| Sarawak, Brunei,
Kelantan and Terengganu
23.8: Munich -> KL
24.8: KL -> Kuching
-> Bako NP
27.8: Bako ->
Kuching -> Miri
28.8: Miri ->
29.8: Mulu NP
30.8: Miri ->
-> Sibu -> Miri
1.9: Miri ->
3.9: Bario ->
Brunei -> Mt Kinabalu NP
5.9: Park HQ
-> Laban Rata
6.9: Laban Rata
-> Mt Kinabalu -> Kota Kinabalu
7.9: Kota Kinabalu
-> Kota Belud -> Kota Bharu
8.9: Kota Bharu
-> Kuala Terengganu -> KL
13.9: KL ->
from Part 2
30.8: Miri -> Belaga
hotel, 25 RM for a double room with no windows but with A/C, bathroom
no shower; the water comes intermittently - but what can you expect for
RM 25 ?
has rained during the night. In the morning in Miri it's sunny with
clouds in the sky. So far the weather has been perfect, with all rain
during the night and none during the day. Also in Belaga the sun shines
the whole day (it's very hot and the sun is very strong)
(Belaga): surprisingly TMTouch (strong signal) - who would have
We get up at 6am. I'm flying to Bintulu
at 8:30am, while Shirley is flying to KL via Kuching at 8:40am. The
I'm on (a Fokker 50) leaves on time from Miri airport and is quite full
(only a few seats are still available).
The Bintulu airport, probably very
new too, looks like an exact copy of the Miri one. In the plane to
(a Twin Otter) there are just two other passengers besides me: a Czech
couple which is travelling across Malaysia for three months.
The airport in Belaga is basically
just an airstrip with a small building nearby. There is apparently no
tower. We land at 11:34am, a few minutes ahead of schedule. A group of
people is there to greet us - no wonder - just three visitors arrived
time. To get to Belaga city you have to take a boat as there are no
connecting the airport to the town. The boat trip takes 20 minutes.
the sun is incredibly strong and hot. The boatsman tells us that right
now it is dry season in Sarawak, but the boat service to Kapit is still
operating. The only problem is that the boat now leaves at 6am - not at
8am as written in my guide book. Will have to get up 5am tomorrow.
At the jetty in Belaga a friend of
the boatsman is waiting for us. This guy owns a guesthouse (the Budget
Belaga hotel) where I end up taking a double room with A/C. With the
I agree to do a boat tour in the afternoon - two longhouses and a
for RM 100. The price seems a bit high, but the boatsman insists that
fuel is very expensive etc. He is by the way the father of six
so let's make a small donation and support a local.
After lunch in the Budget Belaga
hotel (fried rice which I can't finish as it contains too much chilli),
I wait for the boatsman. We were supposed to leave at 1:30pm, but he
show up. Then after half an hour he shows up and we finally manage to
at 2:15pm (when leaving he offers his friends an alcoholic drink - kind
of a good fate ceremony ?).
The boatsman by the way is a Kenyah
and we will visit the longhouses of his family and of his wife's
It takes only 15 minutes to reach the first longhouse. This longhouse
a bit modern (was built in 1969) and the people there are quite modern
too, have electricity, TVs etc. I was kind of hoping to find some more
rural, original people, but it looks that even Belaga is too close to
civilisation. No wild people wearing ancient tribal dresses.
Several longhouse inhabitants don't
like being photographed. Kind of understandable - these longhouses get
many tourists and I'd guess that some of these locals must be feeling
animals in a zoo. By the way, while visiting the longhouses we
the gifts the boatsman told me to buy (ballons and sweets for the
At 3:50pm we leave the last longhouse
and head towards the waterfall. The boatsman first heads back to Belaga
and from there he drives the boat upriver into another river (Belaga is
at the confluence of the Rejang river and another river. After almost
minutes and after passing some rapids, we finally stop somewhere and
a brief climb. After 15 minutes we reach the waterfall (not much of a
actually - the thing is 5m high). The boatsman swims a bit then we go
We reach Belaga at 5:40pm.
