Labuan is an island located just six miles off the northwest coast of Borneo. It is made up of the main island of Labuan and six small islets namely Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Burong, Pulau Papan and Pulau Daat.
Labuan was proclaimed a Federal Territory in 1984 and in 1990, it was declared an international offshore financial centre and free trade zone.
I was informed that decades ago, folks from Sabah used to shop for textiles and electronics in Labuan because of the cheaper price, most probably due to Labuan’s free trade zone status.
But nowadays, it has lost that advantage due to better ports in Sabah.
How To Travel To Labuan From Menumbok
I have travelled to Labuan before, but only on day trips by air, so the journey was short and unmemorable. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Labuan through Menumbok, and it was something to remember.
There are 3 ways to go to Labuan :
- by air (Malaysia Airlines, I’m not sure about Air Asia),
- by ferry from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and
- by boat or ferry in Menumbok.
The trip was a last-minute work-related thing and so we couldn’t get a suitable flight back. If we take the ferry from KK, we would only arrive in Labuan at 11am and had to go back at 1pm (the last trip to KK).
2 hours seem such a short period of time.
We were not sure whether we could complete the assignment in 2 hours, and with the uncertain weather conditions, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the middle of the sea for 2 hours. Plus, a few months ago, a relative of mine suffered seasickness on such ferry trip, so gosh, I wouldn’t want to take the risk.
So, we decided to drive to Menumbok and take a speed boat to Labuan.
The drive to Menumbok was not so easy, but we had an experienced guide on-call who kept us on the right track. We could have taken the early bus to Menumbok, but we were unsure about the trip back, and I really hated to wait, so I preferred to rely on my own vehicle.
Driving from KK to Menumbok in the morning was smooth (no traffic jams, as most would be driving to KK in the morning) and driving to KK in the afternoon should be fine too.
Due to my inexperience, it took me 2½ hours from Kota Kinabalu to Menumbok.
There were a few (minor) wrong turns which were promptly remedied by our guide, luckily, Celcom is always reliable. I decided against taking the Labuan Ferry and taking my vehicle along to Labuan as I was not familiar with the roads in Labuan and I needed to finish my assignment fast.
The Labuan Ferry would take us at least 3 hours from queuing till we reach Labuan, if we could even get a place.
And I heard from a friend that should the Ferry malfunction (which had happened before), and gets stranded mid-way, it would take hours before we could reach anywhere.
Parking At Menumbok Terminal
There were many parking spaces offered by the residents near the Menumbok Terminal, but I parked my vehicle in a Chinese Temple compound which charges RM5 for overnight parking simply because it was the nearest to the Terminal.
The speedboat ticket was sold outside the Terminal, and there was a 50% discount offered for Malaysians. The usual fare was RM15, but this year is ‘Visit Labuan’ so it was only RM7.50 per person until the end of 2013.
From the jetty, I could see many speedboats docking near the ‘water houses’. Menumbok is a fishing town, so it was not unusual for every house to have at least a boat or a sampan.
After about 15 minutes of waiting, I was ready for the speed boat and boy was I surprised!
It was not called a ‘speedboat’ for nothing – the trip was fast and rough, as if the boat was a car speeding on a track of uneven hardened soil, repeatedly jolting some of us off our seats (but my weight kept me on the seat).
It was rather exciting, to say the least. The weather was excellent, the sun was shining nicely and the waters were quite calm – so nobody was terrified.
Labuan International Ferry Terminal
About 20 minutes later, we reached the Labuan International Ferry Terminal and took a taxi to our destination. The taxi payment counter was located outside the Terminal, near to the where the cabs were queuing.
The cab driver, Mr Lu, was very friendly and told us stories about some recent developments in Labuan and about the public transportation services available in Labuan, should we get stuck somewhere without a cab on sight.
Although Labuan is a small island, be prepared to fork out at least RM20 for a short, 15-minute trip.
I was advised earlier that, as the cabs in Labuan don’t use meter, we must agree on the fare before we jump into one.
Resorts And Hotels
There are many resorts and hotels available, but I am not sure about the sights to see. I know there are many places to visit, if I were to spend a day or two in Labuan, but on such a hurried trip, I couldn’t think of any. Labuan is a very clean town. From what I can see, the government buildings looked new and parking spaces were ample.
The roads are well-maintained, and their term ‘traffic jam’ is, in my opinion, merely slow traffic. I forgot to ask Mr Lu whether there are cinemas in Labuan, but I believe there must be.
I had the opportunity to visit the Asian Supply Base at Rancha-Rancha Industrial Estate, and it was quite a facility.
I believe it mainly consist of manufacturing, oil and gas industries. The security and the infrastructure were quite impressive, and I hope Labuan will continue to grow and prosper as an industrial and business centre. These are the things that will sustain the island and the leaning institution helps the business in other ways.
After we were done with the assignment, we went back to town and had a simple lunch at a local restaurant. The price was slightly more expensive that in KK, but that is to be expected as I heard that Labuan gets their food and veggies from Sabah.
The walk from the restaurant to the Terminal took us a mere 5 minutes. After we purchased the speedboat tickets, and while waiting for our ride, we bought ourselves some chocolates from a shop at the Terminal.
According to most, the chocolates are cheaper in Labuan than in KK, especially the imported ones.
There are 3 things in abundant in the shops – chocolates, liquor and cigarettes. A point to note for those using Islamic credit cards – your purchase in most of those chocolate shops would not be approved, because of the liquor sold, even though you’re not buying any liquor.
The wait was a bit longer as there were many students waiting, for their weekend trip home. Some were off to Limbang, Lawas and Menumbok, some straight to KK via the Ferry (yes, our assignment was done before the Ferry’s last trip back to KK), and we also saw the arrival of the Ferry from Menumbok, carrying the vehicles and their passengers (we were mighty glad that we didn’t choose to take that trip).
Our journey back was considerably more gentle, as there was a pregnant lady on board. She didn’t complain, but the boat mate noticed her condition and asked the skipper to slow down.
Everybody was very concerned about her and adjusted their seats for her comfort, though she didn’t ask for it.
My drive back to KK was swifter as I knew the way back and if I had the chance, I would like to travel that way to Labuan again.