Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu By Road



Driving from Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu is not difficult. Just be prepared for the long drive. You will need a map. Here I have provided you a link to download the map created by a Samaritan. I have used the same map more than once. Its pretty good most of the way except a small section in Brunei where the turn indicated is very vague which causes us to overshot.


If you plan to drive all the way without stopping, the journey will take less than 10 hours. This time, we decided to have two overnight stop in Miri and Limbang. This makes the journey less strenuous for the dear hubby. J

We started our journey to Miri kind of late. Left Bintulu almost 12 noon. We went thru 3 pockets of rain. Strange to pass thru one section of raining cats and dogs and the next minute out the other side with no rain and sunny sunshine.


Driving out from Bintulu to Miri should be hassle free. There are two way to go, the old road and the new road. The old road is bumpy, winding and very scenic. If this is your first time driving this route then take the old road because along the way you will see the famous longhouse that Sarawak is known for. However taking the old road will take longer duration to arrive Miri.

We chose the new road because its straight so will be faster though it lacks any scene except for miles and miles of oil palm. There is no major turning that you need to be aware if you take this route except for the sharp 90 degree right turn that you need to pay attention coming out of Bintulu. If you miss this sharp 90 degree right turn and go straight you will end up at Samalaju Industries. Sorry did not have time to catch the forward photograph of this crucial point. However I did try to take a shot of it from the backward angle. 

Just to confirm you are on the right tracks, you should see an electrical plant on your left side just after the 90 degree right turn. Ignore the note on the photograph below...typo error. :)


All the way to Miri from the sharp 90 degree turn onward is a straight road. You will start to notice signs of life when you approached the  Taman Negara Guah Niah turn off. Look out for a restaurant where you can get some food and find a decent toilet. We tried their coconut which was very freshing with a hint of pandan taste to it. If you are lucky you can also find some local fruits depending on what season it is in. We saw a cat with very unique fur coat unlike any I have seen before. 


After our drink, we continued the journey towards Miri which took another hour or so. The journey was uneventful with me snoozing off most of the way.

I forgot to detail the route through Miri town towards our hotel. My humble apology. :)

We check into the latest and newest hotel Meritz. One thing I find unique about this hotel is how they created a reception area that caters to guests staying on every 3 floors.


We got the superior room RM180++ which was a pretty big room with breakfast included. The best was the tub. Theirs was a huge bathtub about 2 feet across. Bigger than the usual. Sad to say we did not have time to test it. The other plus point is the bed. Apparently it is a water bed. I jumped on it and roll about but cannot find any difference from other beds that I have slept in. Everything new so I cannot be more happier.


You get a 360 view of the city from their roof top restaurant. It was breathtaking. We ordered their promotion fried tit bits and Shiraz cocktail


The hotel pool is located on the 8th floor. It was a long walk from the elevator to the pool area. Later we found another elevator closer to the pool but it was still under construction. 


This hotel is also adjoining to Bintang Megamall which is very convenient for those who love shopping. When I was too lazy to go up my room on the 13th Floor, I just pass my new pair of shoe box to the reception to hold them awhile and they oblige me.


Before leaving Miri, remember to grab $3 Brunei dollars for the toll fees that you will have to pay in Brunei. We made the mistake of forgetting this so end up going around Miri town market looking for the money exchange vendor the next morning.

From the traffic light next to Meritz Hotel, turn left. Head straight and look out for the signboard that will show Kuala Baram. The signboard will indicate a right turn on the next intersection. After that keep driving straight until you see the turn off that says Sg Tujuh or Custom Check Point.


Then you will have to cross a bridge and pay a RM10.00 toll fee.


Head out and look out for the signs that say to Sg. Tujuh Custom Check Point. You have to be very alert here for there are a few twists and turning to get to the Malaysian Immigration.


After you go through the Malaysian immigration, keep going until you get to the Brunei side. Get your Brunei Immigration stamped then drive towards the Brunei customs counter. Here comes the tricky part, collect the custom card from the counter then drive out to the parking lot nearby, fill in the card then walk back to the counter to return it. So far I have been here twice; the custom officers have not checked any of our bags yet.


There is also a toilet at this center. Last pee stop until you get to Limbang.


As you drive out of Brunei immigration, you will pass the Beliat River crossing thru Rasau Bridge and at the end is the toll where you have to pay a Brunei $3.00 dollar.


What my hubby likes to do from here onwards is to lookout for another Car with Miri license plate and tailgates it. High probably that they are also passing thru Brunei so this will help you to drive on the correct path. In this story we picked out QMT 7602 and followed it. Try to chose one that is not driving too fast so you can tail it with safety. Most of the drivers especially Bruneians are fast drivers, hitting close to 140kph on the highway. The non locals like us will drive slightly less fast for fearing of getting caught by Brunei traffic police and paying the fine in Brunei dollars.

After the toll, keep driving straight passing thru Kuala Beliat, Seria, Anduki, Lumut going towards Tutong.


Look out for this huge Electricity Plant on your right side and a signboard on your left saying Bukit Beruang. Here comes the crucial U turn that you must not miss or else a long drive back.


Pass Labok Pulau and look out for the left turn into Lamunin just before the electricity plant.


When you are on Lamunin road, just keep driving straight. Look out for the signboard that says Labuk. This is a left turn at the round about.


Now here onward it gets tricky again. This is the part we lose our QMT. He did a sharp right turn of which I felt did not match the map I was using to navigate so I told hubby not to follow him. Hubby wanted to follow OMT but I insisted it did not match the map. While writing this article, I found another Updated Map of which the important details of missing turn off is more clearly indicated.


As we keep on driving straight our argument turned to whether we should turn back and follow QMT or not. Our worry was that he might be heading to a village in Brunei and not Limbang as we initially suspected.