In the evening I just go out briefly
for dinner in a Chinese restaurant (RM 3.50 for a noodle soup with
and a coke - one of the cheapest dinners I've ever had in Malaysia).
whole town is pretty much firmly in Chinese hands - most shops and
are owned by Chinese people. Makes me wonder why on earth there are so
many Chinese in a place like Belaga.
Tomorrow I'll get up at 5am to catch
the 6am boat to Kapit and Sibu. I think I'll take a rest in Bario -
do nothing there for two days.
31.8: Belaga -> Sibu -> Miri
Inn, Miri (somewhere downtown): 56 RM, (smallish) double room with A/C,
bath & hot shower, fridge, TV, decently furnished, although the
is a bit old; outside it's a bit noisy. I choose this place as the
10 hotels I call are all fully booked (see below).
in the morning in Belaga, not too hot in Sibu; clouded with some
every now and then; no rain
TMTouch has coverage in Belaga, Kapit, Sibu and Miri
Last night the owner of the hotel
woke me up at midnight to collect the room rent, as I'm leaving early
wife refused to take the money from me). Anyway, I manage to get up at
5am and be at the jetty at 6am. When the boat leaves at 6:20am it's
dark and quite fresh. In the boat itself it's freezing, as the boat
turned on the A/C to the maximum, without taking into account that
it's not hot at all. The boat itself is a bullet - or cigar-shaped
(reaches Kapit in just 3:40 hours!).
This speedboat ride is probably the
coolest thing I've done so far. Until Kapit the boat passes through
less civilised territory, with settlements and longhouses every now and
then along the river. It is possible to stay outside, as the boat doors
are left open. The coolest thing is when we reach the rapids near
and when the boat driver has to quickly manouver to avoid rocks and
fast turns (between Belaga and Kapit the Rejang river is still a bit
I guess it must be even more fun to do the ride in the rainy season
the river carries more water.
The boat reaches Kapit at 10am and
stops there for 15 minutes. After that the journey continues. The more
downstream we go the larger and smoother the Rejang river gets.
We reach Sibu at 1pm. The immediate
problem is where to put the backpack, as my flight to Miri is only at
Since it's lunchtime and I'm quite hungry, I take a taxi to the New
restaurant. This is supposed to be one of the better places in town. I
order lemon chicken and explain that the chicken meat should be without
skin and without bones. This is necessary as in the original, not
Chinese restaurants they serve dishes with small pieces of chicken with
meat, skin and bone. You are supposed to eat the skin and spit out the
pieces of bone onto the table.
In spite of my efforts to explain
what I want they still serve me pieces of chicken meat with skin and
Either they don't know that chicken filet exists or perhaps they don't
want to serve it to a foreigner.
After lunch I leave my bags in the
restaurant and stroll through Sibu. It's not too hot, so it's possible
to walk on the streets. There is a Chinese temple along the waterfront,
the Tua Pek Kong temple. The Lonely Planet of 1999 which I'm using
that the temple has a caretaker who will give you a crash course of
And indeed when I walk into the temple
I get adopted by Mr. Tan Teck Chiang, the caretaker of the temple. He
teaching me Taoism. Actually quite interesting and since I have some
to kill I have a chat with him. Taoism interests me also personally, as
my wife is Tao (she is Malaysian Chinese). After a while chatting with
this very friendly guy, I've got enough and my supply of time is
less unlimited, so I politely put an end to the conversation and climb
on top of the temple. Very nice view of Sibu.
After that I have a look at the market
between the temple and the Sibu harbour. Around 5pm I'm back in the
to fetch my bags and then take a taxi to the airport (RM 27). The
in Sibu is relatively old and less imposing compared to the ones of
The flight leaves on time at 6:30pm
and reaches Miri 55 minutes later. In Miri there are big problems
a room. I call about 10 mid-class hotels and they are all fully booked.
