Mobile phones
Getting around

Kedah, Teluk Intan, Kuching, Maludam, Niah NP, Lambir hills NP, Loagan Bunut NP, Bakun, Bau, Santubong NP

16.8: KL -> Alor Setar
17.8: Alor Setar (paddy museum) -> Bujang valley -> Gunung Jerai -> Alor Setar
18.8: Alor Setar -> Teluk Intan
19.8: Teluk Intan
20.8: Teluk Intan -> Kuching
21.8: Kuching -> Maludam (NP and Kampung) -> Sibu
22.8: Sibu (and Jade Dragon temple out of Sibu)
23.8: Sibu -> Bintulu

24.8: Bintulu -> Niah national park -> Bintulu
25.8: Bintulu -> Lambir hills NP -> Miri
26.8: Miri -> Loagan Bunut NP -> Miri
27.8: Miri -> Bakun dam -> Sungai Asap -> Miri -> Kuching
28.8: Kuching -> Bau -> Kuching
29.8: Kuching -> Santubong national park (summit climb) -> Kuching
30.8: Kuching -> Singapore
31.8: Singapore -> KL
1.9: KL
2.9: KL -> Munich

Planning and overall impression

The idea was to visit some places where I hadn't been yet. One of these was the state of Kedah, in the northwest of peninsular Malaysia, close to the Thai border. Alor Star, the state capital, is a small city with a nice historic core, well worth a visit. In the north there is the Ulu Muda forest reserve, a remote area with wildlife and rainforests. The Bujang valley has some interesting ruins dating to the Hindu-Buddhist period over 2500 years ago.
In Sarawak I visited some smaller national parks. Maludam was inaccessible when I arrived (some advance booking is needed) and Lambir hills was closed for repairs. The Loagan Bunut national park is best visited during the rainy season, when the water levels in the lake are higher. The Bakun lake has a lot of tourist potential, but to best visit it you need a houseboat with which you can visit all the remote areas in the lake over a few days.


Malaysia is not an inexpensive country to visit, but costs are not high either. There is now a tourist tax in the hotels, which adds up to the hotel bill.


There is a large variety of food all over Malaysia. In practice, since my time was limited I often ate in fast food restaurants


Countless hotels everywhere, easily bookable via the international booking portals.

Money  / Exchange rate (August 2018)

1 Euro ~ 4.7 MYR (Malaysian ringgit)
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

I bought a Celcom SIM card (65 MYR for 10GB over one month with 25 minutes of local calls), mainly because Celcom probably has the best coverage in Malaysia and I was planning to go to rural and remote areas.

Internet access

Most hotels offer free WLAN access in the room, with variable quality. I also relied on the mobile phone (using it as a mobile hotspot).


Tropical weather. August is the dry season and in fact it rained very little (only a couple of days). Often however the sky was covered with clouds.

Health / Vaccinations

For Malaysia the usual set of tropical immunisations are needed. The malaria risk seems to be moderate even in the jungle areas (was told staff who had spent one year in the area didn't catch malaria), so I didn't take anti-malaria pills.

VISA / Entry requirements

VISA on arrival for EU nationals and nationals of several other developed countries.


No problems in Malaysia. It's a safe and stable country.

Getting around

Both in west Malaysia and Sarawak I rented cars to get around. This was necessary to reach remote locations, not well served by public transportation. For the longer distances I used flights.

Continued from the Thailand 2018 travelogue

16.8: KL -> Alor Setar
Hotel The Jerai Alor Setar, Alor Setar. 155 MYR for a comfortable room (a bit old), with furniture (table+chair, cupboard, additional chair), flat screen TV, attached bathroom with shower. The bed is not that soft. Excellent location in the centre of Alor Setar, a few hundred metres from the Zahir mosque. Breakfast included.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with clouds in the morning in KL. No rain.

Shortly after 9am the Grab car is here (a Perodua model) and picks me up. There is not too much traffic and before 10am we are at KLIA2. I get out, pay (74 MYR) and proceed to the check-in counter.

Since it is an Airasia flight, I first check-in at the electronic counters (you only need to enter your booking code, then the machine prints your boarding pass and baggage slip), then proceed to the counter where I drop the luggage. There I get another boarding pass, with better paper.

After that I have some breakfast at a White Coffee outlet and then proceed to the gate. It's always a long walk to the gates at KLIA2.

Around 10:50am I'm at the gate. I spend the remaining time going through the photos, then at 11:25am I board the place (today an A320-200). The plane starts rolling at 11:52m and and takes off at 11:59am, with a minimal delay of 9 minutes.

We land in Alor Setar at 12:40pm. Small old airport. It doesn't take too much time to retrieve the luggage, then I walk to the car rental counters. There is one car rental which probably has operations also in Sarawak, the Hertz one. Chit-chat with the lady. Yes, I can book a car without having to declare the exact rental period. I can give it back whenever I want - cool. And I can have all insurances (which means that whatever happens I pay nothing). And I can pick it up in Kuching and return it in Miri (250 MYR surcharge). The pricing seems reasonable: 124 MYR/day for a Hyundai i10 (via Thrifty), 215 MYR/day for a Hyunday Elantra.

A taxi to the centre of Alor Setar costs 25 MYR, so I take a Grab for 13 MYR. I'm in the hotel before 2pm. I get settled and get out again in a "tropical" outfit (shorts, polyester T-shirt, slippers, mosquito repellent, umbrella against rain and sun) at 2:15pm. This way I can stay out in the tropical heat even until the evening.

