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Labuan: A distinctly black pearl!

Beaufort, Malaysia

As we had a few extra days to use, we decided not just to pass through Labuan on the way to Brunei but instead stay for two nights on what the local tourist board like to call 'the pearl of Malaysia'. So did we find anything interesting or as beautiful? Yes and No. Labuan suffers from its coastal position, we spent one afternoon walking along its relatively untouched west coast but were unable to make anything of it as the silt, winds and driftwood make swimming or relaxing very difficult. There are very few places to eat and seemingly even less people, however there are a number of large houses presumably owned by rich Chinese, Malay or other expatriates making the most of Labuan's duty-free status! Big houses!

En route pour Brunei, nous avons decide de faire un arret sur l'ile de Labuan, un centre financier offshore appelle "La perle" de la Malaisie. Il n'y a pas vraiment d'interet touristique, seulement economique sur cette ile qui est duty-free. Il y a donc surtout des expatries et des riches chinois menant a bien leur business dans le secteur du petrole ou des finances.

We stayed with a local family who employed a Philippine lady to look after guests, we quite enjoyed our stay but were confused as to whether we were staying in a guesthouse or someone's home! Another little detail was the motorbike that we tried to hire; first we were taken to the hotel porter of the most expensive hotel in town and then as we tried to check with the police a number of them offered to help us out too. Basically there i no official moto hire on the island but if you ask then someone always has a friend, even the police! On our first night after a superb Indian meal we also met another local of some sorts; Paul, his partner Janet and his daughter Emma. Paul [originally from London] works in the oil rig service industry and has been living on Labuan for some time now. We had a few drinks and arranged to meet up the next evening.

Nous sommes restes dans le seul hostel de la ville, une experience plutot...familiale! Dans le dortoir de 12, il y avait donc nous deux, une belle jeune femme qui rentrait tard le soir, l'employee provenant des Philippines...et sa petite fille de 4 ans (qui adorait jouer... dans sa chambre, normal mais un peu bruyant du coup pour nous)! Sinon nous voulions decouvrir l'ile a moto: mission du jour, en louer une. Nous avons appris qu'il n'y a pas de magasin pour cela. On nous a envoye vers l'hotel le plus luxueux, voir un employe qui nous propose de louer la moto de son ami... Preferant la voie plus legale avec les assurances et tout (on sait jamais en Malaisie...), nous poursuivons nos recherches en vain. Nous nous arretons devant un poste de police et nous demandons conseil. Tout le monde veut nous aider et le chef aussi. Et il appelle un de ses amis pour nous louer une moto au black! On a hallucine! Bon finalement on a pris le bus... Le soir, nous avons fait la connaissance de Paul, un expat tres sympa travaillant dans le petrole vivant sur l'ile depuis quelques annees, mais aussi Janet sa compagne et Emma sa fille avec qui nous avons prevu de sortir le lendemain soir.

The next day we went to a bird park but it wasn't that great and seeing some of the birds made us a little sad, remember that recently we saw many of them in the wild along the Kinabatangan river. We also spotted this notice in a local hotel window! It was a sign of things to come as Paul explained to us about how duty-free life on Labuan often means foreign nationals from other parts of Malaysia and around Asia coming to drink hard and enjoy the local influx of illegal Philippine women working as prostitutes. We went on to see for ourselves as we enjoyed a night out with Paul and Janet - it was a good night though! As was the whole experience really, seeing the reality of a strange island where different nationalities cross paths in the shadows of big money oil rigs and financial 'agreements' but 'a pearl' - well not quite.

Le lendemain apres-midi nous sommes alles visiter un parc a oiseaux ou une mega sono installee par les macons diffusait du hard-rock a fond (un peu paradoxal avec le calme des oiseaux!). Cette visite etait une des seules choses a faire sur l'ile mais finalement c'etait plus triste qu'autre chose car les animaux sauvages faisaient peine a voir dans leurs petites cages. Il etait temps d'aller s'amuser un peu et de penser a autre chose, nous avons fait la fete avec Paul et Janet ce soir la. Ce que nous retiendrons de Labuan, c'est surtout ce qu'on a pu observer et comprendre du fonctionnement de vie locale sur le business, l'alcool et la prostitution. "La perle"? Pas vraiment...

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on February 18, 2010 from Beaufort, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Malaysia, Labuan and Oil

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