Labuan N05 16 32 E115 14 83
Labuan was a great surprise. The last duty free island we went to was Tioman, a visual delight. Labuan is an oil terminal with the docks, cranes, silos and rubbish that go with such places. It just seems very odd to have all this on an island but it keeps the mainland clear and clean.
Labuan has a marina but like many in Malaysia it started breaking up before it was ever finished. There is a plush looking marina building but the pontoons are just about unusable. We anchored outside in 11 metres over good holding mud in lee of the marina wall and had a comfortable stay away from the busy ferry terminal. The town is modern, some guides describe it as Sabah’s Vegas but it hardly compares. However, it does cater for oil workers, rig and supply vessel crews and their land based support workers and managers. There are lots of ex-pats about, plenty of restaurants and, of course, duty free shops. It also has a nice workaday feel in parts of the town as there are many small workshops and techno shops in some of the side roads. The harbour is packed with vessels of every kind.
During the last world war the Japanese held this island for 3 years and at the end of the war it was where the North Borneo Japanese forces surrendered, the site is commemorated now by a Peace Park. Many Japanese officers were tried here for their part in the death marches from Sandakan POW camps to inland sites, hundreds of prisoners, particularly Australians, died as a result. There are about 4,000 headstones at the memorial cemetery in honour of those who died in North Borneo. Post war development followed by the oil industry has shaped this island into a busy industrial sea port and large airport.
We didn’t need our dinghy here as the harbour has a fleet of water taxis which can be called up on VHF to carry crew ashore. This was marvellous for us as we were buying slabs of beer and bottles of wine et al. We chose a shop opposite the water taxi base and the staff even carried our goods along for us, all we had to do was load it onto the boat, perfect.