Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

I didn’t know I was going on my 3rd diving trip this 2-6 February until about a month ago.

It was Irene who mentioned that she’s going to Mabul/Sipadan with her sisters and 2 other guys, since she sounds like a crazy person who is fun to hang out with, I decided to tag along despite not having met anyone face to face prior to this trip, Irene including.

rather refreshing to be flying a non-budget airline for once

So I logged into both AirAsia and MAS for flights to Tawau and decided to take the non-budget route since the price difference was not more than 10% in this case.

RM 434 paid for the return fare, including 20kg luggage allowance, pretty delicious meal (the nasi lemak is just as good as those served on Air Asia, and comes with Ferrero Roche too).

Tawau to Semporna, at Dragon Inn

When I reached Tawau at 11+ in the morning, Irene, Lynn, Jen, Chan, and Gun had already been waiting there for some three hours after flying from KK. We chartered a van (RM 250 both ways) to our destination for the day – Semporna.

The 90+ km journey from Tawau (nearest airport) to Semporna took just over an hour. Instead of lush pristine Borneo jungle that I had envisioned, it we were greeted with rows upon rows of palm trees with the occasional village houses instead. Not a whole lot of visual treatment going on.

Semporna, at the lion’s lower jaw

Semporna is often the stopover town for divers and travelers alike heading to Mabul/Sipadan islands. Located at the southeastern corner of Sabah (the lion’s lower jaw), Semporna has a population just over 100k, with a rather tiny town center that isn’t even as big as SS2 in PJ. You could walk the whole downtown area in 15 minutes or so.

the view from Dragon Inn Floating Resort

We checked into Dragon Inn Floating Resort to spend the night. Since there were 6 of us, we chose the dormitory style accommodation for the night to give everyone a chance to chill together. At RM 20 per person per night it was really cheap, but unfortunately the lack of air conditioning proved to be a major problem not for being too warm, but for having too many mosquitos making a feast of us.

Speaking of mosquitos, here’s quiz from Lynn (answer at the bottom of the page): What’s the difference between a mosquito and a fly?

Umai – a traditional Sarawakian delight

Irene brought a packet of Umai all the way from Kuching for me (thank you very much!).

Umai is a traditional Sawarakian food that is best described as a sort of raw fish salad. A packet of raw fish (white fish) that is pre-marinated with lime juice and onion that is served by mixing with red chili, fresh lime juice, and probably some salt and pepper.

Give it a few tosses ala yee sang style and you’re ready to roll. It was actually quite refreshing, kinda like the cross of Japanese salad and Chinese yee sang but with a heavy lime juice taste and a hint of spiciness. I liked it and would try a fresh version when I find myself at Sarawak next time.

dinner at the restaurant by the bridge

For dinner, we took a short walk from the resort and settled upon the little restaurant by the bridge that connects town center and the resort. The vegetable was okay, spicy squid rather tasty, and the venison somewhat tough and forgettable.

We sat under the sky with a gentle breeze brushing our hair, waiting for the next day’s diving excursion at Mabul and couldn’t care less if dinner wasn’t exactly impressive. It was less than RM10 per pax anyway.

Next up – Mabul island.

Answer to Lynn’s quiz: A mosquito can fly but a fly cannot mosquito!

Discuss : Semporna – a stopover for Mabul/Sipadan diving trip (day 1)

  1. kimberlycun

    i wanna eat umai toooooooo!

  2. kimberlycun,
    Hehehe yes lets have it! DIY? 😛

  3. what is Umai??? Umai-Ya I know lar… 😛

  4. sotong,
    traditional fish salad from sarawak, did u even read? cis 😛

  5. where’s the crystal clear beautiful beaches? plus horny?
    Sometimes MAS are much better than Airasia..hehe

  6. Tan Yee Hou

    Mosquito can fly; but fly cannot mosquito!!!

