• Australian WWII
Memorial • Agnes Keith House • The English Tea House •
• The Sam Sing Kung Temple • Puh Jih Shih Buddha Temple • St Michaels & All
Angels Church •
Being the former
capital of Sabah (then North Borneo), Sandakan is rich in historical monuments
and other places of interest.
This site of quiet remembrance is dedicated to some 2700 Australian POW who
died at the Sandakan POW camp and in the ensuing death marches through the
jungles of Sabah.
With the Japanese occupation during WWII, a POW camp was established just
outside of Sandakan to house approximately 750 British and more than 1650
Australian prisoners who were sent to the camp during the period 1942-43.
With the Allies closing in, the Japanese decided to force march the emaciated
prisoners 250 km inland to the village of Ranau. Known as the Sandakan Death
Marches, prisoners who were unable to walk were shot. Those who survived to
reach Ranau were herded into unsanitary and crowded huts and many died from
By the end of the War only six Allied prisoners survived, all of whom were
Australian soldiers of which only three survived the lingering effects of
their ordeal to give evidence at war crimes trials
Location - Jalan Labuk Utara, Mile 8
Agnes Keith House
The Agnes Keith House is hard to miss. With its sprawling green lawns and
colonial-style wooden walls, the residence was once occupied by the noted
American writer, Agnes Newton Keith. The Novels ‘Land below the Wind’ and
‘White Man Returns’ were written in the house where she had the best views of
Sandakan Bay at the front and the Sulu Sea at the back.
Restored by the Sabah Museum, upon the ruined foundations of the original
house that was destroyed during the war and turned into a heritage house, it
provides interesting insights to life during British North Borneo. It is
furnished with a reproduction of colonial furniture and antiques. A gallery on
the first floor tells the story of this remarkable woman, her books and her
Location – Jalan Istana
English Tea House
Offering wonderful view over Sandakan Town and Bay is the English Tea House.
Visit this place for an authentic ‘colonial’ tea-time, or some elegant dining.
The place serves fine teas from around the world, scones & clotted cream,
delicious cakes & pastries and a wide a la carte selection of Asian and
traditional English Specialties. There is also a wide selection of beverages
at the long bar.
English meals as well as afternoon tea and scones. Those interested in a game
of croquet can have a game whilst sipping cold lemonade on a sunny day.
Location - Adjacent to the Agnes Keith
House, on Bukit Istana
The Sam Sing Kung Temple
Built in 1885 as a religious centre for the Chinese immigrants from Guangdong
Province in China, namely the Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka and Hainanese. The
temple keeps many historical artifacts and plaques, which contain valuable
information on early Sandakan, including a bronze bell presented by the first
Kapitan Cina of Sandakan, which refers to Sandakan as the harbour where
The Sam Sing Kung Temple, or the ‘Three Saints’ Temple’, is the oldest
building in Sandakan. The three saints are Kwan Woon Cheung - saint of
righteousness; the goddess of Tin Hou, worshipped by fishermen and seamen for
protection, and the Min Cheong Emperor, worshipped by hopeful students who
seek success in examinations (even to this day).
Location - Situated at the edge of the
town padang (field)
Jih Shih Buddha Temple
A popular temple that is on the regular city tour is the Temple, erected on a
100-meter high hilltop above Tanah Merah, provides a breathtaking view over
Sandakan Bay. The interior is an extravaganza in red and gold, with writhing
dragons and gilded Buddha’s. The temple protects the Sandakan people and
brings health and wealth.
Michaels & All Angels Church
One of Sabah’s first and only granite churches, the beautiful building,
reminiscent of an English countryside church, was completed in 1913, after
twenty years of construction work.
The first stone building erected in Sandakan, it was built on a foundation to
resemble a cross, each granite stone block was laid purely by human effort.
Lying on narrow strip of land between steep hills and the waters of the Sulu
Sea, bears little
evidence of its early history as a result of war-time bombing. Looking like a
typical English country church, traces of the colonial period can be seen in
this quaint stone church.
Though not very big, this church commands a stately, grandiose presence. It
was here that the POWs spent the night upon their arrival from Singapore
before heading to Mile 8 camp the next day. The stain glass window in the
church was donated by Australian and British families and serves as a memorial
to the POWs and also a thanksgiving to the locals who had risked their lives
to help them.
Location - Elton Hill
Other places of interest in Sandakan town area are the Japanese Cemetery along
Jalan Istana, with a monument to those Japanese soldiers who fought and died
in Sabah during WWII, and the Japanese women who worked here and died in
Sandakan; the Crocodile Farm and the Forestry Headquarters at Labuk Road; the
Labuk Bay Proboscis Sanctuary within the Yet Hing Oil Palm Plantation; the
world renown Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok; and the