The face of Tawau, Sabah

Tawau is my hometown. Not that I was born or raised in Tawau proper, the city. Nope. My Bugis father had first worked in the coconut and palm oil plantations before being employed by a logging company in Wallace Bay on the Sebatik Island. So, I grew up mostly in the planned plantation and logging communities in Sabah for the first 12 years of my life. Then, I flew off to the peninsular for my secondary studies and furthered my studies overseas before settling down in KL and Selangor with my small family. I do go back yearly to visit my mother and siblings who still live there. My father has passed away more than 15 years ago.


 Sabindo, a more modern part of the city built on a reclaimed area from the sea. Federal Building and its unsightly compound(left). The busy and always congested streets in Tawau
 The old, city center. At the background is the oldest mosque in town.
1950's building and the site on the left was the previous location of Tawau wet market 
Convenient centralized shoe-repairs.

One of the oldest best hotels in town, Marco Polo
 Persiaran Traulsen (the local people call it the Highway) waterfront, named after an American couple who had lived in Tawau.
 Tawau Port for big boats and small ships(above) and the small simple jetty for small boats (below)
 The jetty is used for those coming and going to the Sebatik Island and neighboring Indonesia. 
 One of the biggest buildings is the Tawau Central Market (left). The fish market (right) is located behind Tawau Central Market. 
The fishing based economy sees that replicas of fish are erected as part of the city beautification program.
Tawau, an agricultural and fishing-based city is located in the southern coast of Sabah. Tourists go there because of Sipadan Island and perhaps the Meliau Basin attractions rather the town itself. There's nothing much special for tourists to see or eat there. I, myself, had been asking around for places interesting enough to visit but there are not many. However, as an ex-local resident there, there are a lot of things for me to do there in a week. I went back yearly for the mee tahu, nasi kuning, soto banjar, avocados, teraps, gado-gado and the cheap seafoods. The cooked food that you view below are of the Bugis people and I really don't know what the Tawau Chinese eat.
Terap fruit is not common in the peninsular. It's delicious.
This cili padi is not the same in flavor as the cili kampung here in KL. My late step-grandfather ate them like a snack. *teary eyes*
Tawau mee-tahu (left)  and nasi kuning with bumbu bali fish and coconut serunding (right)

My mother's simple fried seafoods just tasted great to me, I can't duplicate.
 Bugis traditional sweet dessert, Brongkoh (left). Buras, the traditional compressed rice. (right)
 Grilled wings with specially prepared soy-sauce
Tawau, of course is not a shopping heaven. The biggest shopping center should be the Sabindo Plaza but it's not a happening place. When I go back, I always brought back dried seafood and some Indonesian cool cotton dresses which I bought at Tawau Central market and Pasar Gantung, respectively. The latter seemed to be declining as seen in the variety of things sold at the stalls. It used to be a place where women accessories and imported crafts were sold cheaply. The accessories come from Philipines while the wooden crafts from Indonesia. Very good fabrics are also hard to find (please dont get mad at me for saying that, Tawau folks). When I wanted to buy fabrics to make a few outfits, (the upah is very cheap) they didn't have any that I like. 
leather wallet/purses on the left smelt genuine leather, only at rm7. Made from leather trims.
"Pasar Gantung" which is located near Marco Polo Hotel.

 Bought my supplies of dried anchovies,prawns  and various salted fish at the above stall, located in the Tawau Central Market. My mother is its regular customer. I seldom bought them in KL. In fact, I still have ones that I bought about 2 years ago in my deep freezer. A kg of cooked, dried small anchovies (pic below) is only RM12, cheap or not?

The salted gelama fish (left) which my family love as it is not tough after being fried like the ones in the Peninsular and is cheap (rm6/kg)!
'Perut ikan kurau' (right) at rm700/kg. What's the benefit, anyone?
 I dont know the benefits or how to use them but they are expensive.

 This seaweed is a new product in my shopping cart, touted for its many health benefits. It came from Semporna. Thanks to a friend who requested to buy a packet for her. I tried the yellow one and it worked wonders on my body 'aches' in about a week.

Visitors to Tawau would of course made the point to buy the dried seafood as 'ole-ole' to bring back home. Packaging service is provided by the vendors. However, make sure you don't overload your cargo because Air Asia is very strict about it. I bought more than RM300 worth of dried foods and was charged RM245 of excess baggage. Now, you calculate how much I would sell a 100 gram of dried prawn. It would be more than double right? For me, it doesn't worth it to buy for personal use as it's as 'expensive' as in KL. Next time, I will be wiser, insya Allah.

So far, that's all I can write about Tawau at the moment. I might add other infos and more pictures later here or in another post.

Next post >> Wallace Bay

Thank you for reading and visit me again.


  1. as salam, dear you.

    i wish to use some of information that posted by you. that material will be use only for academic purpose only.

    thank you.

  2. wah wah, congrats ya. first time saya singgah d blog ni. banyak juga info menarik berkenaan tawau yang dapat saya ketahui. seperti highway itu sebenatnya persiaran traulsen....

  3. Xpna tau pun, rupanya sabindo tu dulunya laut.. haha.. :p

  4. Sorry admin, tumpang iklan dulu ye.
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