Sandakan, Malaysia- Today was a goat rodeo.

January 5, 2013 in Asia, Malaysia

There is no scenario in which a Four Points by Sheraton, with en casa McDonalds improves a waterfront; Sandakan is no exception.

I wasn’t sure which was more nauseating, the smell emanating from the fast food joint’s exhaust fan or the sickly sweet smell of sewage in the Sulu Sea, calling into question whether the Sheraton was living up to its first world sanitation and green initiative standards. I never cease to be disappointed by the effect of the exportation of the worst of American culture and the complete lack of regard paid to both people and place where we put down our ugly roots. It’s not as if the entire tourist trade of Sandakan on a fantastic week would fill that hotel. There must be some business angle to it that I don’t see.

Sandakan has been a place that has been alive in my dreams

Ever since I was about Hannah’s age and I was first transported here in a book. I’ll tell you more about that in a few days. Suffice it to say, I’m very excited to be here, but getting here has been a goat rodeo.

I love mornings with a deadline when the alarm doesn’t go off. Well, technically, it went off… but the sound was shut off on Tony’s iPad… so we didn’t hear it. We woke up 40 minutes late, 5 minutes before the landlord was coming to check us out of the apartment, 15 minutes before we were supposed to be loading into a mini-bus.

I pause at this moment to thank my children who had set their alarms properly, left the sound on, actually got up, folded all the drying laundry, packed their bags, made their beds, collected the dirty towels for washing and were sweeping up and cleaning the fridge out when I tumbled out of bed on freak-out mode. 


You know what I love even more than the alarm not going off?

  • The mini-bus not showing up to take us to the bus station.
  • Nearly missing the bus.
  • Missing breakfast altogether.
  • A complete absence of any opportunity for food for the next 8 hours.
  • Mountain roads that make those in the highlands of Guatemala actually seem rather put together.
  • Forgetting to give the notoriously car sick child his meds.


Yep, it was that kind of day.

On the upside:

The scenery was breathtaking:

  • Waterfalls plunging hundreds of feet down sheer cliff faces, breathtaking.
  • Greens I cannot describe, breathtaking.
  • Driving above the clouds, breathtaking.

That sort of made up for the moaning of the child who was trying not to puke. Nope. I take that back. The only thing that made that moaning better, was that he managed not to puke. The same cannot be said of the toddler at the front of the bus.

So, here we are, installed in what is a serious contender for the WORST hostel we’ve ever stayed in.

  • Dirty sheets, bad.
  • Don’t touch the walls, bad.
  • Shower overflowing into the room, bad.
  • Huge cockroach, bad.
  • “WHOA Mom!! Did you see that BIG RAT… no wait, there’s ANOTHER ONE,” bad.


Here’s hoping there are no bed bugs.

Oh, and in other, shocking, (I know you won’t believe this because it’s Borneo) news: The internet sucks. 😉

In spite of it all, I’m giddy. I read to the children for two hours from a book that happened right here. We ate dinner on the wharf next to an ink black sea.

Rats and all, this place is a dream come true.