Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brunei to Kota Kinabalu

My plan for the day was to catch a Bandar Seri Begawan city bus to a boat to the island of Labuan, then catch another boat to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. I was following these instructions, more or less, in reverse.

Easy, right? Anyway, there were three local buses and one express bus from the Bandar bus station to the port, so I shouldn't have any problems although the distance was 25 kilometers. I thought. I didn't set out to catch the express—it left obscenely early and I couldn't think of any reason to go on the first boat out. Plus, I wanted that excellent free breakfast at the Brunei Hotel.

But when I ended up waiting 45 minutes for the bus, and then had to change buses once, I started to see the merit of the early express bus.

I was still on the bus when the ferry I'd been planning to catch left. On to Plan B! The final ferry of the morning was the 10 o'clock to Lawas, Sarawak, where I'd have to catch an onward bus to Kota Kinabalu.

An hour and a half after I left my hotel (!), I walked into the ferry terminal. Buses just don't run that often here--lots of people in Brunei have their own cars.

I was stamped out of Brunei & sitting on the Malaysia-bound speedboat as the final passenger raced to board. We zipped along on our hour-and-a-half journey to Lawas in Sarawak, spotting a crocodile on the way. Everyone hurried to take photos with their phones.

And just like that, I was back in Malaysia. I was stamped into Sarawak again at a small building by the Lawas pier, then someone directed me into a van that took me to the bus terminal, where the driver purchased my bus ticket and handed it to me. The ticket I'd bought included the transfer and the bus, which was a welcome surprise.

I waited for departure time in a KFC with a clean squat toilet for a bus to Kota Kinabalu. I had to keep looking it up.

The four-hour bus journey included the stench of durian and showings of classic old Hong Kong movies, including Iron Monkey and Wing Chun, where Michelle Yeoh is implausibly mistaken by her childhood boyfriend for a man, and she does kung fu with trays of tofu.

The long-distance bus stop in KK was conveniently located near my hotel. I'd read on TripAdvisor and on hotel guidebooks that this street—Gaya Street—could be noisy, which now struck me as hilarious. Maybe I'd spent too much time a block away from Khao San Road in Bangkok.

Or perhaps it was my duty to be the one to make the noise.

The wifi did not reach my single room, which was cheap, tiny, but clean and tidy. I went to the lobby to use the Internet.

I threw a couple of young men off their online game in the lobby when my Internet speeds were too slow. They probably weren't real happy with me but I am still working on the road. Big files sometimes have to go up.

I groused about the wifi in my room and the clerk admitted that the signal didn't really reach the single rooms.

I'd deal with that tomorrow. I wasn't looking forward to what would surely be an extended discussion.

I got onto the elevator, where another guest greeted me.

‎"You stay here? What room?"

I looked at him, baffled. Seriously? I shook my head. No, I don't randomly inform people of my room number. He looked puzzled as I left the elevator on my floor.

Here is a short slideshow of the day's journey.

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