Friday 3 January 2014


I find exploring retail areas interesting, not so much for shopping which I generally detest, but for observing the goings on. What works and what doesn't.  I'm far from being an expert in these things, so my comments are just personal ideas.  Do feel free to challenge anything I have to say about the subject. 

In central Sandakan, you will find the stock standard strip shops you find in this part of the world with Chinese metal shutters gracing the entire frontage of the premises. Most of these were built during the post-war reconstruction period and have not seen much change, including a coat of paint. These rows tend to have a back lane/small street behind that appears to have little purpose other than to collect rubbish. Even though the shop frontages have little aesthetic appeal, the lanes are worse.

The general feeling is that the centre of the city has been abandoned for new developments further out for reasons I won't go into here.

All the new shopping precinct construction follow a similar pattern. A grid like street-scape  with parallel lanes running behind each row. 

Again an arrangement like the old part of town, taking up a lot of space that never seems fully utilised in a practical sense; very similar to the old part of town. 

Why is this so?  You might ask.  In most cases, it’s convenient for hanging out the businesses washing, somewhere to let the mops dry out or put the rubbish.  Some of the restaurants use the area for outdoor eating.  When the lanes are usable, they’re open for garbage collection and access to the utilities, water, electricity etc, but in most of the newer complexes they are closed off to vehicles.  If you think about it, the overall area taken up by these under-utilised lanes eats into the space for creating wider frontage roads or even space for more shops.

I would have thought having the shopping rows back onto each other would make for a neater cleaner environment. Of course, there may be technical reasons why it’s done like this, but from what I’ve seen, most other parts of the world manage to do it differently.

Interestingly, when these complexes are first offered for sale the footpath in front of each shop is only a concrete slab. This means the individual owners/lessees have to finish off the surface to suit their particular taste or needs.  This leads to a hotchpotch of styles which at best makes it difficult to walk on or at worst dangerously uneven.  In a lot of cases the surface is never finished off, so the look and safety are far from perfect. While we are talking about footpaths, a lot of shops use that space to sell product from; an extension to their store. The local restaurants will put tables on it  and frequently electrical retailers will even have a marquee that extents onto the road.

Does this bother the locals?  Doesn’t seem to too much.  It’s what you get used to as I said earlier.  Here if you want to go to a particular shop you just park out the front whether there is a space or not.  Double parking is king in Sandakan.  The idea of parking and walking any distance to your destination doesn’t enter most people’s minds.  Even in the one and only under-roof shopping Mall, Giant where the open car park is right in front of the building, double parking reigns supreme. 
Notice the difference between a shopkeeper who tries to improve the footpath and ones who don't.

The drain covers are 20mm below the tiled footpath. 

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