Sabah Road Trip Day 4, Part 2 – Semporna

We left Gomantong Caves at about 3.30pm. This was worrying because it was a 3-4 hour drive to Semporna. As sunset was at 5.47pm that day, and the sky gets dark very quickly, this meant that we were going to have to drive to Semporna in the dark.

We got there fine, but hungry. We hadn’t taken lunch all day because we got sidetracked by a visit to restricted areas of Gomantong Caves.We heard from Joseph that Semporna is a dangerous place. Online reviews say that it’s a seedy place. But really, what it is, is a bit sad.

Joseph warned us that there would be street kids, and he said not to give them any money. Because the moment you do, you’ll be surrounded by more kids than you intended to give to.

We had dinner at a small night market near our hotel. It was a packet of nasi lemak with chicken, and a bowl of sup tulang without any tulang.

Halfway through our meal, six street kids showed up. Then spread out to the various tables and started asking for money.

Baby Crab asked one of them if he had eaten dinner. He said no. So she took him to the nasi lemak stall and asked the seller to give him a packet and she would pay for it.

The boy called his friends over and Baby Crab decided to buy four packets of nasi lemak for the six kids to share among themselves.

Later, we spoke to the sellers of the area and we learned that these kids come round every day. They would grab food being eaten by other diners and run away. The sellers were unhappy as their business was affected. While they wanted to help the kids, no one knew what to do.

They and their parents are Bajau Laut, stateless people living in the streets in Semporna. Unable to work to earn an income, due to their statelessness, they resort to begging for food.

Sometimes, to escape their hopeless situation, the landed Bajau Laut would buy glue and sniff it as a drug.

That’s why we found Semporna sad.

While most people come to Semporna to see the islands, our travels are a bit different. The next morning, we went to where the local Bajau people stayed.

If you look at Google Maps, just north of Hospital Semporna, it looks like empty land. But look again in Satellite View:

There’s this huge sprawl of houses that cannot be accessed from the roads. This is where we went, and this is what we saw:

The amount of trash in the area is horrific. It was as though the people living here dumped everything that they no longer wanted out of the house.

The houses in the village were connected by wooden bridges. The nicer and more well constructed bridges were built by the government.

Then there are the not so well constructed bridges linking the houses to the main paths.

Baby Crab attempting to walk on one of the poorly constructed bridges.

Local Bajau building an extension to their home.

A provision shop selling small packets of household sundries, such as detergent and vinegar.

After spending an hour or so here, we decided to go clear our heads by heading to uptown Semporna.

The sky and the sea are so blue!

We saw a Bajau Laut who came to shore for some errands.

As he left Semporna, we too decided to take our leave.

Onward to Tawau!

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