Little Town Called Tawau

I was thinking I should write a little about Tawau, eventhough we just spent a day here. I was lucky because I have an ex colleague working in Tawau, eventhough he doesn’t remember me. Hahaha! So, I just sent him a message to ask for tips on how to go about Tawau and he just offered to take us around when we decided to drop by!

After a great relaxing trip in Sipadan Water Village, we put up a night at MB Hotel in Tawau. After resting for a bit, my friend came to pick us up. He took us to Good View Restaurant. I reserved my comments on Good View because, I remember I read in blogs that this place actually ain’t cheap at all. But since he will be buying, I let him choose the place lah. Haha!

He has been working here for the past 3 years, so he basically knew where is best to go. He usually takes his clients and friends here, so he chose Good View over Kam Ling. Both restaurants served equally good and fresh seafood – so take your pick!

We let him did all the ordering since he’s familiar and here were some of the dishes.

Steamed fresh prawns

Steamed flower crabs

Steamed 7 star garoupa


Seaweed kerabu

Also, we had avocado juice! It proven to be a good choice because it wasn’t sweet or too creamy as I thought it would be. It was soothing.. like liquid yogurt. I was surprised to find that, Tawau actually grows Avocado commercially. We didn’t buy any back because, it wasn’t the season so, the avocado that we had, might be imported from Indonesia – according to my friend lah. If he bullshit me also, I won’t know! Haha!

It was indeed a good dinner, totally fresh seafood. And we had the 7 star steamed garoupa – it seems, this type of coral fish can only be found in Sabah, hence the cheaper price as opposed to eating in back in West Malaysia.

The next day, he took us to the wet market in Sin On. He briefed us a little on history of Tawau. We would have thought it was the Chinese who came and made the place economically prosperous but we were wrong. It was the Japanese. I read on Wikipedia, it was said that – the Japanese were in the fishing business, canning and exported the manufactured goods back to Japan, so he was right in a way. He told me, they were in seaweed business. Hence, there were some roads like Kuhara and Kubota named after the Japanese. After World War II, the Japanese lost to the Allies, the rule of any war is that, if your country lost the war, you have to uproot yourselves from the colony and return to your own country. So, dozens of Japanese had to forsake whatever they had painstakingly build in Tawau and return to Japan. See, you gain nothing in wars, only more destitution.

Coral fishes

Pasar Sin On

During the short visit to Sin On market, we got ourselves some coral fishes, lobsters and sea cucumber. Sea cucumber went as cheap as RM50 per kg, lobsters, Rm70 per kg, coral fishes ranging from RM50 to Rm90 per kg. So, my friends were right when I asked for things to do in Tawau – everybody actually ask me to buy seafood! That is why I saw many people bringing their own ice box on the plane! It is not allowed to check in your seafood, so be prepared to hand carry them. On our way back to KL, we saw many people carrying ice boxes!

Pork noodles

Then, our friend took us to this shop selling pork noodles. For the life of me, I cannot remember the place name! Haha! But the pork noodles is good. I regretted for not asking for intestines and pork balls, just meat. The pork balls are crunchy and they stuffed some fried squids inside made it all chewy!

After breakfast, my friend has to get back to work, so he dropped us at our hotel. Since he had a flight at 1 pm later that day, we bid him good bye and went loitering around Tawau on our own. It was nice to walk to the jetty to see the things going on. It was funny to see how the islanders roll the gas tanks to the jetty to be transported to other islands and also Kalimantan! Our friend advised us to be careful when walking around town because there have been many cases of robbery,well, doesn’t make any difference walking in KL then? So, we just be extra alert and careful.

We had a huge lunch at this place nearby our hotel called Kedai Kim Kim. Here, they served variety of tongshui and leong char! My favorite red bean soup was good! So was Jasmine’s bubur cha cha. You should try the herbal chicken with rice. I overheard many people ordering salted chicken, so I guess you could try to order that too! We also tried the siew mai and pai kuat. Well, it was mediocre but it does make you feel like you are eating at home.

Siew Mai & Pai Kuat

Red bean soup

View of Tawau waterfront

Old shoplot

We went for last minute shopping for dried seafood – shrimps and prawn/fish crackers called amplang. It was delicious! I think if we had planned properly earlier, then we would have bought even more things! We stopped by Wukka Cafe for tea break before heading back to our hotel, to get to the airport.

There isn’t much to do here in Tawau, but seafood is rather fresh and cheap! And sea produce are cheap too!

For other photos, click here!

Mabul, Sipadan & Kapalai

Couldn’t seem to find time to do a write up on these beautiful islands since I came home on Tuesday night! I was busy meeting up with friends from the islands trip and also meeting my Tawau host who happened to fly to KL on the same day as us.

Well, as you can see from my three posts on the islands and photos, there is no doubt that these islands are the most beautiful islands that I’ve ever been to! I’ve been to most islands in Malaysia, and Sabah truly has the most beautiful islands! It’s too bad that, we couldn’t hang out long enough in Sipadan Islands beach. I am not so much of a snorkeler, more of a beach bum.. so it’s a bummer that the Mabul does not provide a good beach to hang out or laze the day away.