Finally I manage to find a room in the Crown Prince Inn with the help
the airport staff. The taxi driver later explains me that today, August
31st, is National Day in Malaysia and politicians from all over Sarawak
meet in Miri today for celebrations - which is why most hotels are
1.9: Miri -> Bario
Bario: room with three beds (and nothing else), RM 15/night, no A/C,
bathroom, water bowl for tooth brushing is the one in the kitchen. This
is the highly recommended place in the Lonely Planet of 1999 (don't
the newer edition). According to the 1999 LP, John Tarawe, the owner,
to a British woman, runs this place and will provide you with a lot of
information and maps of Bario. Food should have also been available.
this place has seen better days. When I arrive, John is not it, his
says he is no longer married to this British woman, they serve no food
and they have no maps of the area. Looks like the place to be now is
Lodge, run by Jaman Riboh, a lodge 6km out of Bario, in the jungle. By
the way, Tarawe's Inn has only electricity from 6:30pm until 10pm.
At 9pm I check
out of Tarawe's and move into the Bariew Lodge (see below).
in Miri in the morning, overcast in Bario, but no rain; in the
the sun starts shining through. Fresh - the temperature in Bario is
(Bario): no GSM coverage
In the morning I find out that the
Crown Prince Inn charges 30 sen/minute for local calls - three times
standard rate. They charge me 18.50 RM for one hour of surfing the
(local call). Never mind...
I get a taxi to the airport and fetch
the plane to Bario at 9:35am. There are four empty seats in the plane,
in spite of the fact that the flight was fully booked. It turns out
travel agents block seats with fictional passengers, and don't release
them even if they don't use them. According to what I hear MAS can do
We reach Bario airport at 10:25 am.
Surprise, surprise, the airport is much more developed than the one of
Belaga (the runway is of concrete). I get a pickup truck to Tarawe's
(see above). This place doesn't seem to get too many visitors - right
I'm the only one. After settling down and going out I meet Jaman Riboh,
the owner of the Gem Lodge, with whom I had a chat at the airport. He
me a bit Bario and shows me a restaurant (actually a shop where you can
eat something). So I have some lunch. Once back in Tarawe's lodge I
the brother of John Tarawe. He offers to be my guide tomorrow. For RM
he will show me some places for the whole day.
Around 1pm I start walking around
Bario village. Everywhere there are rice fields and women planting
Lots of water buffaloes also - people here don't use tractors. As
the owner of the restaurant explains me in the evening, the Bario rice
is famous for its quality - it's even better than rice from Thailand.
I'll give it a try.
It's not too hot and the sky is overcast,
so walking is easy. I manage to get past the village and until into a
(no leeches by the way), until the path gets very muddy forcing me to
back. I'm back in Tarawe's at 4:30pm. I only walked for three hours but
am quite tired. I take a rest until about 7pm.
It gets dark... and the generator
isn't switched on. They explain me that the generator is broken and
they are trying to fix it. Great. Imagine being in a dark room without
power. Never mind, I wait one more hour in the room.
Then I go down again. They are all
there having dinner with the emergency light. This time they explain
the generator probably won't work the whole night. So I go out and
looking for another guesthouse and indeed find one, which does have
But it's 9:20pm and they have power only until 10pm and I need at least
three hours to recharge the batteries of my notebook. But for RM 15 (RM
5/hour) they can keep the generator running for three more hours.
it becomes clear why there is no power in Tarawe's place. If
costs RM 5/hour, they would spend RM 20 for the four hours in the
and at the moment they only have one paying customer for RM 15/night.
point switching on the generator for just one customer - they would
Anyway I check out of Tarawe's and
check in this new lodge - which indeed is a much better place. The
Planet should remove Tarawe's Inn from the list of recommended places.
in Bario (brief overview September 2003)
Manager: Tarawe brothers
Located centrally in Bario town,
RM 15/night per person, rooms with three beds, shared bath and toilet,
no A/C, water sink in the kitchen, no food provided; no electricity at
night. Not recommended.