First I walk to the tourist information centre. There I get a brochure about Alor Setar and Kedah (and one about Perlis as well) and ask several things about Alor Setar. It seems that all attractions are in the centre in walking distance. Then, there are some places about 10km from Alor Setar and further away in Kedah.

So I start exploring Alor Setar. It's surprisingly pretty city with a number of things to see, enough for half a day or even a full day. Very photogenic place. Many palaces, mosques, cute things to photograph, very colourful. I visit the Mahathir birthplace, the old Lower Court building, then walk towards the Zahir mosque, passing by a number of places. After the mosque I get on top of the TV tower (18 MYR after discount), have a look at the city, then go the Aman Central mall where I buy some food and drinks.

It's almost 5pm when I reach the Thai Buddhist temple. From there I take a Grab car (6 MYR) to the Al-Bukhary mosque. Nice big mosque, whose interior is very photogenic. The guard insists that I wear a sarong over my shorts to cover the knees.

At 5:45pm I call another Grab car to get back to the Aman Central mall. Something goes wrong and the app gets the wrong location. Takes some effort to get the driver to come over here (fee is 8 MYR). Some discussion in Chinese (driver is ethnic Chinese), whether he would drive me around the whole day tomorrow in Kedah (actually only do a loop to the south). I offer 200 MYR, but he wants 400 MYR.

In the mall I have some dinner, then after 7pm I walk out again for some blue hour photography (beautiful sunset by the way). I'm back in the hotel about 8:20pm.

17.8: Alor Setar (paddy museum) -> Bujang valley -> Gunung Jerai -> Alor Setar
Hotel The Jerai Alor Setar, Alor Setar. The breakfast is not terribly impressive (lots of choice, but it's more suited for Asian customers). At 2pm the hotel staff calls and asks if I check out today. Apparently some confusion in their customer database.
Weather: overcast and some rain in the morning. After that mostly sunny for the rest of the day. Some clouds in the sky.

In the morning I call the Hertz agent to ask for a car for today, but Shima (the agent) tells me she isn't working today.

So I take a Grab car to the Paddy Museum (14 MYR), about 10km out of Alor Setar, arriving there at 10:35am. The paddy museum is kind of cute and inside there is a nice 3D image of a paddy landscape. There are also exhibit of past rice cultivation techniques. But it's not a place where you spend a lot of time and in fact after 10 minutes I'm done.

But now there is no Grab car to get to the next place. No Grab driver is willing to drive here to pick me up. I speak with the museum staff and they order a taxi for me (30 MYR).

After waiting for about 15-20 minutes the taxi is here and I drive to the airport. There I go to the car rental counters and find one which is open. I rent a small car for half a day (a Perodua unit) for 90 MYR + 20 MYR additional insurance.

With that I first drive to the hotel where I fetch the car kit (to fix the smartphone and provide it with power). Then I drive to the Bujang valley archaeological museum, about 60km south of Alor Setar.

 When I get on the motorway, I purchase a card (10 MYR + 10 MYR of value on it). The lady puts 20 MYR on it, so the total becomes 30 MYR.

It's an open air museum in the jungle. The building with the gallery is closed, but there are a number of Hindu temples which were relocated here from the Bujang valley. A bit strange that they relocate temples instead of leaving them where they are.

 After about half an hour in this place, at 2:20pm I drive to the Bujang valley which Google Maps indicates as a site of interest. It's a short drive (8km) but when I arrive there is nothing, only rice fields.

I spend some time pondering what to do next, then decide to drive to Gunung Jerai, a 1200m high mountain which should be more interesting that the mangrove forests they have here.

To get there you need to drive for a while along the coast, then turn inland and at one point turn right and take the road which climbs the mountain.

On this Gunung Jerai there are a couple of hotels/resorts, probably for people who want to spend some time in a cooler place. I drive all the way up to the telecommunications antenna. The last 3km are a steep single lane road. I don't dare to think what would happen if another car wanted to drive down.

When I reach the telecommunications tower I may not continue further (military area). So I make a U-turn and drive back a bit, then spot a place with a parking. I park the car and walk on a trail for about 400-500m, reaching a strange place with some exposed rock. Not sure what is so special about this (but it's fenced in), or why the rock is exposed and no vegetation is growing on it (a bit strange in the tropics, at this low altitude).

When getting back to the car I meet a couple of Malaysian students who have walked all the way up from the sea level. They ask me if I can bring them down a bit. So we drive down to a place where there is a parking. From here you can walk to a waterfall (takes about 20-30 minutes to get there).

With the students I walk to the waterfall, deep in the rainforest. It's probably around 10m high. After this I walk back to the car and then drive to the airport in Alor Setar, where I return the car at 7:30pm.

Then I take a taxi to the Aman Central mall where I have dinner.

18.8: Alor Setar -> Teluk Intan
Hotel Grand Court, Teluk Intan. 120 MYR (+ 10 MYR tourism tax) for a big clean room with attached toilet (shower). Flat screen TV, adjustable A/C, table+chair, free fast WLAN in the room. But otherwise the room is poorly accessorised. There is no cupboard for the clothes, no fridge and there are no paper tissues in the room. In the toilet there are few towels and the double bed only has two pillows (instead of four).
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds in Alor Setar.

Shortly after 8:30am I get into the Grab car (6 MYR) to the bus station. There at 9am I get into the bus to Teluk Intan. The bus is supposed to arrive in Teluk Intan at 12:45pm. In practice, it arrives at 3:20pm because it doesn't drive so fast and makes several stops in various cities.

