Sunday, September 20, 2009

Journey to Brunei 1 : On The Road

I went to Brunei for the weekend mainly for one reason.

And that is because I have heard so much about the border crossings if you travel to Brunei by road so I decided I'll need to experience this myself.

Got my one-way bus ticket from Jesselton Express, which has a daily KK-BSB route leaving at 8:00 am from the bus terminal near the library. The bus moved out at 8:15 am, and stopped along the way (Tg Aru railway, Putatan, Kinarut, Sipitang) to pick up other passengers.

The bus. No toilet on board, which I prefer that way cos it could stink sometimes. There are enough stops and public toilets along the way.

I was expecting some kind of discomfort from such a long journey, however it turned out well and I must say I found it more comfortable than a BKI-KUL flight. Does it have something to do with gravity or cabin pressure?

View from Seat No. 01.

Entertainment onboard the bus came by way of movies : first was this foreign language action movie which I did not pay attention to as I started on my Bryson, and later slept for a while. Then a succession of Rowan Atkinson movies followed - Mr Bean's Holiday, Rat Race, and Johnny English - which was really very funny (haha funny) no matter how much I tried not to watch. Then the last movie was Casino Royale, with the hawt Daniel Craig in JB's shoes.

Journey-wise, we reached Sindumin just after 12:00 noon, the first of the immigration checkpoints along the way. From this stop onwards, the driver calls out 'okay, chop passport!' at every checkpoint and everyone comes down from the bus and queue at the counter. At Sindumin, after getting your exit stamp for Sabah, you walk a further 10 metres or so to the Sarawak checkpoint and get your entry stamp into Sarawak. Cool.

Sindumin (where the queue is) and Merapok (left side) checkpoints.

The bus was delayed a good 45 minutes in Sindumin after some foreign passengers were questioned for not having the proper passes. In the end, I think only one of them in the group of four who was let through.

We continued to Lawas and stopped there for half an hour for those who want to have lunch, and also to wait for the parallel BSB-KK bus. Lawas was a bigger town than I expected. When the bus arrived they switched drivers and conductors. It also began to drizzle after lunch and as we entered Brunei territory the rain became heavier for a while before it stopped.

The in-out process continues along the journey and the eight checkpoints are:

Sindumin : exiting Sabah
Merapok : entering Sarawak
Mengkalap : exiting Sarawak
Labu : entering Brunei
Puni : exiting Brunei
Pandaruan : entering Sarawak
Tedungan : exiting Sarawak
Kuala Lurah : entering Brunei

If you are returning to KK by road, make sure you have enough pages on your passport as you will get 16 stamps altogether!

At the ferry crossings in Trusan and Pandaruan, the queue of cars from Limbang and Brunei side was massive, I guessing it must have been at least 2 kilometres long and growing. As it was Raya holidays, the Immigration counters have extended their opening hours up to 11 pm. It was rather amusing that both river crossings are very short, I timed and it was less than 3 minutes per way. Maybe someday both countries can share the investment to build bridges.

After a smooth entry into Brunei (I was busy concentrating on Mr Bond), we finally reached Bandar at about 5:45 p.m, at the bus stop in front of Tamu Kianggeh. Minus the delays here and there, it took us about 8.5 hours. Without the festive traffic and barring any delays, they say it's possible reach Bandar by 4:00 pm.

Air Asia now flies BKI-BWN direct beginning September, providing another option in addition to MAS and RBA. The more the merrier! I had booked my return flight via AK6213, for only RM26.00, but in the end I didn't take this flight :(. Why?

The rest of my Brunei story in the next post.


  1. Funny, I dont remember having to pass through a checkpoint in Sindumin before?

    Also, since when did they start giving us a stamp on our passports for exiting & re-entering Sabah? I only realised this on my most recent trip to Manila in Aug. Wastage :-(

    And 16 stamps!! My god thats a lotttttttt of pages!

  2. Hey C,

    Not sure about Sindumin before, my first time at the border there :). I think for international flights/travel, they will stamp our passports. If the Imm officers are nice they stamp nicely and according to the numbered pages. Some just stamp anywhere on a new page : now that's a waste!