Address: Kelabit Highlands, Bario,
98050 Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia
Located centrally in Bario town,
RM 15/night per person, rooms with three beds, shared bath and toilet,
no A/C; food provided if you want to eat here (costs extra), helpful
electricity from 6:30pm until 10pm. This is the best place to stay if
want to be in Bario town.
Address: Pa' Umor, Bario, Kelabit
Highlands, P.O.Box 5, 98050 Bario, Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia (Phone:
Near the Pa' Umor longhouse in a
beautiful setting in the forest, RM 20/night per person, rooms with
beds, shared bath and toilet, no A/C; food provided (costs extra) (and
you'll have to eat here as the place is 6 Km from Bario and from the
restaurant), helpful staff, electricity from 6:30pm until 10pm. This
like the best place of the Bario valley; only drawback is that it is 6
Km out of town (but very peaceful in an idyllic setting)
Munney Bala, http://www.kelabit.net
3 Km out of Bario along the road
to the Pa' Ukat longhouse, in a peaceful setting, RM 20/night per
including breakfast, rooms with three beds, shared bath and toilet, no
A/C; food provided (costs extra) (and you'll have to eat here as the
is 3 Km from Bario and from the next restaurant), helpful staff,
from 6:30pm until 10pm (?). This place is new and is still being
by Douglas and his wife.
RM 15/day per person, my room has three beds, no attached bath, no A/C
(there is no need in Bario); shared (cold) showers and toilets; nice
room; friendly owner; they will cook food for you if you want
mix of overcast and sunny the whole day; very strong sun when it shines
through; not too hot unless you are in the sun; very brief shower at
then it starts raining at 8pm and it is still raining when I'm writing
No GSM coverage
I sleep until late and get up at
10am. When I'm ready and have taken a freezing shower, it's already
11am. As I'm about to start my day and get out of the lodge I run into
Reddish who just came back from the airport looking for new tourists.
grins and greets me with a "Good afternoon", I reply "Good evening" and
smile. They (Reddish and three other tourists staying in the lodge) are
on their way to the Bario school, which has Internet access, to check
email. I join them and check my email (Internet access is RM 4/hour).
back in the lodge I ask Reddish what I could do in the afternoon. He
I might do a walk to the Pa' Umor and Pa' Ukat longhouses. Since I'm
familiar with the Bario valley and don't want to get lost I ask for a
Rose, a local Kelabit, will show me around in the afternoon for RM 40.
I have lunch again in the same place
(the shop/restaurant owned by the Chinese/Kelabit couple, near the
Telecentre. I tell the owner that I'd like to try the Bario rice in the
evening. At 1:30pm we start our walk. There
is no cloud cover anymore and the strong sun is now shining directly,
walking is still ok. We are heading towards the Pa'Umor longhouse.
the scenery resembles very much the one in the Bako NP. The ground is
(why is there sand here in the mountains ?) and the vegetation is
Everywhere there are pitcher plants (Nepentes).
At about 3pm we reach Pa' Umor and
walk into the nearby Gem's Lodge. Just in time to avoid the rain which
comes all of a sudden very heavily, but only lasts for a few minutes.
lodge is very nice and lies in an idyllic setting in the forest. We
a chat with the owner/manager, Jaman. Apparently there are very few
coming to Bario, but there are plans to increase their numbers, mainly
by addressing local Malaysian tourísts.
At 3:50pm we leave the lodge and
visit the nearby Pa' Umor longhouse. There is a church and an airstrip.
By the way, so far I haven't met a single leech. But I heard that there
should be many deeper in the jungle. 20 minutes later we continue the
trek, this time heading to the Pa' Ukat longhouse. The path becomes
and very muddy (my shoes get wet), as we cross the jungle.
