School hols are here again. Are you feeling the pinch from unfavourable foreign currency exchange? Still wanna to take the family for a short vacay? Then set sail for Labuan with Malaysia Airlines (MAB) – enjoy great savings with the current Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Dekat Je promo deals.
Located 6km away from the Borneo coast of East Malaysia, Labuan is one of Malaysia’s three federal territories and our nation’s only offshore financial centre. But finance and petroleum aren’t the only things to make Labuan tick.
The name Labuan which comes from the Malay word ‘labohan’ for port, is an undiscovered gem as a low-key holiday destination. A recent visit organised by Dorsett Grand Labuan proved to be a revelation of sorts, surprising us with endless possibilities of things to do, see, eat and buy on the sun-kissed, laidback island. Labuan has something to offer to everyone - check out this informative overview of what to expect.
BOUNTIFUL FOODIE TEMPTATIONS
If you're lucky, you'd reel in this exquisite tasting flesy fish known
as 'hoi dhai gai' (ocean chicken)
No visit to Labuan is complete without a meal or two or three of its freshest seafood. A short 30-min drive away from Dorsett Grand Labuan will take you to Kampung Nagalang Seafood Restaurant (Jalan Kerupang 1, Kampung Nagalang, Simpang Ikan Todak 24,W.P. Labuan,tel: +6017 898 3837/012 834 1997).
Set out on stilts out in the open sea, the rustic wood-built resto has numerous tanks of live deep-sea fishes, shellfish and crustaceans for your selection. You’d go ga-ga over the wide variety but our dinner touted mostly the resto's house specialities.
Dishes which floated our boat included crispy white bait, stir-fried slipper lobsters with salted egg and stir-fried ‘kam heong’ crabs which come slicked in a caramelised, saucy coating of thick soya sauce, crushed black pepper, garlic and curry leaves.
That seafood-laden dinner whetted our appetite for fresh catches of seafood from Labuan to cart home. Here’s a hint: wake up at the crack of dawn and head out to Labuan Fisheries (Jalan OKK Awang Besar, 87000 WP Labuan) where an open-air fish and seafood market is sited. Avid cooks and seafood lovers will be hooked by amazing seafood choices at pocket-friendly prices. For instance, a 1kg+ seven-star grouper costs about RM150 only.
Looking for local snacks like ampalang or dried food like anchovies and dried fish? Then Labuan Central Market (Jalan Bunga Tanjung, WP Labuan) with its orderly sections of meat, fish/seafood and vegetable cum grocery beckons. Walk through the covered complex for a cornucopia of local sights, sounds and smell.
Don’t forget Labuan is a duty-free island so booze and chocs are great buys too. Just pop into the One Stop Duty Free Shop at Victoria Point (Lot A, G Floor, Victoria, Jalan OKK Awang Besar, 87000 WP Labuan, tel: +6016 2020 200/+608 7421 178 ) for ample supplies
of imported chocolates and alcoholic beverages. All at jaw-dropping low prices compared to Peninsular Malaysia.
FASCINATING FINDS FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Serious history buffs should hire local historian Willie Teoh (hp no: 019-8820 551) to guide them on a historical walk. His deep-seated passion and keen interest in Labuan’s early days and community affairs should help you delve into Labuan’s historical past at the Labuan Museum (U 0364, Jalan Dewan, 87008 WP Labuan, tel: 087-414 135).
Let him take you through the island’s different transition periods, from the prehistoric era up to the formation of the Labuan Corporation. The museum's splendid showcase also illustrates the cultural and economic contributions of the Brunei Malay, Kadayan, Chinese, Kadazan-Dusun, Indian and Sikh communities in this territory.
A sense of serene poignancy reigns at the Labuan War Memorial Park where orderly rows and rows of white headstones stood sentinel as tribute to the 3,908 soldiers from Australia, Great Britain, India, New Zealand and Malaysia who died during World War II. Perusing the engraved names, military ranks and ages of the fallen heroes reminded us of their bravery and sacrifice.
Likewise, another historic site to visit is Surrender Point Memorial. At this landmark on September 10, 1945, Lieutenant General Masao Baba of the 37th Japanese Army officially surrendered his sword to Australian Major General George Wootten to signal the ceremonial end of WWII in Labuan.
As a symbol of hope to pray such war atrocities would never again occur in Labuan, we came face-to-face with a huge rock from Nagoya which is the main centrepiece at Peace Park. The landscaped and well-maintained premise also stands as a memorial to late soldiers and civilians who perished during the war and as a sign of eternal friendship between Japan and Malaysia.
Coal-mining activities which occurred between 1847 and 1911 in Labuan will also garner some attention from first-time visitors. It is said The Chimney in Tanjung Kubong may be related to those early goings-on but nothing has been proven thus far. In fact, the sturdy 32-metre high rectangular raw red brick structure which is over a century old, has no tell-tale function or purpose as far as historians can detect. The Chimney’s mysterious existence remains an unsolved puzzle to this day, with rife speculations about it being a lighthouse or bell tower or a smoke stack.
GEAR UP FOR SPORTING SPIRITS
Families and friends who enjoy being on the go can rent bicycles (contact LDA Holdings - Ms Syafiqah, tel: +60 8 7413 155 or +6013-507 0795) and go on a cycling tour. Start from Dorsett Grand Labuan and follow a scenic trail which takes you past popular tourist attractions such as War Memorial Park, International Sea Sports Complex, An’Nur Jamek Mosque and Botanical Garden.
Our biking entourage was given VIP escort all the way, thanks to Tourism Malaysia Manager Cik Norhidayah Md Noor and the support of the Chief of Police Tuan Adzhar Othman from Labuan PDRM and his men in white.
Alternatively, go back to nature by hiking up the 148-metre Bukit Kubong. Covered with lush shrubbery, the path uphill is easy enough for novice hikers to attempt. Once you reach the peak, be rewarded by a panoramic view of sandy shores and verdant greenery.
Golfing enthusiasts may tee off at the Labuan International Golf Club (Jalan Sungai Pagar, Kiansam, 87000 WP Labuan, tel: +60 87 468468). The club welcomes kiddies to try their hand at the driving range too. Who knows, you may just discover the lil ones have a knack for it.
Life's a beach in Labuan so go island-hopping when you're there. The crystal-clear water and pristine sun-kissed beach of Pulau Kuraman is but a short boat-ride away (call Rodney, hp no: 016-328 1689 for boat hire, email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Take your time to swim, frolic around or catch forty winks on tree-hung hammocks under shady trees. Bring along a picnic lunch to stave off hunger pangs after all that splashing fun.
Thank you to Dorsett Hotels & Resorts and Malaysia Airlines with support from Tourism Malaysia for making this Labuan media fam possible.