Once in Teluk Intan I meet Shirley. We ask for buses to KLIA2 on Monday. There is only one which is halfway suitable and it leaves at 12:30pm and arrives at 4:30pm (a bit early, since my flight leaves only at 8pm). On the other hand, regular buses going to the Jalan Duta bus station in KL only arrive there at 5pm (leaving at 2pm) and I still need to get to KLIA2 from there. A bit risky, in case for some reason the bus is delayed. So I buy the a ticket for the direct bus to KLIA2 at 1230pm.

Then I have some food in a KFC restaurant and by coincidence meet the kids and David and Sara (the brother and the sister of Shirley). In the evening at 6pm we have a long dinner to celebrate the 80th birthday of the father of Shirley.

19.8: Teluk Intan
Hotel Grand Court, Teluk Intan. Restaurant on the 5th floor where one can have meals and breakfast.
Weather: sunny, blueish sky the whole day (permanent thin clouds layer - milky blue sky). Not too hot and no rain the whole day.

Between 12pm and 2pm we play badminton in a hall without A/C. Everybody is sweating a lot. Then we have some lunch in town, take a brief rest in the hotel and by 4:20pm are out again, this time heading to a boat trip on the Sungai Perak river (5pm to 8:45pm). The river is not terribly interesting (the water is quite dirty). Some fish farms along the river. After sunset we see fireflies along the riverbank, quite a few actually. Seems these fireflies are in many places in Malaysia. Then we have some short dinner at 9:20pm and are back in the hotel after 10pm.

20.8: Teluk Intan -> Kuching
Hotel Imperial Riverbank, Kuching. 131 MYR for a nice big room in the centre of Kuching, along the river. There is a fridge, cupboard, ironing board with iron, electronic safe, LCD TV, tea making equipment. Free WLAN in the room. Very good shower.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with thin clouds layer in Teluk Intan. No rain. Overcast in KL.

I take the 12:30pm bus to KLIA2. This is scheduled to arrive in KLIA2 at 4:30pm. In practice it arrives at 3:45pm. I check if I can take an earlier flight, but with my low cost ticket this isn't possible. I'd have to buy a new ticket for the flight at 6pm.

Since I can only check in at 5pm, I kill some time at the airport by having some food at a KFC restaurant, then spending some time going through the images.

At 7:40pm I board the plane (A320-200 neo, about 90% full). It starts rolling at 8:13pm and takes off at 8:23pm with 23 minutes of delay. We touch down at 9:58pm and reach the gate after 10pm. I take a Grab car to the hotel (MYR 11).

21.8: Kuching -> Maludam (NP and Kampung) -> Sibu
Hotel Kingwood, Sibu. 170 MYR (+10 MYR tourism tax) for a nice big room, "business grade" in a large modern hotel in Sibu. When I get in I have to switch off the A/C, as the temperature in the room is already very cold. Nice big bed, soft enough. Table + chair, additional sofa chair. Cupboard for the clothes, but empty. Tea making equipment. Bathroom with shower. This seems to be a hotel catering to business people.
Weather: slightly overcast, a bit hazy (due to forest fires in Kalimantan) in Kuching. After 6pm it rains intermittently between Pusa and Sibu.

I only manage to reach the airport at 10:20am (Grab car for 11 MYR). Was supposed to pick up the car at 10am. But then the Thrifty car rental guy is even slower. While he is processing the papers, I have some breakfast in an Old Town White Coffee cafe. The one way rental (pick up in Kuching, return in Miri) will cost an additional 800 MYR (!). On the other hand, the car (Hyunday i10) with all insurances is only 120 MYR/day.

It's almost 12pm when I finally leave Kuching for Maludam. My first stop is at a petrol station, where I fill the tank and buy some food and drinks. Then I continue driving. The road conditions are mediocre (not really possible to drive faster than 80km/h because of too many bumps and unevenness of the road).

I cross the bridge on the Batang Sadong river at 2:10pm, then reach the queue for the Batang Lupar ferry at 2:52pm.

What follows is over 1:30 hours of waiting time until I can get on the ferry. It would seem that there are not enough ferries to cross the river, which at this point is 5km wide.

When I'm finally on the other side (i.e. on the Maludam peninsula with the national park) it's almost 5pm. I quickly drive to the homestay in Kampung Maludam, using the coordinates of Google Maps. And what a miracle, the homestay really exists. But it is fully booked and what is worse the owner tells me that tomorrow and for the next three days there are no boats into the Maludam national park (Hary Raya public holiday).

Basically all I can do it continue my trip to the next destination. After some pondering I decide to drive to Sibu, which is about three hours by car from here.

I start driving around 5:40pm, reach the Pusa ferry jetty at 6:33pm, and after a long and tiring drive mostly in the darkness and the rain I reach the hotel in Sibu at 9:30pm. Most of the road is in very poor shape (too many "hills" and holes in the road) and in addition on large sections of the road there are roadworks for the new Sarawak motorway.

22.8: Sibu (and Jade Dragon temple out of Sibu)
Hotel Kingwood, Sibu. This morning when I extend the room for another night, the room rate is only 150 MYR. Apparently this is the walk-in rate, lower than what I paid with booking.com.
Weather: overcast and dull in the morning, but by the time I get out of the hotel at 10:30am the sky has turned blue (actually light blue, there is still some haze in the air). No rain the whole day, every now and then some clouds.

In the morning I extend the room by one night, then I take the car and drive into the centre of Sibu, looking for the visitor information centre. Maybe I shouldn't have done that because I'm soon stuck in the traffic jam and cannot find a parking. With some effort I manage to get out of the historic core and find a free parking near the Methodist church.

I visit (again, after 2003) the Tua Pek Kong temple, then walk to the visitor information centre. The historic centre looks as if it hadn't changed in the past years, although the Sibu heritage centre building (where the visitor information centre is) seems to be new.

