Agnes Keith House

An old house with a rich history at the western hill of Sandakan town.

After paying the entrance fee, and walk through a small hut that acts like a time travel portal, visitors are transported back in time to a period that resembles the British era of North Borneo from 1930 to 1950. Upon passing a small garden with its well kept lawn, a beautiful and charming British style colonial house appears and it is begging for the visitors to come in for an historical experience. This house,“Newlands”, was once occupied by the Great American writer, Agnes Keith. She even wrote her award winning book, Land Below the Wind which described her Borneo experiences, at this very house. Apart from Land Below the Wind, she also wrote two other books, namely Three Came Home, and White Man Returns. These three books help to promote Borneo and in particularly Sabah tremendously to the Western World. Restoration of the house was started in 2001 by Sabah Museum, and in 2004 the house was opened to the public. In honour of Agnes work the Malaysian government has named the house Agnes Keith House, a special tribute to this award winning American authoress.

No photograph is allowed inside the Agnes Keith House by the authority. Here is a simple description of this two-storey house. Upon entering the main door, a staircase leading to the first floor appears immediately and this staircase divides the ground floor into two parts, the living room on the right, and the dinning room on the left. The living room on the right side consists of a set of sofa, old German clock, old model radio, an ancient telephone, an antic music player and some war time brass artifacts. The dinning room is decorated with an old wooden table, an old refrigerator, and a big picture of Sandakan town of 1935. Many local head gears can be seen hanging on the staircase wall.

The first floor consists of a bedroom, a gallery, an study room, and an audio-video room. A large king size bed is placed in the middle of the bedroom, apart from that an old wooden dresser, and a full wardrobe can be seen on either side of the walls. An attached bathroom is located at the back of the room. The study room houses some very interesting artifacts like old type writer, antic sewing machine, and some old China sets. The audio-video room is beside the gallery, and it can seat up to 20 persons. Also check out the balconies, which have good view of the surrounding forest and sea.

The gallery on the first floor has many articles on Agnes Keith families and her books. There is a record on all the tenants of this house from 1930 to the late 70s. A Keith Time-lines starting from 1873 to 2004 is also on displayed. Note: It is also interesting to read that Henry Keith, Agnes' Husband, had come to North Borneo for conservation work on the forests as early as 1925.

The unexplained has always caught our imagination. Three ghost stories that happened in the house after the Second World War was recorded, and one was an encounter by Agnes Keith herself. One can read these articles on a file that is placed at the bedroom of the first floor, where some of these incidents happened.

Entrance fee:
Foreigner Adult: RM 15
Child (below 2 year old): Free
MY Card holder Adult: RM 2 Child below 12 year old and Senior Citizen: free

Opening hours: 9am to 5pm, daily.

After spending time at Agnes Keith House, it is also pleasant to have tea or a meal at the English Tea House and Restaurant, which is just a short distance away. The outdoor seats offer great view of Sandakan town below, the harbour and Sandakan Bay. This English Tea House is, no doubt, the finest in Sabah (North Borneo).

How to get here? There are daily schedule flights and buses from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. By flight, the journey is 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia Airlines has several flights to Sandakan daily, and budget airlines Air Asia has two flights per day. Air Asia also has one direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan daily which will take about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Buses from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan will take six hours, which is schedule through out the day. From Sandakan town centre one can take a taxi up the Istana road or take a 20 minutes walk on the stairway at the back of the Sandakan Municipal office.

Other interesting places in Sandakan: Gomantong Cave
Kinabatangan Safari
Rainforest Discovery Centre
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Turtle Island Park

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