I was still very full from the seafood and fried dough which were quite a lot.

Good Taste Bak Kut Teh

I wanted to walk back to the hotel, which would take about 42 minutes, to digest the food but it was very dark and the roads were poorly lit. Not given a choice, I hailed another Grab car back to the hotel. I stood, walked and packed my clothes in the room for nearly 2 hours before sitting down.


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