1 May 2013, almost couldnt make it for the trip if Malaysia PRU13 were to fall any earlier than 5 May and after 30 Apr. Booked the flight around one year ago during Air Asia's sales. Was kinda excited as this is my first ever solo trip though the excitement only started after i set off leaving for Changi on the Wednesday.
SGD67 SIN-MYY. BND47 BWN-KUL. MYR60 KUL-SIN.
Stayed in Dillenia Guesthouse which received tonnes of positive reviews from backpackers around the world. "Best guesthouse in southeast asia" "Mrs. Lee is very helpful in arranging transport for your Mulu / Niah cave trip".
Indeed. While my stay in Miri was too short for Mulu, i will definitely be back to Dillenia for my Mulu trip the next time.
Arrived at the guesthouse on transport arranged by Mrs. Lee, cost MYR10 from the airport sharing with a fellow backpacker, Tove, from Finland who just came back from Mulu. While waiting for my room keys, she showed me around the guesthouse and shared with me her experience in Mulu and Niah.
When Mrs. Lee arrived at around 3pm to pass me my room key, she will sit down and draw up a map for you explaining to you the town area and recommendations for food and travel plans. Very warm service!
Located at Jalan Side, within the Miri town area, the guest house is within 20 mins walking distance to almost everywhere in town. Though most people will be travelling out of Miri for Mulu and Niah anyway.
I stayed in a 6-bedder mix dorm. MYR30 per night.
Miri is a small town with food inspired from other areas of Malaysia as well as Indonesia and the Philippines. I was recommended by Mrs. Lee (the guesthouse owner) to try the 燒包, chendol, laksa, seafood and kolomee. With the influx of tourist for the UNESCO national park, food price is actually pretty similar to JB's even though it only has around 300k residents.
It was the 100th anniversary celebration for Miri Tua Pek Gong temple too. There were road closures and RELA on duty. Many temples from Brunei, Sibu, Kuching sent their teams to participate in the chingay.
When two lion dance troupes met, they will start lion fight immediately with the drums and cymbals in action.
The 8 immortals posing for camera.
While troupes were getting ready for the chingay, the section that attracted the most attention has to be this five painted faces. They had some ceremonial dance before 七爺 and 八爺 set off for the parade.
I like Miri having Chinese road name instead of direct translation from the Malay name. Wonder if this is the same for all cities in the Borneo state.
Jalan Bendahara is 財庫路（Treasure Street）
The parade started at the temple at Jalan Bendahara then to Jalan Merbau and Jalan North Yu Seng before making a U-turn at Jalan Permaisuri back to the starting point. Apparently this created massive jam due to total road closure of the affected streets.
As expected, everyone was their own reporter whipping out the phones and pads to record down the parade.
and Tzu Chi was there to help to promote cleanliness too. Good job!
Went to Meng Chai 明財海鮮 for seafood as recommended too. Ordered prawn and midin for one pax. Was given around 17-18 prawns (yes i counted lol) and total cost: MYR34.50. Was quite excited to finally taste midin, something that i wanted to try back in Kuching but didnt have the opportunity. Very nice texture!
The next morning, went to eat Laksa at Tasty Point (1) and took a glimpse at the local newspaper reporting the chingay as well as the local scene of PRU13. Got teased by the cashier auntie for not wearing an Ubah shirt lol.
Then i was at Niah National Park with another German couple who stayed in Dillenia too. Joseph the driver picked us up at 9am, we arrived there at around 10.30am. It's MYR60 per pax for the two-way transport, which i thought was expensive given that we were sharing the transport. One sandwich, one orange was provided too.
You would have to pay for your own entrance admission. MYR10 for Malaysian, MYR20 for foreigners. You may also rent a headlight from the counter at MYR5.
After passing through the ticket checking point, one has to take a one-minute boat ride to cross the river, which said to have crocodile.
Then it's a 2.5km walk into the nature before you see the cave. I regretted for not wearing long pants... Mosquitoes had a feast.
We walked very slowly, stopped for almost every single sound that might be caused by small animal in the forest. which a lot of times were actually falling leaves. Feel bad for leaving them behind (or actually was worried about me having no proper torchlight? XD), I walked very very slowly, appreciating the nature. lol.
Millipede - hundreds of them crawling slowly on the handle. They look red enough to be poisonous i think. Millipede has two pairs per body segment, except for the first three segments, which have one pair each. and they dont bite.
Finally reached the entrance to Gua Dagang at around 12pm. Yes we walked for almost 2hours for the first 2km.
My first time seeing stalagmite and stalactite after study about it in Geografi more than 10 years ago. lol. You can tell that the lime stone cave is very kapur-ish.
The archaeological site which was fenced up. Human remains dated 40,000 years ago was found in this area. complete with lingling-o, the earings and other ceremonial burial items.