It takes one hour of fast walk to
reach Pa' Ukat. We stop briefly, have a chat with the local villagers,
take some photos and then continue the trek this time back to Bario.
we leave Pa' Ukat it's already 5:20pm and we have to rush a bit in
to be back before dark.
On the way back we briefly stop at
the De Plateau lodge (see above). We are finally back in Bario at
In the evening I have a dinner with Bario rice in the shop/restaurant
I usually go. In the evening it rains from 8pm to 11pm.
3.9: Bario -> Miri ->
Limbang -> Bandar Seri Begawan
Bandar Seri Begawan, 70 B$, nice room with A/C, bath with hot shower,
fridge, cable TV, breakfast and transfer to the airport included. Good
value for a hotel in Brunei and good location also (was prepared to
upwards of 100 B$ for a hotel room, and was positively surprised by the
in the morning in Bario until about 9am and quite cool, overcast sky
whole day; still overcast in Miri, Limbang and Brunei, but no rain in
afternoon and evening in Brunei
local Brunei GSM operator
It's raining heavily in the morning.
I'm ready with my bags at 9am - flight to Miri is scheduled at 10:20am,
at 1:20pm I have a connecting flight to Limbang. At 9:30am we leave for
the airport. Due to the bad weather conditions the flight to Miri is
but luckily not cancelled. These small Twin Otter planes are not that
for bad weather conditions (heavy rain). As the time passes and the
from Miri is still not landing, I start getting a bit nervous, because
I have the connecting flight to Limbang in Miri at 1:20pm.
Finally the plane lands and about
half an hour later, at 11:55am the Twin Otter takes off. We reach
at 12:28pm and there the plane fills up with passenger for the route
(on the route Bario-Marudi the plane was almost empty). The baggage guy
in Marudi almost unloads our baggage in Marudi (mine and that of
traveller) - we stop him at the last moment. We take off again, arrive
in Miri airport at 12:55pm, where I immediately rush with the bags to
check-in counter. Luckily they check me in (the flight to Limbang is
After another flight in the Twin
Otter (I'm starting to get tired of these small planes) I arrive in the
small airport of Limbang. There I fetch a taxi to the harbour (RM 5).
problem now is that the speedboat to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) costs RM
15, but only if the boat is full of passengers. Since apparently I'm
only passenger they want to charge me RM 150 for the half hour trip to
BSB. The alternatives would be a) wait until there are enough
to fill the boat (it's 3pm and I'd like to do some sightseeing of BSB
dark) or b) drive by taxi to the border in Kuala Lura (RM 50) and there
fetch a bus to BSB (and the bus is going to take 2 hours!). So I
down the price to RM 100 and after going through immigration I leave on
a speedboat to BSB.
I reach the jetty of BSB at about
3:30pm, go through immigration and get a two weeks visa (will only stay
one day though). Then I walk out and start looking for a bank with an
I'm lucky and nearby there is a Citibank branch (where I can withdraw
with no fees).
Then I start looking for a hotel.
After walking a bit around and finding nothing I start looking for a
And that's not so easy. It takes me about 15 minutes to find one. I
the driver to go to the Jubilee hotel (listed in the Lonely Planet of
as one of the relatively affordable ones). The taxi has no meter and
ride costs 5 B$.
In the hotel I'm surprised by the
relatively low rate. After unloading my things I start my walking tour
of BSB at 4:30pm.
I'm positively impressed by what
I see. Based on the stories I heard, BSB was supposed to be a boring,
place with nothing to see. Instead it's a very nice and interesting
with many nice buildings and a comfortable and laid-back atmosphere.
also relatively clean and elegant. An affluent place, as everybody is
good quality cars (mostly Japanese ones). People are very friendly. I
all these bad reports must have come from disgruntled oil industry
who are stuck in Brunei for months and cannot live without pubs and
After some time I reach the Omar
Ali Saifuddien mosque - a very nice mosque, which kind of forms the
of BSB. Then I continue onwards to Kampung Ayer and fetch a boat for a
short ride to the palace of the Sultan. I think I'll visit the palace
by taxi. I ask the boatsman to drop me off at the green mosque in
Ayer. From there I slowly walk back to the centre of BSB. On the way
I run into a group of children. A small girl poses for me - first time
in my life that a girl in a Malay society poses for a photo. I guess
doesn't get that many tourists and locals find tourists interesting.
