A lot has changed since my last trip to Labuan back in 2011. Not so long ago, this federal territory was known as an important offshore financial centre offering international financial services while serving as a base for giant offshore oil and gas (O&G) companies. Back then, there were more business people rather than tourists.

Seven years later, I am back here again and I love seeing how this island has morphed into a more laidback, relaxing and fun-filled destination. It is now more of a tropical paradise where people converge to get that sun-kissed tan by the pristine beach and in the sea while experiencing year-long summer fling. Labuan is called “The Pearl of Borneo”, and its allure now extends beyond its strategic duty-free status and (O&G) businesses.

My second visit to Labuan gave me an entirely different experience from the first, which I think is for the better.

SEE

Labuan Museum & Labuan Square

(GPS: 5.277134, 115.245336)
The two-storey Labuan Museum is housed in a pre-war colonial building that presents enriching information regarding what was the island like before the arrival of the British. It is a one-stop centre for travellers to access any information about Labuan and written historical moments that make Labuan as one of Malaysia’s Federal Territories. Outside the museum is the historic Labuan Square, where the four Flame of the Forest trees stand tall on all four corners of the square, each planted by the Chinese, Malay, Indian and European communities respectively in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial

A memorial for the 3,908 war heroes, soldiers from Australia and Britain, Punjab Signal Corp, New Zealand and Northern Borneo.

(GPS: 5.287301, 115.261967)
This memorial was built and currently maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission to serve as a memorial for the 3,908 war heroes, soldiers from Australia and Britain, Punjab Signal Corp, New Zealand and Northern Borneo, who either died during battle or in captivity during World War II. It is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Labuan as it boasts a beautiful wide green lawn with inscribed headstones of the fallen heroes.

Patau-Patau Water Village

(GPS: 5.282662, 115.234581)
Visiting a water village in Labuan is a must because this feature makes the destination unique. The houses in Patau-Patau Water Village, which are inhabited by the Kedayan-Bruneian families, are built between five and six metres above water level, all connected to each other using wooden boardwalk. Though the village looks traditional from the outside, its infrastructure is organised and well developed, complete with water and power supply, internet connection and proper sewage system, including important public facilities like clinics, schools and place of worship. Though the Kedayan-Bruneian community members still maintain their traditional lifestyle and customs, they also embrace modern life and globalisation.

Peace Park & Surrender Point

Peace Park

Peace Park which was established in remembrance of the fallen soldiers and civilians during World War II.

(GPS: 5.332827, 115.192845)
Located close to Kampung Layang-Layangan, the Peace Monument Park was set up and taken care by the Japanese government to remember the fallen soldiers and civilians during World War II. Next to it, the Surrender Point is the place where the Japanese ceded their control of Labuan to the Australians and also the place where the remaining Japanese soldiers committed hara-kiri, a suicide act as a way to maintain their dignity after losing the war.

Read also: Melancholic and Historic Labuan

Labuan Heritage Trails @ Labuan Chimney

(GPS: 5.381016, 115.248914)
The real reason for this 106-foot red brick stack with typical British architecture being erected is still a mystery as there is no trace of smoke or burn to suggest that it was used as a chimney. Nevertheless, it still earns its place as one of Labuan’s main landmarks, especially after winning the International Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development in 2013 under the category of historic building architecture. Visiting this chimney to check out its fascinating built and accompanying museum that stores information regarding history of coal mining in Tanjung Kubong from 1847 until 1911 is highly recommended.

The Chimney is also the gateway to access Labuan Heritage Trail, an easy hike that ends at the tip of Tanjung Kubong, where travellers can enjoy the great panoramic view of South China Sea. Along the trail, travellers may find remnants of historical artefacts and structures such as ‘Gedung Ubat’ (Ammunition Store), a small and semi-rounded brick building that is believed to have stored Japanese explosives and artillery bullets during World War II. The trail takes about an hour for a return trip from The Chimney.

When in Labuan, also see:

An-Nur Mosque, Labuan Halal Hub, United Nation (UN) Beach Monument.

 

DO

Homestay Kampung Layang-Layangan

(GPS: 5.338784, 115.197166)
The villagers of Kampung Layang-Layangan are very heart-warming and friendly. This award-winning village offers travellers the valuable opportunity to experience hands-on local activities such as traditional cake-making and tasting kuih sapit, kuih jala and roti jala and enjoy a refreshing piasau (coconut drink) while being entertained by rich cultural performances in the form of silat, kompang and joget, including the never-ending sharing of the village’s history.

Kampung Layang-Layangan Homestay has won several recognitions and awards including the coveted title as the Most Visionary Village back in 2008, including the Cleanest Village Homestay in Malaysia. From this village, travellers can check out the beach that locals call Layang-Layangan where travellers can hire a boat and head to Snake Island, located a little less than ten minutes’ boat ride from the beach. The island is basically a big rock emerged from the sea and offers fun activities such as snorkelling and cliff-jumping! It is also a great spot for those who love fishing.

