May Fair Hotel

May Fair Hotel

Quirky and clinically clean

More on Sandakan

We almost laughed when we walked into May Fair Hotel: this quirky joint has Eastern Bloc mental hospital ambience down to a T. On inspection though, it has all the amenities you’ll need for a comfortable stay, and when you control the chuckling, it’s good Instagram fodder to boot. You won’t find better value in Sandakan.

Travelfish says:

The no-nonsense owner, Mr Lum, runs a tight ship; not only is everything spick and span, he’s in the know on everything local and ready to answer any questions you may have too.

No drugs. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
No drugs. Photo: Sally Arnold

The well-sized ward rooms are painted with an institutional style two-tone treatment in butter yellow and powder blue. Small street facing windows are large enough to brighten the rooms, and double glazed to block the noise. Immaculate housekeeping turns what could look tired and older-style into retro. Scrubbed tiled floors and fake-wood-laminate furniture add to the hospice effect and a series of warning signs dictate the rules: “children must not wet the bed” (complete with illustrations), and “please do not iron clothes on the blanket” are among the more amusing. The bed is firm—very firm—but comfortable and made up with spotless linen. Beds are straightened and hospital corners folded daily.

Rooms are equipped with a large flatscreen TV and DVD player, and if you’re up for a movie marathon, guests can borrow from Mr Lum’s vast collection of thousands of DVDs, mostly action films catalogued by hero (although he has one very small category of romance). We did smile at the section labelled “gigantic animal movies”.

It's a real time capsule. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
It's a real time capsule. Photo: Sally Arnold

A strip of fluoro lighting above the bed has switches within easy reach, so you won’t go blind squinting in the dark to read. Bring every device you have and more — we counted 15 power outlets in one room, so you’ll not be left wanting. Air-con is efficient, but the free WiFi, not so, which is more because of a problem of the signal in Sandakan than anything to do with the hotel. A thermos of hot water and two glass bottles of drinking water are supplied daily (yay, no plastic). All that’s missing is a fridge, but you could possibly use the one in reception. The bathroom is older styled, but clinically clean with an extremely good pressured hot-water rain shower, and a clothesline ready-strung to dry your smalls.

A couple of communal computers are available to use. Breakfast isn’t included, but plenty of cafes and restaurants are just outside the door. Mr Lum can organise taxis and tours for fair prices. May Fair Hotel is well located, right in the middle of town and is excellent value. If you’d prefer a hotel with a sea view, Hotel Seafront is at a similar pricepoint.

Contact details for May Fair Hotel

Address: Block 26 No. 24 Jalan Pryer, Sandakan
T: (089) 219 855; (089) 219 892;  
Coordinates (for GPS): 118º7'4.18" E, 5º50'20.38" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 60 ringgit

Room rates

What we were quoted as a walk-in.

Dbl air-con private bathroom 50 ringgit 50 ringgit

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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