In the evening I check my emails
in an Internet cafe (very low rate of 1 B$ for two hours). By the way,
already 1800 images (total 10 GB) already taken in this holiday.
4.9: Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB)
Kinabalu (KK) -> Mt Kinabalu NP
(accomodation within the Mt Kinabalu NP), 88 RM, room with two beds,
furniture, bath+shower shared with the other half of the Nepentes Villa
(but this evening I have the whole Nepentes Villa for myself); no A/C,
no heating, hot showers
the morning in Brunei hot & sunny with a thin clouds layer; cloudy
in KK in the afternoon; rain in the evening and at night in the Mt
NP (quite cold)
TMTouch has coverage in KK and even in the Mt Kinabalu NP (as do Celcom
In the morning I'm ready shortly
before 10am for my morning visit of BSB. I'm planning to charter a taxi
for one hour to see a mosque and the palace of the Sultan. The
calls a taxi at 9:55am and tells me it will be here in 10 minutes. At
the taxi has still not arrived. The lady explains me that there are few
taxis in Brunei as most people have a car and the foreign workers use
bus. It's just the tourists and foreign businessmen who have a
At 10:20am the taxi finally arrives.
We drive to the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque in Kampong Kiarong,
we reach in a matter of minutes. Very nice mosque - even nicer than the
Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque. I shoot some photos. Going inside is not
because today is Thursday (but why? I thought Friday is the holy day of
We then drive to the park near the
palace of the Sultan. Going inside is not allowed and from the outside
it is difficult to take a photo, because there is a thick tree belt
the palace. After a further stop in town I'm back in the hotel (cost of
the taxi: 40 B$ for the hour spent).
I finish packing my things and check
out at 11:45am. The cost of the laundry is a whopping 30 B$.
it is so expensive to wash a few T-shirts and some underwear. Outside
van of the hotel is waiting (the ride to the airport is included in the
price of the room). We reach the airport about 15 minutes later. After
check-in I have some lunch in the restaurant of the airport. The
of Brunei is not that big - there are just eight gates.
The plane is a Boeing 767 - a too
large plane for such a small trip. The flight is delayed by one hour,
the plane arrived to Brunei late. Instead of arriving in KK at 2:05pm
scheduled, we reach KK at 3:05pm. It takes half an hour to get through
immigration and retrieve the luggage. I then take a taxi to the minibus
station of KK. We arrive a few minutes before 4pm and luckily there is
an almost full minivan leaving for Ranau (the Mt Kinabalu NP is on the
way to Ranau).
We leave at 4pm sharp. The road to
Ranau has been substantially improved since last time I've been there
Over large sections of the road there is now a third lane, which makes
overtaking slow trucks easier. The higher we get and the closer we get
to the park, the more it rains.
When I finally walk into the Mt Kinabalu
NP headquarter it's 6pm. I book some accomodation in the park (see
and in the Laban Rata resthouse at 3300m. They have increased again the
fees they charge to climb Mt Kinabalu. This time there is a RM 100 fee
for climbing Mt Kinabalu (RM 30 only for Malaysians), and a compulsory
RM 70 fee for a guide - which nobody needs, as it's virtually
to get lost on the very well marked trail. Basically these RM 70 are a
donation you make to the local people. Total cost, including
fees and permits, for climbing Mt Kinabalu is well over RM 300 now.
In the evening I have a dinner at
the restaurant in the park. It keeps on raining through the night.
Copyright (c) 2003