In the visitor information centre I have a chat with the staff. The person I talk to doesn't seem to be terrbly knowledgeable. For instance she knows nothing about the Jade Dragon temple and doesn't know if there is a paved road to the Bakun dam. But she gives me some brochures about Sibu, one with a heritage trail and explains what there is to see and do in Sibu.

Then I walk back to the car, drive to the hotel to fetch the powerbank (which I had forgotten) and on the way I refuel the car.

So I drive to the Jade Dragon temple (玉龙山天恩寺, yu long shan tian en si). This is 26 km from Sibu, on the road to Bintulu. It's a newly built temple, whose construction is still ongoing. There are several buildings and pagodas on the temple complex, all very nicely decorated. The entrance is free and the temple is open between 8am and 5pm.

 At 2pm I'm done with the temple. I ponder what to do next and decide to drive to the Bukit Lima forest reserve. Getting there by car takes around 40 minutes. There is a big parking where I leave the car. Until 4pm I'll be walking on a 3.2km long trail on wooden planks, initially over some sort of open air vegetation area (no trees), later in the shadow provided by trees. Not terribly impressive place, but good exercise. I meet lots of people who also do the trail. When walking back, after 3:30pm more and more people (all locals) come to the trail. 

Then I drive to the Star Mega Mall, which is supposed to be the largest mall in Sarawak. It's not terribly impressive from an architecture point of view. I quickly leave it and drive to a Secret Recipe cake shop where I have some cake and a drink.

In the evening I spend some time visiting the remaining places of the heritage trail.

23.8: Sibu -> Bintulu
Jinhold Apartment Hotel, Bintulu. 107 MYR for a nice big room, four star level, lots of furniture and equipment (big fridge, tea making equipment, even a Hi-Fi system, hair dryer, but no ironing board and iron). Attached bathroom with shower. Adjustable A/C, LCD TV. Lots of cupboards, table+chair and additional two chairs. Breakfast included.
Weather: overcast the whole day, not too hot. Heavy storm with rain when I arrive in Bintulu around 3pm.

I leave Sibu around 10:30am and reach Bintulu four hours later. The drive is not really easy. In large sections the road is very bad (very uneven, unsmooth surface). Most of the time there are roadworks for the construction of the Borneo motorway. 

Anyway, when I reach Bintulu I waste about 5 minutes because the maps of Google Maps are either not up to date or the directions Google Maps gives are unclear.

I check in the hotel and bring my stuff to the room. Then, since outside there is a storm and it's 3pm and I haven't had anything since this morning, I have some lunch in the restaurant of the hotel.

It's almost 4pm when I go out again. I drive to the ParkCity mall since it's still raining, but leave it soon again because this mall is unimpressive. But around the mall there seems to be the historic core of Bintulu: lots of old houses (colonial era shophouses). I run into two bakeries, one next to the other. Then, I drive to the river by car (1km distance, walking would have taken 10-15 minutes).

The buildings along the river look more modern, but there is a nice Chinese temple (Tokong Tua Pek Kong). I spend some time in this area, then later will check out the waterfront area and the beaches in the north.

There isn't terribly much to see in Bintulu, but it's a good place where to break the journey because there are many hotels and a decent tourist infrastructure.

In the evening I wonder what to do tomorrow, because the Bukit Tiban national park which I was planning to visit doesn't seem to be a real place. Will have to check tomorrow if it makes sense to drive there.

The other thing, driving to the Bakun reservoir, is also not really feasible, because driving there (Long Murum) takes three, more likely four hours. Doing it as a daytrip is not really an option, but it's not clear if you can spend the night there (there may be two resorts/hotels, but nobody picks up the phone when I call).

24.8: Bintulu -> Niah national park -> Bintulu
Jinhold Apartment Hotel, Bintulu.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Bintulu, some rain, a bit fresh. In the Niah still still overcast, but no rain.

I wake up earlier than usual, have breakfast and by 9am start driving towards the Niah national park. The idea would be to check out the Bukit Tiban national which is on the way according to Google maps. But when I reach the junction, it's actually only a bad dirt track for the last 4km. Since I don't have a 4WD car and most likely there isn't much to see anyway (the satellite image shows a site with palm oil plantations), I decide to continue driving towards the Niah NP.

The road conditions initially are bad (roadworks everywhere), but later improve significantly. I reach the Niah national park HQ by 12pm. There I buy a ticket for 20 MYR, then take the boat (1 MYR - can't they build a bridge over the river?) and start walking towards the caves.

I had visited Niah the last time in 2001. Everything seems unchanged, except that now the accomodation in the park seems abandoned (or perhaps it was moved to the park HQ building).

It's a 3.1km walk through the jungle to the main cave, followed by another 1.1 km to the cave with the prehistoric paintings.

Huge cave system, with a prehistoric archaeological site. In the deeper parts of the cave you need a torchlight, because there is no illumination. Strong smell of urine / excrements.

 This time I walk all the way to the cave with the wall frescoes. You have to completely cross the main cave, get out at the other end, walk in the jungle for about 400m and enter a new, smaller cave. There on the white cave wall are paintings of people and animals.

It's about 3:40pm when I finally start walking back to the park HQ. Walking quickly, but with many photo stops, I only manage to be back at the park headquarter (where I have parked the car) at 4:50pm. I've spent over four and a half hours in the Niah national park. In principle you could spend the entire day (or even longer) if you also climb one of the hills in the national park.

Since I'm a bit tired and hungry, I drive to Niah where I have some quick food in a KFC restaurant. Then I drive back to Bintulu, arriving at the hotel a 7:45pm.

