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Time to hit the sights of Sandakan in short order then and so I immediately made my way up some stairs climbing out of the town centre up to the adjacent Tourist Office and Museum. And guess what? Both closed when they should have been open. At least there was a scrap of paper on one of the doors to say they would re-open tomorrow, so I simply continued with the master plan for the day, catching first of all a series of memorials sat in the park opposite. First was a Celtic cross, commemorating the city's foundation by a certain William Pryer, a big wig of the BNBCC sent here in order to establish a trading port. Listed upon it below were later additional inscriptions, colonial names who had been lost under undiscernible circumstances during their service here. A couple of war memorials lay scattered around here too.........

From here it was a scorching long hot slog past the Padang and adjacent Chinese temple, then uphill for quite a trek before tracking down a humble point noted in the guidebook, just a crumbly staircase now tumbled over partially in ruins, along with the odd pillar now stranded in someone's back yard, these were the few scant remnants of Sandakan before it got plastered during WWII. Not too riveting but I was to discover more enthusing relics at the nearby Christian Cemetery, founded here in 1883. Predominantly Chinese, there seemed to have been little method in its usage over time and it didnt help either that it was overgrown and on a terraced hillside. Persistence paid off though in fighting my way around to as many interesting looking graves as I could reasonably manage, the first of note being a wholly unexpected and baffling wonder in a very large Celtic cross testifying to the last resting place of Captain Carlo Pinson, "Chevalier de l'Ordre Imperial" who died here in 1896 aged 40. Bizarre. Candles, incense and cigarettes recently left as offerings showed that whoever this guy was he still held something of a following. In search of the eternal token Scot I thought it was a fair bet in finding Hannah Elizabeth McCulloch who died here in 1908 aged 28 alas, and perhaps Edgar Foreman, "Engineer, Sandakan" who snuffed it in 1897 aged 37. Certainly not Scottish were Adolf Reppich, inscribed in German as "born 1881 at Frankfurt an der Oder, died 1908 in Sandakan, BNB". A further German discovery was also unusual in bearing an anchor motif, which told of Johann Leonhard Chalinger, "Born 1863 in Nurnberg, died 1909 in Sandakan". There was Michael Ponsonby, "for 22 years employed by the Government Treasury and 11 years accountant for the Bakan Co. Ltd." Scattered around were also the odd wartime grave, most notably the large obelisk with again an anchor motif telling of J. Letford, "Stoker of HMAS Fantome who was accidentally killed at sea May 2nd 1916 aged 25". I could only guess that Laurence Charles Anderson, "killed at Sandakan 26 February 1942 aged 29" was similarly a military casualty. Scrambling around had revealed quite a few Hispanic names betraying a sizeable Philippino influence I guessed, such as Paulo G. Delgado Jr. born 20/9/1933, died 8/11/1933, aged 47 days. Though I had been pretty blown away by so many fleeting historical insights, perhaps the most striking was an unusual large wooden cross marking the spot where Cpl. Simon Sumbongal now lay, who died 6th December 1962 aged 28 years "during a fight with pirates at Sabahat Tungku".

From here I completed a loop past an aesthetic clock tower ringed by a roundabout, spotting an incline signed up to an observation point which I promptly reached, a viewpoint which revealed the contrast of Sandakan's unlovely dilapidated box construction with the gleaming island and merchant ship studded bay beyond. I resisted for want of time and energy a local museum in the Agnes Keith House, a more pressing concern being rehydration on what was now a typically scorching day unconducive to traipsing about. The only cold drink to be had however was at a very expensive colonial throwback still known as the English Tearoom and Garden, where tea and scones are still de rigeur, along with jazz music and a croquet lawn to set the scene. As it happened I bumped into Kiwi Ozzie Geoff here whom I had met at the hostel, and so together we pursued the quicker staircase route back down into town, another rare war survivor dubbed locally as "the 100 steps", passing the former Resident's "Palace" in the process. That night I completed my book of a young Ozzie guy who had been charged with drug trafficing in Thailand and done time in the Bangkok Hilton. Gripping but not exactly entertainment, I had finished it in 2 days flat.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Malaysia

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