Silence hangs heavily in the air. The sun is just rising on the graves of 3,908 soldiers at the Labuan Commonwealth Cemetery.
Located along Jalan Tanjung Batu, the cemetery, also known as the World War II Memorial, was constructed and is maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
It honours men of the Australian land and air forces, as well as the local forces, who died valiantly during operations for the recovery of Borneo. Some were prisoners of war in Borneo or the Philippines.
An overwhelming sense of peace came over me as I set foot on the black sandy beaches of Telok Assam. With waves lapping softly at my ankles, I stood rooted there, admiring God’s work. Huge sandstone cliffs rose up from the ground like a solemn cathedral, weather-beaten to reveal fluid lines on its flat iron and rock surface.
Heavy drops of water fell from the high cliff edge to carve pools of clear liquid in the ground on which clingy barnacles made their home. Years of wind and water erosion have hollowed out parts of these cliffs, leaving behind cool cavernous interiors.
Whenever the word “apple” springs out, among the first things that come to my mind are usually, “Washington”, “Pies” or “Snow White”. Well, that’s just me being random. But all that has definitely changed. Say apple to me now and it’ll take me straight to Ba’kelalan.
Some may go “say what?” in response (like I did the first time), and some may go, “oohh, where’s that?” and only a few would say, “been there done that”. It is so remote and you have to take 2 flights to get there. First to Miri, then to Ba’kelalan by taking the Twin-Otter 15 seater MASwing aircraft (www.maswings.com.my). It is located near the Indonesian Kalimantan border and you could see a hell of a view on your way there. Cameras flashed like no one’s business even though the journey was bumpy, with the pilots trying to maneuver our cute little plane from hitting any thick clouds. All of us just wanted to eternalize the bird’s view of the greenery, the Mount Murud, the neat structured palm oil farm and the incredible unpolluted blue sky that looked like a painting.