Satay Tuna Factory

Tuna Satay

The up-and-coming signature of Labuan, Satay Tuna.

(GPS: 5.265575, 115.235930)
Fisheries Product Transformation Centre in Labuan is the pioneer of Tuna Satay that is produced commercially for the first time in Malaysia; and probably even in Asia. It began in May 2017, and the ready-to-cook Tuna Satay has been distributed to selected malls and hotels throughout Malaysia. It tastes better than chicken or beef satay, less in cholesterol and high in protein. Fisheries Glory is responsible marketing this product internationally.

Don’t like the look of tuna on skewers? Then travellers may also opt for tuna steaks, tuna balls and tuna burgers.

Address: Jabatan Perikanan Negeri Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan, Km 4, Jalan Patau-Patau, Peti Surat 81411, 87024 Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan
Tel: +6087415881 Fax: +6087412885

Rusukan Besar Island

Rusukan Besar Island

Rusukan Besar Island is pristine, perfect getaway to escape the urban bustle. [Credit: Zahariz Khuzaimah]

(GPS: 5.201460, 115.140188)
Considered as still pristine, this uninhabited island is a perfect getaway from the urban bustle. A snorkelling trip to this island costs MYR180 per person. The underwater scenery is beautifully filled with corals and micro planktons. There are various tiny fishes swimming around the corals near the beach. Once in a while, snorkellers will be pleasantly surprised by the presence of black tip sharks and turtles.

For those who would like to stay overnight on the island, there are five units of A-shaped huts available for rent. A turtle conservation centre has been erected too especially after the authorities discovered that turtles land on Rusukan Besar, including the neighbouring Rusukan Kecil and Kuraman islands, to lay eggs.

Other activities that can be done on the island are kayaking, barbecuing, picnicking and sunbathing.

 

Parahu Larai

Parahu Larai

Parahu larai is a new addition to Labuan. [Credit: Zahariz Khuzaimah]

Riding on parahu larai – a newly-designed wooden outrigger canoes with sail – is a new addition to Labuan and totally recommended. The idea came from the traditional way the Kedayan-Bruneian people has been sailing across the sea. Parahu larai offers another way to enjoy an exhilarating sight-seeing experience in Labuan over water. One trip costs MYR15 per person for a 20-minute journey. Travellers need to put on their wet attire because they might fall into the water when the boat is hit by strong waves. However, fear not, because riding on parahu larai is safe.

The two places where travellers can experience riding on parahu larai are Ramsey Point and Papan Island.

 

Papan Island

One of the exciting activities travellers may experience at Papan Island, flying sofa boat. [Credit: Zahariz Khuzaimah]

(GPS: 5.254338, 115.270844)
This small island across Ramsey Point – where Labuan International Sea Sports Complex is located – has always been a favourite weekend getaway for local families and tourists. Since my last visit to this place seven years ago, Papan Island’s facilities has markedly improved and more chalet units have been erected. These days, there are more activities offered here such as parahu larai, banana boat and flying sofa boat.

Even the trek to the lighthouse located on higher ground has been upgraded and more paths covered. I recommend spending at least half-a-day here.

 

Labuan International Golf Club

Labuan International Golf Club

The golf course has the first nine holes surrounded by lush rainforest greenery.

(GPS: 5.277138, 115.171586)
The brand-new Labuan International Golf Club (LIGC) features many new services, including its soon-to-be-completed Malaysia’s first duty-free premium outlet set to be launched in early 2019. It is located amidst mesmerising scenery where the rainforest meets sea coast. Designed by renowned Australian designer Parslow & Winter Golf Course Design, the golf course has the first nine holes surrounded by lush rainforest greenery, while the other nine holes dot along the coastline with sea view. LIGC strives to deliver a memorable golfing experience in Labuan.

Address: Jalan Sungai Pagar, 87000 W. P. Labuan
Tel: +6087468468 Fax: +6087468467
Email: info@ligc.com.my URL: http://www.ligc.com.my

 

ATV Ride by Smart Ryders ATV at Desa Tunas Hijau

(GPS: 5.289384, 115.172969)
All-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides near Sungai Miri Beach is operated by Smart Ryders ATV from Desa Tunas Hijau. Although ATV is synonymous with extreme sports, here it offers three options to travellers: village track, jungle track and beach track. Every tracks offers different facet of Labuan. The best part of this ride is revving along Sungai Miri Beach while taking in the glorious sunset view.

Address: Desa Tunas Hijau, 87000 WP Labuan
Tel: +60143580027
Email: smartrydersatv@gmail.com URL: https://www.instagram.com/smartrydersatv

When in Labuan, also do:

Duty-free shopping, which is almost everywhere on the island. Other places to do shopping are Labuan Central Market and Muzium Marina Labuan.