25.8: Bintulu -> Lambir hills national park -> Miri
Hotel Ajang, Miri. 112 MYR (+10 MYR tourism tax) for a smallish and moderately well-furnished room in central Miri. There is a clothes hanger but no cupboard for the clothes, a fridge, (small) table + chair, an LCD TV, a phone and an attached bathroom with shower.
Weather: sunny with some clouds the whole day.

I take it easy and check out at 10:30am. Then I get into town, refuel the car in a petrol station, buy some food in a bakery and head into town for some photography (now that the weather is good). Around 11:20am I start driving to the Lambir hills national park, using the coastal road I took yesterday when getting back from Niah to Bintulu. There is not so much traffic and the drive proceeds smoothly.

I reach the headquarter of the Lambir hills national park by 1:50pm. Bad surprise, the national park is closed. They tell me that because it rained too much, they need to redo the trails. Some discussion, I explain that I have come from Bintulu to see this NP etc. Nothing, closed is closed. It's now already the third national park in Sarawak which is either closed or doesn't exist (the other two being Maludam and Bukit Tiban).

In the meantime I have some food, because it's already 2pm and I haven't had lunch yet.

More discussion with the park staff. The guy suggests that I can go to the Borneo Tropical Rainforest resort, 5km from here. He says that there is a waterfall and trails across the jungle. So I drive to that place.

But it's not free. I pay 40 MYR to be allowed to drive in (1-4pm). The price includes a snack (which later however I won't get). From the main road there is a narrow side road, 4km long. At the beginning and at the end this road is paved, otherwise it's a dirt track (but a good one).

I reach the resort office by 2:50pm. Some discussion at the reception.     They give me a map and explain where the waterfall is and how to get there.

So I spend the next 1:30 hours having a look at this area. It's sort of a resort in the jungle, with accomodation, a waterpark with games for chidren and some trails. Not a bad concept, if you are here with the family.

I walk around a bit along the trails, then to to the waterfall. Wow, what a small waterfall - the drop is around 50 cm, less than one metre.

At 3:40pm I start walking back, because I'm supposed to be out of this resort by 4:30pm. When I reach again the reception, it turns out that the snack is no longer available (people have let already). So I just drive to Miri.

With a stop along the way, I reach the Lian Hua San Ching Tien Chinese temple in Miri by 5:40pm. Beautiful temple, richly decorated. This temple alone is worth the trip to Miri.

But actually 200m from this temple there is another Chinese temple (the Hai Long si one), a bit smaller, but almost more photogenic than the first one.

At 6:20pm I drive into town and have some dinner in the Bintang Megamall.

26.8: Miri -> Loagan Bunut national park -> Miri
Hotel Ajang, Miri.
Weather: sunny in the morning with only few clouds in the sky. Some rain around 4pmwhen driving back to Miri from LOagan Bunut. Quite hot.

 I leave the hotel in the morning around 10:30am and drive to the visitor information centre. Some discussion with the lady. Visiting Bakun would be possible, if I drive to Sungai Asap and stay one night there. Apparently they have homestays and people can bring me to the lake the next day. Quite a long drive from Miri. The road is paved, but not in good condition. And the lady gives me the contact data of a tour operator. This guy suggests a cost of 300 MYR for the overnight stay in Sungai Asap + 400 MYR for the boat trip on the lake. Total 700 MYR, which however can be shared with other travellers.

Then I leave and drive to a Shell petrol station where I refuel the car. After this I drive to the Loagan Bunut national park, and arrive there at 1:26pm.

Loagan Bunut is a national park centered around a lake which in the dry season disappears or almost disappears, and has the highest level in the rainy season between October and February. Right now this lake is very small and shallow. In fact, a few days ago the lake was dry, then the rain filled it up. 

There are three trails around the lake. A very short one (260m), a longer one (700m) which however is not available anymore and a longest one (2km) on the opposite side of the lake (boat needed to reach the beginning).

Initially the registration office is closed, so I just walk to the lake. Then I walk back because there is nothing to do there and it's impossible to walk once around the lake.

Back at the headquarters the office is now open. The staff asks me to register and pay the entry fee (20 MYR for non-Malaysians, 10 MYR for Malaysians). The guy also tells me where the trail begins.

I do this trail. With stops here and there (I also climb up to the hilltop with the telecommunications tower for a better view) I'm back to the headquarters half an hour later.

This national park is not terribly interesting. There is accomodation and a canteen, but it's best to come here in the rainy season. 

At 3:30pm I start driving back to Miri. Getting back to Miri takes a bit over two hours (I'm in the hotel at 5:40pm).

Around 6pm I get out again and walk to the waterfront. This is like the waterfront in Kota Kinabalu, only much smaller. I'm there until after sunset, then walk to the Imperial mall where I have dinner.

On the way I discover a number of places where it is possible to eat something.

27.8: Miri -> Bakun dam -> Sungai Asap -> Miri -> Kuching
Hotel Imperial Riverbank, Kuching.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds. At the Bakun lake a clouds layer temporarily blocks the sun. No rain.

 In the morning I check out of the hotel and get into the car for the trip to Sungai Asap. The idea is to spend the night there and the next day visit the Bakun lake and dam. I reach Niah after one hour and ten minutes, at 10:55am. There I have an early lunch at a KFC restaurant.

At 11:25am I get back to the car, refill the tank at a petrol station and drive to Sungai Asap. It's supposed to be a very long trip. According to the lady of the visitor information centre in Miri the road is very bad, you actually need a 4WD car, so with my small Hyundai i10 it should take a very long time to get there.

