Buses, Boarders & Bizarre Rules

Trip Start Jan 18, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2013

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Friday, June 8, 2012

Miri is one of the nicest, most pleasant boring places I have ever been too. There is virtually nothing here of interest for a tourist. As a place to stay or live however its lovely. All the entertainment and local amenities you could ask for and its perfectly situated for trips out. The trick is getting out in the first place...

Day 142: Friday 8th June 2012    

Today we planned to do something that I had pushed back and back during my time in Borneo, the Niah caves. Originally I had planned to see them before meeting Ben and Alex on the way up to Brunei. Then we switched it to after Brunei. Then when the opportunity to see the longhouse we moved it back to after Mulu. But today, today we were going to see it. Well Alex and I were anyway Ben had decided that after Mulu they wouldn't be that impressive and wanted a down day to recover a bit. Little did we know at that point but he really had the best idea. After breakfast I said goodbye to Steve, e was leaving for Brunei, although he was planning on meeting back up with Ben & Alex after their PADI courses I would already be well gone into Indonesia by that point.

Soon after we followed in his tracks on our way to the bus station. We had to get a series of buses and taxis in order to get there. First a bus from a local station to the central (Long distance) station, then a bus to a junction in the middle of nowhere and then a taxi onto the park itself. On the way back of course we would be doing the same route in reverse. On the way out the very friendly laundry lad from next door that I had met the night previous advised us rather than walking all the way to the local station there was a bus stop closer that we could catch the bus to the long distance station from. Magically just as we got there the bus we needed was there. upon getting on though the driver (Incorrectly as it turned out) told us that this was not the right bus. Frustrated we trudged across town to the local station where we had to wait another 45 minutes until the next bus. Eventually arriving at the central station we booked tickets for all three of us the following day to Kota Kinabalu and then out tickets to the Niah caves (Well near them anyway). Another half hour wait ensued at the end of which we were first shuffled seats and then off the bus entirely. The guy organising it all was very rude and gave us no explanation for this. He frog marched us back to the ticket office and got us to get replacement tickets. We ended up on another bus with another wait. To add insult to injury the bus was stifling hot and the air-con was broken. With no idea if they could fix it or how long it would take if they could we decided to give it up as a lost cause. Thoroughly fed up by this point we headed home, luckily a local overheard our predicament and very kindly gave us a lift back. A time consuming and annoying exercise but at least it wasn't a total waste as we had our tickets for the following day booked and the whole ordeal had only cost us 2RM.

Back at the hotel we were surprised when Steve also turned back up, he had also had issues with the buses and had to turn back too. He was hoping that he would have better luck getting to Brunei tomorrow. Unwilling to write the day off entirely Steve, Alex and I headed out hoping to go the the local swimming pool. Unfortunately it was closed in the middle of the day, re-opening again at 4.00 as that was only an hour away we decided to go into the local mall, get some drinks and chill out for an hour till it opened up. An hour later we went back, paid to go in, got changed and went poolside. Very quickly Steve and I were accosted by a lifeguard. He explained to us that we were not allowed to enter the pool wearing our swimming trunks. Both of us were wearing very standard swimming shorts, purposefully designed to swim in however they insisted that we would only be allowed in if we were wearing very tight fitting Lycra shorts or pants. If we liked we could rent some out. We both decided that they would have to pay us a considerable amount of money before we put on rented swimming shorts. When we asked why the rule was in place, he explained he didn't know it was just pool policy. We both found it very strange. We could understand if the rule was the other way around what with this being a slightly more conservative Islamic country, but no apparently they want to see you in your banana hammocks. Strangely enough Alex in here bikini was waved straight in. Steve and I resolute after paying entry decided to sit by the side of the pool. It was nice enough but we were both eyeing the pool longingly.     

Day 142: Saturday 10th June 2012    

Today was a travel day like no other. An adventure of a bus journey and despite it being 12+ hours, one that I was bizarrely looking forward to. As I mentioned before there is a very odd bus route that goes between Miri and our next destination of Kota Kinabalu. Despite the fact that they are both located in the same country they are in different states. Both of these states are semi autonomous from Malaysia and consequently to travel from one of these states to the other you must present your passport and be stamped in and out (Just as you would on a boarder crossing between 2 countries). To complicate matters further the most direct route between the 2 cities goes thorough Brunei. A country which itself is split by a finger of Malaysia that runs through the middle of it. All of this results in you needing to make 5 boarder crossings being stamped first out of your current state and then into the new one. By the end of the day I would have 10 new stamps in my passport. The route started in Miri (Sarawak), crosses into Brunei for a few hours before re-entering the finger of Sarawak that divides Brunei. After traversing that you re-enter Brunei before going back into Sarawak territory again on the other side. Only then can you make the final crossing into Sabah. It was a long journey but due to all the breaks it didn't seem to bad. I did a lot of reading and listening to music along the way and did my best to request all the stamps not clog up my remaining pages (Fortunately this went quite well). Arriving after dark in Kota Kinabalu (KK) we checked into pretty much the first reasonably priced hostel we found (Expensive here) and went out for some food.
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