Suddenly we felt very lost as we kept on going forward. We knew we had to get to Kuala Lurah but the rest of the signboards did not show that we are heading there. Finally we came to a T junction. Not sure which route to take we stop by and ask one of the locals. She told us to take the right turn at the junction. She also mentioned that the other route that QMT took is very winding and shorter. She recommended the route we are taking as it is straight forward and easier to travel on.


From here onwards we were no longer using the map. We depended on the road signboard completely which can be rather stressful. I kept telling hubby not to overtake the lorry when approaching a signboard because the size of the lorry blocks my sight of the board.

We kept vigilant for the word Kuala Lurah on every signboard that we came across with. As we approached the township, we finally spotted the word. Now we are back on track.


After getting back on the correct route, the rest of the way was easy because plenty of road signs all the way to Brunei Immigration exit at Kuala Lurah.


After our passports were stamped,  the Brunei officer gave us arrival cards. We found this silly as we were exiting Brunei and these cards were not needed. The cards eventually went into the rubbish bag for recycle. :)


We had the opportunity to capture photographs of the overflowing Limbang river and the flooded houses surrounding it.


After leaving the flooded river, we drove into Limbang town.


It was easy to locate Hotel Purnama. It is the tallest and most colorful building in town. The room was large but the furnishing looked tired and due for a refurbishment. However at RM80 nett with breakfast for two, who is going to complaint? The room even came with a bathrode, shower room and bathtub.


The breathtaking view of Limbang town with the flowing river from our window.


It takes only a few minutes of walking to cover the whole town. Some points of interest is the river waterfront and next to it the main market. In this market you will find lots of crackers and local biscuits at very cheap price. We also head down to the tamu area selling local fruits to look for some durians. It was located near to Bank Rakyat about 5 minutes walk opposite the main market.


For dinner we had SCR located right beside the hotel reception area. You definitely cannot miss this restaurant. Apparently they just opened so there were a crowd of people patronizing it.The next morning we had the hotel breakfast which offered very limited choices but sufficient to fill our stomach before the next leg of our journey.

On their notice board beside the hotel reception, I found a copy of the Time Table for Buses that goes out and in Limbang which I posted here.



As we headed out from the hotel parking lot, we turned left at the traffic light. There is two round-about to cross before you will get to Pandaruan Immigration. After the immigration, you will arrive at the ferry crossing. If you are lucky, it will be a short queue. We had to wait almost 20 minutes before we got to the front. It cost RM8.00 one way to cross on the ferry.



There is a short stretch of road leading to the ferry crossing that is littered with rubbish by inconsiderate drivers. So sad to see and it looked like nobody wanted to take up the responsibility of cleaning it. There is a signboard that warned the public not to litter or else face a penalty of RM500.00. I do not think this warning is working. Either because it is almost completely covered by the trees or maybe RM500 fine is not scary enough.


After crossing the river by ferry, our next stop is the Brunei Puni Immigration which is located just a short distance away.


We drove passed Bangar town heading to the next exit at Labu. The drive was uneventful and pretty straight forward. 


Again another stop at Brunei Immigration then into Malaysian Immigration.


The next town is Lawas. If you do not need to stop by then just keep driving to Sindumin. We decided to swing by into this small town to find more durians. There were some but their price was not as cheap as we expected so we decided to forgo the Lawas durian and try our luck in Sipitang instead.


When we finish our short excursion at Lawas, we retrace our route and got back on to the main road heading to Merapok Immigration


After you pass the bridge, the next stretch of road has some nice looking limestone. If you travel here in the early morning it gets very misty around this area and looked really amazing.


Next stop is Sindumin then Sipitang. You will need to pass thru a few round-about before you get to Sipitang town. Mostly just keep driving straight.


As we drove into Sipitang, we spotted the Market on the way. We decided to grab some more durians. After some haggling with the vendor, we bought 5 more durians and threw them to the back of our car. In total we now have 14 durian fruits and it stinks.

Getting out of Sipitang is easy. Just keep driving straight and looked out for Beaufort sign. That is the name of the next town we were planning to stop for lunch.


Here comes the crucial point. If you decided not to stop by Beaufort then take the left turn at the next roundabout with the gaint prawn. However if  you decided to stop by for some Beaufort Mee then just go straight.


Drive forward after the giant prawn roundabout until you get to the bridge that crosses Padas River. As you pass thru the bridge you will come across another roundabout with 3 gaint pamelos. Take the first left turn and  look out for the sign that says Pekan Beaufort. Turn left before the sign then turn right again. Find the famous beaufort mee at the restaurant located at the end of the white shophouse on your left. This is a corner restaurant facing the mosque and at the end of the street.


Ask the restaurant waiter for Mee Basah Beaufort Special. The noodle came with a handful of meat and vegetables. If you do not want large portion then just ask without the word "special". Even writing this blog makes me salivating and hunger for some Beaufort mee. Slurpppeeee...


With our tummy full, we drove out of Beaufort taking another way instead of retracing our route backward.  At the Pamelo roundabout drive straight. You will have to pass through a 2nd round about. As you approached the 3rd round about, take note that this is the meeting junction if you did not stopby Beaufort and went straight from the earlier cut off. Before they built the bypass, driving through Beaufort was the only way.

We almost to Kota Kinabalu now. You will passed by a few turn off to small towns (Kuala Penyu, Bongawan etc) that dot this route before reaching Papar.


When you arrived at Benoni Round-about, you have two choice to make. Both ways will eventually lead you to KK. We prefer to take the way that goes by Papar Town.



After passing Lok Kawi Town you can say that finally we have reached Kota Kinabalu. The rest of the way was easy. The approximate time of arrival for us was 4:00pm.






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