The drive proceeds quite smoothly and I keep expecting the very bad road the lady described. It turns out that the road is actually quite good, but every now and then there is a bad (actually very bad) hole or a hill in the road. It's possible to drive fast, but you have to be very careful to quickly brake in case there is a hole or a hill, or manouver to avoid these obstacles. In practice, it's impossible to avoid all these road imperfections, with the result that the car sometimes shoots in the air and then falls on the nose and you have to keep the steering wheel firmly to maintain control of the car.

Despite the road I manage to reach the junction to Sungai Asap before 2pm. And then it's only 40-50km left for the Bakun dam, so I decide to first have a look at the Bakun dam and lake, since the remining 40-50km can't take that much time.

In fact I reach the security gate at 2:40pm. The guards are a bit surprised to see me and ask if I have a ticket or some other authorisation. I'm not allowed to go to the dam, but I may go to the lake. I leave the passport with them and they give me a temporary access card which I can leave in the car.

So I drive to the lake. It's a short drive (2-3km) which ends at a jetty, where several boats are anchored. There is not much activity. When I arrive a small boat just lands at the jetty. There is an abandoned cafe. This looks like a place which was planned to be a tourist hotspot, but later got abandoned, or to put it differently not enough tourists are arriving.

 But actually this lake has a lot of potential, because it is huge and it is surrounded by virgin rainforest. And with a boat you can easily access all corners of it. Here is the problem - you need a boat, even better a houseboat which doubles as accomodation, because there is no tourist infrastructure.

I think the problem is that it is difficult to reach the Bakun lake, because it is so remote. The Kenyir lake in west Malaysia is doing well from a tourist perspective, because it is not far from Kuala Terengganu. On the other hand, even the Batang Ai lake doesn't get too many tourists, even if there there is a Hilton hotel.

I check out the Hydro resort which shows up on Google Maps. It does exist, but when I get there at 3:35pm it is closed. Next to it there are living quarters of some people (longhouse-style). Some kids saying "hello what is your name" - probably something they have learnt at school.

On the way to the dam I had spotted a junction with a road to Belaga. So I'm thinking of driving to Belaga and spend the night there, because Belaga has real tourist accomodation.
So I leave the Bakun lake and drive to the junction and get on the road to Belaga. It becomes immediately obvious that this road is horrible. It probably was paved years ago, but now very little of the tarmac is left and mostly this road is a dirt track. 34km of bad dirt track if I want to reach Belaga. I try the first two km, then make a U-turn and change my plans. I decide to have a look at Sungai Asap and see if it is worth spending the night there.

I drive back and at the next junction I take the road to Sungai Asap. It's about 10km of good paved road. Sungai Asap is the place where the 15000 people who were displaced by the Bakun dam were relocated.

This place looks kind of interesting, but I'm not sure if you really can spend the night in the Uma Belor Leo Dian longhouse (or if I would like to spend the night here). I drive to a petrol station and purchase 16 litres of petrol (enough to get back to Miri). Then I check hotels and flights. Actually the 10:55pm flights to Kuching of Airasia cost half of the 10:15am flights to Kuching. So I book the Airasia 10:55pm flight to Kuching (today) and a hotel in Kuching. All with the mobile phone. Miracles of modern technology - you can change plans at the last minute, book flights and hotels on the way.

It's almost 6pm when I finally leave Sungai Asap (made a stop at an interesting cemetery). I manage to drive to Miri airport in 3:15 hours. At the airport I park the car, return the key and check in for the flight. Then I walk to the gate and later board the plane.

The plane (an A320-200) is half-empty. It starts rolling at 11pm and takes off at 11:04pm (short delay of 9 minutes). We land in Kuching at 11:53pm and by 12:07am I have the suitcase. Then I take a Grab car to the hotel.

28.8: Kuching -> Bau caves -> Kuching
Hotel Imperial Riverbank, Kuching.
Weather: same as yesterday: sunny with some clouds, no rain.

I get up late at 9:30am, then leave the hotel late at 11am and walk to the tourist information centre. There I have a discussion with a not so knowledgeable lady (seems I know more about Sarawak than this person), about some places in Sarawak. She tells me that there is no car rental in Kuching city.

I walk back to the hotel, get ready for visiting the caves in Bau and call a Grab car to the airport. The idea would be to rent a car to go there. The first Grab car takes forever to arrive and doesn't reply to chat messages, so I cancel it after some time. The second Grab car instead arrives and brings me to the airport.

There, after some discussion, I rent a car from a small Malaysian car rental. It's impossible today to find a car rental with an insurance reducing the CDW excess to 0. The car costs 110 MYR/day + 15 MYR/day for the insurance (which reduces the excess from 2000 MYR to 500 MYR).

At 1:40pm I finally have the car and start driving to the Fairy cave in Bau. It's not a long trip (only about 35km), but the road is not so good and there is heavy traffic. That's why I guess the bus needs one hour just to get to Bau from Kuching.

I'm at the Fairy cave in Bau at 2:33pm. The Fairy cave is in a limestone outcrop about 8km from Bau. That means, even if you get by bus from Kuching to Bau, you still have the problem of how to get from Bau to the cave. Basically from Kuching the only way to visit these caves is with a tour or with a rented car.

The entrance to the Faity cave costs 5 MYR and the cave is only open until 4pm. From the parking you first need to walk up a staircase, which brings you to the cave entrance. The access is via some steep ladders, which are partially wet because of water dropping from the roof. Other staircases are also wet in some sections, which makes them slippery.

