Over, but not yet out.

I thought, as we are still sailing in foreign climes, that I would blog our further sea travels , just a bit more. We are in The Federal Territory of Labuan. I had never heard of this place until we decided to go on the East Malaysia Rally. It is a duty free island and the lure was to stock up on alcohol and fuel. We are here to take a ride 180 mm on a beautiful 50 ft Lagoon catamaran, Songbird, with Marilyn and Ian who are also from Melbourne and whom we met in Thailand. We plan to get off at Sandakan. It will be interesting being passengers ..relaxing , perhaps. It will be fun to catch up with all the people we met before we left the Rally.

My first impression of Labuan was ..wow, this place is very affluent. The airport is quite new , the roads really good and the standard of housing is superior. The roads , especially in the big town are treelined and the verges manicured. The hotel we are staying at is nice, super clean and has a lovely pool. We don’t stay at this standard of hotel often but we have stayed at some where things don’t work.

Its oil and gas. LabuanĀ is off shore from Brunei at the southern edge of Sabah. But Labuan has a significant history and some more recent history involves Australia. The Brits got it( coercion v helping the Sultan of Brunei defend his patch ???) way back in the mid 1800’s. It was strategic for shipping as it sits in the South China Sea . It also had coal for the steam ships plying trade from Asia to Australia and Europe. Britannia rules the waves. It was a British Protectorate and in the late 1800’s the Brits laid cable for a telegraph from Singapore , via Labuan to Hong Kong which sounds amazing. The British heritage may explain the grid layout of the main town and the tree lined streets.

It became the headquarters of the Japanese war effort in SE Asia for 4 years and was taken by the Australians under General Wooten who had a surrender signed at ” Surrender Point” on the north coast. We’ll check out the north coast tomorrow.

When we were travelling in Northern Thailand we visited the Thai Burma Railway and the war graves cemetery. They have a data base and I discovered that my uncle , though he died at Sandakan, was buried here. We checked the register and though his name is on a plaque , he has no separate grave. There are so many graves that have only ” Australian Soldier, name known only to God.” It is a lovely garden though and a sobering reminder of the loss of a generation of such young men.

It the Holy Month of Ramadan and though fasting is what it is famous for , I think that eating with friends and family is also an important part. The hotel has a buffet at night and the place is teaming with people after sundown, making up for lost time. They are a bit dressed up. Side streets and parks also have food stalls and families are out meeting up and having a good time. The parking attendant trying to bring some order to the hotel parking lot told me that it is “like this every day for the month”. He was looking a bit frazzled.

Songbird is arriving tomorrow , so we’ll do a bit of shopping and try to find an alcohol outlet. They appear not to be well advertised.



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