Friday, August 15, 2008

Around Labuan Part 1

I had about a whole day to see the sights of Labuan, with Mark, my personal tour guide, who ably showed me around the various places of interest on the island.

First up was the Chimney, a 30-metre red-brick tower, which was built in the early 1900's at the height of the coal-mining industry here under British Occupation.

No one really knows the actual purpose of the tower. Inside, it appears unused, and as it is not connected to any preexisting mine shafts underneath it, could not have been used as a ventilation shaft as its name would suggest.

There are some speculations that it probably was as a lighthouse due to its location by the sea, but till today, the tower remains a source of mystery and fascination for locals and tourists alike.

Next up, was a ride along the seaside highway. The beaches in Labuan are not exactly the most picturesque, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of serenity and contentment as I made my way along the sandy coastline.

The beach was deserted save for a few people fishing by the water's edge. It was 12.00 noon and I have to really admire their enthusiasm and tenacity in pursuing their hobby as it was FREAKING HOT out there under the cloudless and sunny Labuan sky.

Afterwards, we decided to get some much needed refreshments at a hawker centre next to the War Memorial Park, also known as Peace Park.

Peace Park was built as a symbol to renunciate the horrors of war. At its centre, there is a big white tiled memorial mound which is surrounded by Japanese style landscaped gardens and pavilions.

Next to the Peace Park is Surrender Point. This is the exact spot where where the commander of the Japanese Army surrendered to the Australian 9th Division on September 9, 1945.

All in all, Japanese soldiers occupied Labuan (and the rest of Borneo) for four years from 1941 - 1945 before the Allied forces headed by the Australian Army recaptured control of the island, signalling the end of World War II in Borneo.

Today, the town of Labuan (formerly known as Victoria) is a modern town that is growing rapidly due to its burgeoning ship-building industry and its status as an international off-shore financial centre.

As we drove across town following a rather heavy lunch, we stopped by this ubiquitous clock tower standing proudly in the middle of a field. Mark wants me to state it loud and clear right here: This clock tower, which cost RM4 million to build, is a white elephant. It doesn't even keep the right time!

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