  7. Hong Chern Wern,
    Ah, next post! and MAS is always better than Air Asia, just usually more expensive.

    Tan Yee Hou,

  8. Hahah !!! waiting to see beachhhhh

  9. bottom left picture – wtf am i doing there?

    hahaha glad you enjoyed the umai, i’m quite sure you can make it yourself (you can probably google up how to?). come kuching food holiday lah, i bring you jalan-jalan cari makan!

    vacation was AWESOMESAUCE! let’s do it again! we need to get more dives in! will let you know about next trip =)

    you and lynn very damn mouliu by the way. -_____-“

  10. Jess,
    Soon, soon!

    Hahah you gotta ask yourself! and How was me and Lynn mou liu? :/

  11. ooohhh… nice~nice… i’ll hit sipadan(again) later in July :p and will stay for a week!!! hehe…

  12. Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences

    Wow sounds fantastic. Thanks all the tips and great pics – adding to my bucket list 🙂

  13. looks nice. you must have a blast over there! Hmmph!

  14. jack0,
    wahhh jealous!

    Andy Hayes,
    Yah make it happen. 😀

    Oh yes, absolutely 😀

  15. it was such a torture looking at your sipadan tweets and photos when I was at work everyday, how i wish to be there too…

  16. chiaw,
    hehehe just make it happen 😀

  17. Semporna?? Where is my semporna???? Avolution!!

  18. Michelle Chin

    Semporna sounds a little like some cigarette brand.

    Anyway, the umai seems interesting. Would love to try some of it some day. Any idea what fish is it made of?

  19. Haze Long,
    Tis’ within Malaysia, no duty free!

    Michelle Chin,
    LOL yah it is. I think any white fish would make decent Umai. 😀

  20. Cant wait for those diving pictures!

  21. harry tang

    umai (raw fish salad) is originated from Melanau tribe, mostly reside at a small towns call Mukah & Dalat(central Sarawak). Not a common item that is available at anywhere else in s’wak although some 4-5* hotel & restaurants may hav it.

  22. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  23. JD,
    Soon, very soon! 😀

    hary tang,
    ooo thanks for the info. 🙂

    Huai Bin,
    it was 😉

  24. […] a night’s stay at Semporna at the lion’s lower jaw of Sabah, we packed up our gears and took the boat to Mabul island. […]

  25. Could you share the van contact for tawau semporna

  26. Hi KY,

    So you still have the contact information for the chartered van from tawau airport to semporna? I am planning for a trip to Sipadan in April with Stanley. Thanks!


  27. stan & Leonard,
    Lemme get irene to reply to you guys.

  28. hey guys,

    you can try calling this dude called Halid for the van from tawau-semporna. his number is 019-8071038. hope that helps, and have fun diving in sipadan! =)

  29. harry tang: just read your comment about umai, and while it’s true that umai was originally a melanau food from mukah (the one i brought for KY was flown in fresh from mukah to kuching by my dad), but other ethnic tribes in sarawak have also adopted the dish and come up with their own versions. my kelabit, bidayuh, iban, and malay friends all can make it – and very well too, with slight differences to cater for different preferences.

    it is not a VERY common food, granted, but it’s available all over sarawak quite readily, especially if you know where to find good ones. a lot of stalls at pasar ramadans sell them! i’ve had them in mukah, bintulu, sarikei, sibu, miri, and limbang, so no, they’re not only limited to just the mukah-dalat areas, and not rarely sold.

    however, it’s true that some five star hotels outside of mukah do serve them – hilton kuching serves a kick-ass prawn umai! however i also find them around, in the most unlikely of places… there’s a watering hole not very far from my house that serves pretty decent (and fantastically spicy) umai. good stuff to go with beers =)

  30. *LOL* at the quiz !!

  31. irene,
    oOo good info, good info. 😀


  32. Thanx Irene for the info. Do you also have any contact number for contact info in KK?

  33. Leonard,
    I think she passed out. :X

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