Photo: Temples and incense feature on the self-guided Sandakan Heritage Trail.

Sandakan Heritage Trail

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A good way to get a feel for the city of Sandakan is to pick up a map and follow the self-guided Sandakan Heritage Trail. There’s a few hills and a few (okay, 100 stairs), and not that much to see, as much of Sandakan was destroyed in World War II. It’s a pleasant two-hour (or more) walk, however, and the added bit of history makes it interesting.





Go early morning, as the midday sun can be scorching. We followed the trail (almost) in the opposite direction to the official map, so we could take a break at the English Tea House near the end of the walk, and walk down the One Hundred Steps, as opposed to up. Either direction, you’ll still be walking up steep hills.

Unfortunately, Sandakan Heritage Museum is not well maintained. Photo taken in or around Sandakan Heritage Trail, Sandakan, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Unfortunately, Sandakan Heritage Museum is not well maintained. Photo: Sally Arnold

The walk begins at Masjid Jamek, Sandakan’s oldest mosque, built in the 1890s by Indian merchants. We wandered up, and even though we were dressed respectfully, felt a bit like a pork chop. We weren’t made to feel unwelcome, but it seems they don’t get many foreign visitors. Better to see from the street. It’s not that beautiful or interesting, but a good landmark to start the walk.

Passing the William Pryer Monument, we headed to the Sandakan Heritage Museum (daily 09:00-17:00) within Wisma Warisan. William Pryer (1845-1899) is regarded as the founder of modern Sandakan. Unfortunately, the museum suffers from neglect. On the ground floor, an exhibition documenting colonial “adventurers” Martin and Osa Johnson who travelled to Borneo from 1920 till 1936 and made a series of sensationalist Hollywood films. Upstairs there’s not much to see, but there are some interesting photos of old Sandakan. Give it a miss if you’re in a hurry.

Nope, not the United Kingdom. Photo taken in or around Sandakan Heritage Trail, Sandakan, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Nope, not the United Kingdom. Photo: Sally Arnold

Instead of turning up the One Hundred Steps at this point, we visited Sam Sing Kung Temple (Three Saints Temple) (daily 07:00-15:00) at the back of the Padang Sandakan. Built in 1887, this smokey, incense-filled Chinese Taoist temple is one of Sandakan’s oldest, and worth a step inside. Worshippers in the temple include fishermen praying for protection, and hopeful students seeking success in their exams. One small statue of a deity is surrounded with beer, cigarettes, and piles of fake money—we’re not sure where he fits into the ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Popular attractions in Sandakan

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Sandakan.



Best places to stay in Sandakan

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Sandakan.


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Sandakan.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Sandakan.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Sandakan.
 Read up on how to get to Sandakan.
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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Sandakan? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.


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