More info about Niah Cave: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niah_National_Park
I think this is Gunung Subis
The entrance to Niah Caves
The bird nest collectors climb onto these sticks to collect the bird nest.
Some very nice limestone formation can be seen with the help of either a powerful torchlight or powerful camera.
Oh i regretted not having my trekking shoes too. Walking path was slippery with water and guano (swiftlets and bats shit).
I was using my iPhone's iLight as my torchlight. Just enough for me to see two-three steps ahead of myself.
3.7km mark. right after you entered the Moon Cave. The ultimate darkness.
Shot this with camera flash and random focus. do you see a bat on top?
with flash too. the fireflies alike bright spots are some insects that got attracted by light. very annoying. at least they dont bite.
at the end of the walk, it was Gan Kira (the place where they found skeleton with pierced spear across the chest / folded arms) on the right. On the left where you see the gate is the pathway to the Painted Cave, which was closed until further notice.
Painted Cave has rock painting dated 1200 years old.
On the way back, i randomly shot camera flash to the ceiling and caught this. Flocks(?) of bats gathering inside the holes.
came out again at the entrance of the Great Cave. it was almost 3.30pm.
The replica of the rock painting can be seen at the museum located near the boat jetty.
At Niah, bumped into a group of Chinese who were referring me as the tour guide since i was walking in front of two angmohs, seemingly showing the way. I corrected them and then we started our short conversation in Chinese.
They are from Malacca and booked the air ticket to Miri before the parliament was dissolved, just like me. The mum asked me if i am going back to vote and i said yes. She then continue to ask who am i voting for. I laughed and told her my area is between dacing and bulan.
Their flight was on Sunday 10am and hopefully they made it in time to undi.
Dinner was at Open Air Market where you can see mice running around! Ha dont care food is more important. This chicken noodle/porridge stall is strongly recommended by Mrs. Lee. Apparently her family dashed for this right after touching down at Miri, coming back from their trip to Turkey for a week.
Saw many drinking this yellow drink and followed suit, turned out to be Air Bunga (Chrysanthemum tea) filled in beer bottle. =.= paiseh max.
the chicken and noodle. MYR5.50
That night, after returning to the guesthouse, i had new roommates from the Kiwiland! Craig and his girlfriend was travelling around the world for a year with Malaysia as their second last stop. They started from South America, USA, UK and Europe, Turkey and Israel, Nepal, India, Thailand, Vietnam and then Miri, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu before KL and Singapore next. Was deeply inspired!
Talked about the elections with them. Talked about taxi tourist trap, Vietnam travelling, Malaysians working in Singapore, taught them simple Bahasa Malaysia, shared with them about Niah Cave which they will be going there tomorrow morning. A shame that I didnt get their facebook/contact or even leave my email to them in case they need help in Singapore.
But i was quite surprised with my openness to talk to people whom i just met lol.
The next day set off to Brunei on private car. MYR60 per pax arranged by Dillenia too. The driver, Mr. Fu works as a cross-border service provider. He sends raw noodles, make visas, deliver spare parts, get samples from vet and of course, deliver tourist like me to Brunei.
Good sense of humour and told me about the current state of corruption in Miri, having developer appointed by the state to develop low cost housing ended up building bungalows etc.
Enroute to Bandar Seri Begawan, you dont see kelapa sawit plantation as you would crossing the north-south highway in West Malaysia. instead, it's all natural greens, 99%.
Note: alternative route to BSB from Miri would be taking PHKL bus from Miri bus station to Sg. Tujoh checkpoint then drop off to get taxi/bus to Seria/BSB. Would cost around MYR55.
Mr. Fu brought me to this chinese eatery place just outside of the Bandar centre. operated by Hakka speaking chinese, they actually serve crocodile meat which was not on the menu. (!) BND6 with rice. It tasted like a mixture of chicken and fish. Supposed to be good for your throat/coughing.
It was nearly Friday 12pm so all shops have to cease their business for 2hours for prayer time. We had to rush through the last few mouthful of rice and leave the place by 12pm.
Eat as if there is a war coming. lol.
Check-in at Brunei hotel at around 12.30pm. Voted #1 on Tripadvisor for hotels in Brunei. but personally think it is not worth the SGD150 per night unless you come in 3. The room can accommodate maximum 3 pax. There is a youth hostel opposite the river charging BND30 per night.
Only found out about this after i made the booking...
Friday noon. All shops are closed. No business activity is allowed between 12-2pm.
Brunei town centre is very clean just like Singapore, if i may say that.
You can find very old chinese shop with folded door like this downtown.
the magnificent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque.
the only chinese temple in town located along Jalan Kianggeh.
Mercu Dirgahayu. Monument to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Brunei King.