The cave is quite big and very nice. Big chamber, which extends towards the back, lots of rock formations. I only get in for the first 200-300m, but it may be possible to get in further. But the cave gets very dark after some point.

At 3:35pm I start walking back. Actually I'm rushing a bit, because the other cave, the Wind cave probably also will close early (at 4 or 4:30pm). I get into the car and quickly drive to the Wind cave.

Initially I drive to the wrong parking, then a guy tells me where to find the correct entrance. Basically I have to drive back about 300m. Finally I manage to be at the Wind cave by 4:03pm (cave closes at 4:30pm).

The Wind cave essentially consists of a series of passages through the rock. The interior chambers are much smaller; in fact you have to be careful not to hit the roof with the head.

I complete a loop inside and outside the cave. Inside, the Wind cave is completely dark in some sections. To get around I use the flashlight of my smartphone which provides enough light to get around the cave.

With some photo stops I spend 39 minutes on this loop and am out again at 4:42pm.

Then I drive to the blue lake (Tasik Biru) in Bau. Cute small lake, but apparently it is poisoned with some chemicals.

Before driving back to Kuching I refuel the car with some petrol. The trip back to Kuching is slow, because the car in front of mine is slow and it's practically impossible to overtake it because of the heavy traffic out of Kuching. It's 5 something pm and I guess it's rush hour traffic of people who have been working in Kuching who are getting back to their homes out of Kuching.

Around 6pm I reach the hotel. The problem now is where to leave the car. There are parkings along the street, but not free (around 1 MYR/hour between 8am and 5pm; free on weekends). You have to buy a coupon, but after 5pm the shops selling these coupons are closed already. So all I can do is to park the car in a parking along the street, hoping that I won't get fined.

In the evening I don't do much.

29.8: Kuching -> Santubong national park (summit climb) -> Kuching
Hotel Imperial Riverbank, Kuching. Today again they forgot to make the room - poor service.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, but later in the day this becomes overcast. Surprisingly fresh, in the evening in Kuching it's even a bit cool (some wind) - almost too cold to be outside with just a T-shirt. A light jacket would be needed, or have I perhaps become too acclimatised to the tropics? No rain the whole day, and it's also apparent that it hasn't been raining for a while because the Santubong peninsula is quite dry (streams carry little water, some are even dry).

I get up a bit earlier than usual and at 8:47am start driving to the Santubong peninsula. Ths morning there is almost no traffic on the streets and I quickly reach the Santubong peninsula. Actually I pass by the entrance of the Santubong NP at 9:22am, but because from the street the entrance is not easy to see (no big board), I continue driving and end up at the Sarawak cultural village where I ask about the exact location of the Santubong NP. In the end I park the car on the small parking of the Santubong NP a bit after 9:30am.

Then I register with the park staff (the entrance is free) and start the trek at 9:39am. The temperature is comfortable (not hot). The trail initially is not too steep, but is very bad because it is full of stones and tree roots. You have to constantly watch where you put the feet.

After a while the trail becomes very steep. Also, there are sections where you have to walk down again. Not a very good trail, if you lose the laboriously gained metres of altitude this way.
The starting point of the trail is at 50m of altitude, the summit at 810m. But because there are more of these downward sections, I estimate that in total to reach the summit you have to climb at least 800m of altitude (perhaps even a bit more).

There is actually a red trail which leads to the summit and a much shorter blue trail which does a small loop near the park entrance.

I reach the F4 point at 10:17am, the F6 one at 10:46am, F7 at 10:51am, F8 at 11:17am, F10 at 11:30am, F11 at 11:52am and finally the summit (F15 point) at 12:29pm. The last part of the trail is very, very steep. All over the trail there are ropes so that you can hold you, but in the last part of the trail there are vertical aluminium ladders fixed into the rock, to overcome vertical rock faces.

On the summit I meet a Belgian couple who started the trek a bit earlier than me. Impressive that this guy managed to convince his girlfriend or wife to climb the mountain together with him.

By the way, when going up I meet a few climbers who made it to the summit and are already going down (later when checking the climbing records I see that somebody started the climb as early as 6am). I also run into a group of Malaysian climbers, not so young anymore and a bit slow. Altogether today less than 20 people in total do the climb.

 The views from the top are not so impressive because there is a lot of haze and the sky is overcast.

 At 12:45pm I start the descent. This is very tough, because you have to be very careful all the time. In the vertical section around the summit you need climbing skills, further down you need balance and a lot of strength in the legs. I realise that I'm totally out of shape for such a climb.

I reach the park entrance at 3:30pm, feeling very tired. Was thinking of perhaps going to the Bako NP tomorrow, but after this climb I think that over the next few days I'll just relax.

In the car I rest for a moment, switching on the A/C. Then I drive back, with Fort Margherita in Kuching as the next destination.

With a stop on the way to refuel the car, I reach Fort Margherita at 4:30pm. Turns out that they close at 4:45pm and the entry ticket for non-Malaysians costs 20 MYR (Malaysians 10 MYR). Not really worth to spend this money for just 15 minutes of viewing.

So I drive to Kuching city on the other side of the river and park the car. In the evening I book a flight to Singapore for tomorrow, a hotel in Singapore and a flight from Singapore to KL for August 31st. The last time I've been in Singapore was in 2014 and it's possible that the city changed again - will have a look.

30.8: Kuching -> Singapore
Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Serangoon, Singapore. 164 SGD for a small but nice room with electronic safe, LCD TV, phone, small table with chair, fridge (small), ironing board and iron, hairdryer, attached bathroom with shower. Nice view of the city from the window. Central location in Singapore. The problem is that I booked the room for 140 SGD on booking.com, but the price quoted was without the taxes (17%). Seems I didn't read the fine print or forgot that in Singapore hotels quote room prices without the tax. It's a shame and they should pass a law forcing hotels to quote the real price a customer is paying.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds both in Kuching and Singapore. Some very light rain in the afternoon around 4pm in Singapore.