 

EAT

Warung Jeliti

Warung Jeliti

Warung Jeliti

(GPS: 5.288499, 115.197113)
Enjoy savoury Labuan dishes the way locals love them, which storm the place during lunch hour especially on weekdays, thus avoid coming here between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Try the eatery’s special fish cooked in sour gravy, prawns cooked in yellow coconut milk gravy and local salad with chilli paste.

Address: 705, Jalan Bebuloh, 87000 Labuan
Tel: +60135400849
Email: warungjeliti@yahoo.com URL: https://www.facebook.com/Warung-Jeliti-336306793086201

 

Mr Crab Seafood & Steamboat Restaurant

(GPS: 5.287148, 115.212998)
This restaurant is located at the confluence of two rivers with lush mangrove backdrop, serving wide array of seafood such as king lobster, tiger prawn, and snow skin red bean roll, among others. We totally recommend the restaurant’s special pumpkin crab and Thai-style steamed abalone.

Address: Eco Pelancongan Kinabenua, Jalan Kinabenua, 87000 Labuan.
Tel: +60172280288
URL: https://www.facebook.com/Mr-Crab-Seafood-Steamboat-Restaurant-426571124376169

 

Anjung Ketam, Nagalang Seafood Restaurant

(GPS: 5.315205, 115.254973)
This is another good option to savour seafood in Labuan, but it is a little secluded with 360-degree panoramic view of the ocean. The seafood is fresh because it’s directly bought from local fishermen. It can be quite hot in the afternoon but the sea breeze cools the place down and makes dining here worthwhile.

Address: Simpang Ikan Todak 24 Kerupang 1, Kampung Nagalang, 87000 Labuan
Tel: +60178392870
Email: kampungnagalangseafood@gmail.com
URL: https://www.facebook.com/kampungnagalangseafoodrestaurant

 

Mawilla Yatch Club Seafood Restaurant

Mawilla Yatch Club Seafood Restaurant

Mawilla Yatch Club Seafood Restaurant

(GPS: 5.276507, 115.258876)
Located within the Yatch Club near Ramsey Point, it offers dining experience on the beach with the panorama of Brunei Bay and Papan Island. It is famous for its delectable selection of seafood accompanied by spectacular sunset view, offering a perfect setting for families, small intimate groups of friends and even romantic couples. The restaurant’s butter milk prawn, Nestum prawn, salted egg crabs and mussels in chilli are must-try’s.

Address: Jalan Tanjung Batu, 87000 Labuan.
Tel: +6087423888

Mortar Cafe, Lazenda Hotel

(GPS: 5.278602, 115.246153)
Latest addition to the Labuan food scene is the hip and Instagram-able Mortar Café, the sister brand of Lazenda Hotel, which offers unique all-day dining experience. There is an all-day breakfast on the menu and meals for both lunch and dinner. The ambience is trendy, befitting its tagline “Eat, Chill and Drink”. We recommend that travellers order Prawn Somtam, Charcoal Burger, and Mortar Laksa, including amazing desserts like Durian Cheesecake and Coconut Yoghurt Gelato.

Address: Block C & D, Lazenda Centre, Jalan OKK Abdullah, Bandar Labuan, 87007 Labuan
Tel: +6087580800 / Fax: F +6087580600
Email: enquiries@lazendahotel.com URL: https://www.facebook.com/Mortar-Cafe-Lounge-374398149598502/

 

When in Labuan, also eat:

At Ramsey Point, where local street food is abound.

 

STAY

Pilly Homestay, Kampung Layang-Layangan

(GPS: 5.339750, 115.197518)
Address: No.13-5034, Jalan OKK Daud, Kampung Layang-Layangan, 87000 Labuan.
Tel: +60178133566/+6087467566
Email: pillyhomestay@gmail.com URL: https://www.facebook.com/pillyhomestay/

Palm Beach Resort & Spa

(GPS: 5.386312, 115.238696)
Address: Jalan Batu Manikar, 87014 Labuan
Tel: +6087418700 / Fax: +6087418732
Email: info@palmbeachresortspa.com URL: http://www.palmbeachresortspa.com/

Tiara Labuan Hotel

(GPS: 5.282321, 115.260937)
Address: Jalan Tanjung Batu, 87007 Labuan
Tel: +6087414300 / Fax: +6087410195
Email: reservations@tiaralabuan.com URL: http://www.tiaralabuan.com/

Lazenda Hotel

(GPS: 5.278602, 115.246153)
Address: Block C & D, Lazenda Centre, Jalan OKK Abdullah, Bandar Labuan, 87007 Labuan
Tel: +6087580800 / Fax: F +6087580600
Email: enquiries@lazendahotel.com URL: http://www.lazendahotel.com/

This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.3. Read the magazine for free HERE.

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