Took boat ride to tour around the Kampong Ayer. BND25 for an hour trip.
Bomba dan penyelamat, fire station on water.
Shell petrol station on water.
This is just for show. He only bought petrol worth less than a dollar for us to take photo.
Kaslin, who was quite persistent in getting me to ride his boat. Quoted BND40 at first, i cut to BND25 and thought was quite okay for what i got to see during the trip. Fluently bilingual (Melayu and English) and a pretty good guide.
School on water.
Mosque on water.
Passing through houses on stilts.
then we set off to see Proboscis monkeys! Was still quite doubtful when Kaslin guaranteed that we could see a few.
He stopped the boat around a bakau area. We heard rustling sound but camera was too slow to capture them...
Finally saw one on top!
It was a pair actually. Came quite close to us and was hopping around.
Then we set off to go back to town.
The Istana Nurul Iman, sultan's palace from far.
Then i am back on mainland and went straight to Tamu Kianggeh.
Was already 5pm+ so pretty empty.
The mosque at night. Named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the mosque as a symbol of the Islamic faith in Brunei dominates the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan. The building was completed in 1958 and is an example of modern Islamic architecture. (From Wikipedia)
Morning breakfast! Very nice Singapore beehoon which had some kunyit i think.
Sending postcard is a must!
Chinese school in town. Celebrated its 90th anniversary.
Brunei is very pedestrian friendly. Has wide walking path and clear road signs.
The mosque architecture is a mixture of modern Islamic and Italian style. One of the local elements used was "kalat" (thick rope) shape used for the tiang on the left pic. The dome was made from pure gold.
On saturday, non-muslim is not allowed to enter the mosque main hall if there is religious event. I entered the mosque at around 830am with two other tourists. The mosque staff played a video showing the history of the mosque too.
Very beautiful royal water transport for religious ceremony. Connected to the mosque area with a bridge. The lagoon is manmade right next to Kampong Ayer.
The Royal Regalia opens on Saturday at 9.45am. Will need to take off your shoes and keep your camera and cellphones with camera in locker. No photography is allowed.
The regalia showcases various royal gifts received by the Brunei Sultan, ranging from painting to replica of the terracotta, boat models, golf and polo equipment and traditional handicraft presented by country heads, local organisations or private firms.
After checking out at 12pm, i went the the Bandar bus terminal to take the BND1 bus to the airport. By right, bus number 23/24/34/36/38 go to the airport BUT i went up to 3 different buses and all of them rejected me for the reason not wanting to drive towards airport which is heavily congested.
Some just pointed me to the next bus and said my bus doesnt go,that bus does. some said was having lunch, have to wait for very long before departing.
The fourth bus driver was kind enough to take me in.
Brunei bus works this way. Get into the bus. Driver to print out tickets and will go around collecting the money and asking for your destination. then he would memorise by heart and plan how he would drive, generally follow the designated route.
One can get on/alight from the bus anywhere. Bus driver will make that turn for you if you are specific enough. And regardless of the distance, it costs BND1 per trip.
Then at the Brunei International Airport which is undergoing renovation work.
One has to pay BND12 as airport tax so remember to save some cash with you when departing.
Flight departed from BWN at around 4pm and i reached JB Sentral at 1230am. Due to some flight delay at KL and some issues with one passenger that lasted for 30minutes. Cabin crew and ground staff went to talk to the lady and eventually she decided to leave the aircraft.
Was seated next to a Malay auntie for BWN-KUL. She said "saya ingat duduk dengan ayah" to her daughter seated in front with her son and husband. I offered "ataupun makcik nak tukar?" the daughter smiled and said it's okay.
20minutes into the flight, the makcik gave her son some sweets, and then offered me one. It was about dinner time so i rejected her offer (aiya. shldnt have done that..) Then i started talking to her. Knowing that she's from Terengganu and the family went to Brunei for short trip. She asked me where do i come from and then asking me if i am travelling alone. When i said, "ya seorang", she smirked.
Airport traffic controller came to rescue when we were directed into a shortcut to reach Changi Airport 10 minutes earlier than expected (still a net delay of 20minutes). Respect!
After landed and cleared the checkpoint, I ran to the groundfloor bus terminal and couldnt find the coachbay 12 for TS1. Asked a traffic police and was directed to go a level up for coach bay instead.
TS1 came to Terminal 1 at around 11.25pm and accept only exact cash. no change. no EZlink. SGD7 to Kotaraya terminal.
And I made it in time to go home and vote.
PRU13 result was disappointing though kind of expected. What really disheartened me was how people react/spread rumours irresponsibly and how the foreign workers got bashed while they are actually being used by the dirty politicians.
Anyway, it's an improved results from 2008. Something worth celebrating!