I did post something on Conservation at Pulau Mabul earlier but decided to take it down because I saw the efforts that Sipadan Water Village (SWV) is doing in order to preserve the coral reefs along the shore and also around Pulau Mabul. That alone deserves recognition and respect. It’s most unfortunate that they couldn’t take hold of the entire island because there are other operators around the island and some of them are just plain irresponsible! Throwing rubbish everywhere! I hope that they will clear the unsightly rubbish on their part of the beach!

For some of our newly found divers friends, they find that Sipadan is kinda overrated. But for us, it was good! It’s famous for muck diving – where you could not see much reefs because of the murky sediments consist of dead corals but, more variety of species of fishes, turtles, sharks, cuttle fishes, squids, nudibranchs, starfishes, seahorses etc. If you want to see more reefs or macro fishes, it’s best to do shore dives. I saw pictures taken by my friends underwater and they are fabulous! My diver friend told me that, in Sipadan, if you get to see bumphead parrot fish, barracudas and jackfish, then your dive is complete! I think we got to see more!

As for me, the reluctant snorkeler (LOL!), I was equally excited to see the barracudas, jackfishes, bump heads parrots, sharks, turtles (mating some more!!), moray eels, colorful fishes (some even have pink colored tails, and they moved ever so gracefully , like ballerina in the water!), etc. We were caught in the middle of a school of jack fishes and barracudas that, for a brief 10 seconds in my life, I wanted to take up diving! Haha! But … no lah. The moment I jumped into the water, I was greeted by a dark blue bottomless sea! It was so scary that I have a picture of Great White Shark coming at me! Haha! I know there is no Great White Sharks in Malaysia! But then, we will never know! They now have piranhas in China rivers!

I have nothing much to say about the trip, apart from I tremendously enjoyed a totally relaxing holiday, staying in Sipadan Water Village, with top notch dive centers and ever engaging dive instructors, really good food and comfortable stay. We were very lucky to have gotten the place during their peak weekend because of the Conservation Marine Day, which is annually held in the middle of July. This is the time when the patron of this noble day, Dr Hayashi is here, with his entourage, to conduct underwater study on the reefs they planted since 15 years ago! Every year, this time, they would plant more coral and this time, we were lucky enough because, snorkelers get to participate too! It was such an honor to have your name put beside the coral you help to plant and you will get e-mails notifying the progress of your planted corals!

All in all, it was a great trip with even greater friends! Here are some of my favorite pictures from this trip, and more here.

Boy from the sea

Mr Crab fighting over territory

Double rainbows!

Sunrise at 5.30 am

Sunrise at 6.13 am

Little sea gypsy


1. Air Asia offers flight to Tawau, 2x daily. Try to catch the morning flight as there will be no boat ride to SWV after 5 pm.

2. Flight would take 2 hours and 50 minutes. A bus tide to Semporna jetty takes about an hour and another 40 minutes boat ride to reach SWV!

3. Every Friday at SWV is BBQ night, so you get to sample arrays of good and fresh seafood!

4. A diving/snorkeling trip to Sipadan Island is very limited, subject to availability. Those staying more than 3 nights would be given priority. Entrance to Sipadan is not included in the scuba package. A levy of Rm40 will be charged.

5. As SWV is rather earth friendly, there is no air conditioner in some rooms. For me, it was okay because, afterall, we are at a beach! What air cond??? Haha! Also, there is no tv in rooms – so, you are rest assured with total relaxation. Also, water is provided in 2 jugs 2x daily, you should bring your own water bottles too if you like to drink more water.

6. Maxis seems to have a good internet and line coverage here.

7. Wifi is available too.

8. Some friends bought fresh fishes and lobsters from Tawau and get the chefs in SWV to cook, subject to a fee. Do try the steamed lobster with egg white. Super awesome! Otherwise just buy from the dining hall itself, the lobsters are awesomely fresh! Look for Ah Keong!

9. It’s good for seasoned divers – most newbies would find it rather daunting as the Barracuda Point current could be very strong. So, if you are still very new and fresh, you would worry more rather than enjoying yourself, looking at the many species of fish that Sipadan has to offer! So, dive more to practise before coming here!

10. My friend’s dive instructor recommended us to stay at SWV because the dive masters/instructors here are very experienced and they are very professional and willing to share knowledge with you on your dives and the sea. It is true!

11. Bring old clothes of children to be given to the children of the sea gypsies, rather than giving them money. I gave them some biscuits and sweets I prepared for them prior to the trip. This only applies if you stay in Pulau Mabul. Because there is no sea gypsy in Kapalai. Nobody is allowed to stay in Pulau Sipadan – it’s only for snorkeling and diving purposes.

12. Bring your sunscreen, swimsuit and just chill out! I spent most of my time, sitting on the sun deck, overlooking the very crystal clear blue sea – reading, drinking my coffee or milo.. and just sleep in!

Hi from Sipadan


Hi, from Sipadan island! It is really beautiful here, with crystal clear waters and myriad colours of reefs so alive that made you wonder if you are still in Malaysia!

Today, I saw schools of jack fish and barracudas that made me gasped in disbelief!

Connection has been good here, so was able to blog! Will write more when I am back. Have a great weekend everyone!