In the morning I wake up at 6:40am, then get ready and at 8:40am drive to the airport. There I lose some time to find the entrance to the parking (first Google maps routes me to the departures level, then it takes another two rounds around the airport in order to finally find the entrance to the parking). I check in first, then return the car to the car rental. Then I proceed to the gate.

This time for a change I'm flying with Malaysian Airlines. What a difference a full service airline makes. 30kg of luggage are included in the price, there is a meal and the plane is half empty. The plane, a B737-800, starts rolling at 10:35am, takes off at 10:37am, lands early in Singapore at 11:43am (planned arrival time was 12:05pm). 

Once in Singapore I quickly proceed through the passport control and retrieve the suitcase. I get some cash from an ATM and look for a SIM card. But they only sell expensive SIM cards for 32 SGD with 100 GB of data, and I need a cheap SIM card only for today and tomorrow. So I skip the SIM card and get into a taxi. By 12:30pm we are driving to the hotel.

Once in the hotel there is the surprise with the room rate, but otherwise everything proceeds smoothly. By 1pm I'm in the room.

At 1:30pm I'm back in the street. This time I'm looking for a 7-11 convenience store where to buy a SIM card. By coincidence I run into a shop selling SIM cards (seems these shops are everywhere in Singapore) and get a SIM card from M1 for 5 SGD. This has 500 MB of data and 5 SGD of airtime. Not much, but more than sufficient for a day in Singapore (actually half a day).

Then I find the 7-11 and buy a drink. I'm in the Little India area of Singapore. Very characteristic and picturesque buildings, shophouses, very colourful and cute. You could photography the entire road from multiple angles, each building individually etc. In Singapore they have well maintained there colonial heritage and "cutified" everything. You find this kind of colonial architecture in many places in Singapore.

Shortly after 2pm I check where the nearest tourist office is. There is one in Orchard road, a bit too far away for walking there. So I call a Grab car, which promptly arrives.

But this Grab driver, instead of bringing to Orchard road, brings me to a place about 1km from Orchard road where he has some new customer he can pick up. When I show him with Google maps how far away Orchard road is he tells me that Google maps is wrong. Lots of pressure for me to pay him and get out of the car. Very unfriendly individual.
By the way, apparently there is a system in Singapore by which if you drive into certain roads you have to pay 2 SGD. 

Anyway, using Google maps I walk to Orchard road and finally find the tourist office. There they tell me that nothing substantial has been added to Singapore since 2014 (my last visit to Singapore is of 2014). I was actually planning to have a look at Singapore because over the past years Singapore has been changing a lot in the Marina Bay area. But apparently the development has now finished.

I spend the rest of the afternoon slowly walking from Orchard road towards Marina bay, passing by the Fort Canning park and the Singapore river. In the evening I have a dinner in the food court of the Marina bay Sands mall. After dark (8pm) there is a water, light and music show in the Marina bay. Pretty impressive with the backdrop of the skyscrapers of the business district. Another show is announced for 9pm, but I leave and get back to the hotel.

31.8: Singapore -> KL
Hotel Cititel, KL. 232 MYR for small room with two beds, in an actually very old hotel. LCD TV, free WLAN in the room, cupboard for the clothes, electronic safe, fridge, tea making equipment, attached bathroom with shower. Excellent location in the Midvalley shopping mall, a bit out of KL.
Weather: a mix of overcast sky and sunny blue sky in Singapore. In KL overcast and some rain (brief light shower lasting 20-30 minutes around 4pm). Not so hot.

I check out of the hotel at 10:20am and take a taxi to the airport, arriving at 10:50am. Then I check in for the Malindo flight to KL and have some lunch in a restaurant in the terminal 3. After that I go through passport control and enter the gates area. Very nice and elegant, richly decorated, stylish. The security check is at the gate.

At 12:30pm I board the plane, a quite modern B737-800, probably 80-90% full. We land a bit early in KLIA (1) at 1:47pm. Then it takes a while to get through passport control, because there are many people in the queue.

I get into a Grab car to the hotel at 2:20pm. Shortly before Midvalley we get stuck in a horrible traffic jam. Today is Merdeka day (national day in Malaysia) and lots of people are going to the Midvalley Megamall. The problem is also that you can't reach this mall by public transportation (not so well, you have to take a train and lose a lot of time), so many people get here by car. We end up losing half an hour in this traffic jam. I'm in the hotel room around 4pm.

For the rest of the day I'm in the mall, because the weather is not so great and with this traffic getting anywhere by taxi would take a lot of time.

1.9: KL
Hotel Cititel, KL. Freezing A/C (21°C), and the blankets in the bed are too thin. I won't stay anymore in this hotel.
Weather: mostly su    nny blue sky in the morning, very hot at noon. Some rain around 5pm.

Day spent with the family in KL. At 12pm we go to the Batu caves with Sara. The big staircase has now been completely repainted and is very photogenic. Also the other Hindu temples have been completely repainted and the colours are now very vibrant. Lots of people today (heavy traffic jam on the access road to the Batu caves). Surprisingly today we see no monkeys.

We are back in the Midvalley mall at 3pm and at 4pm we watch a movie in the cinema inside the mall. Around 8pm there is a dinner with Sara and Shaun, then after some shopping we head back to the hotel room. Tomorrow there is the flight back to Germany.

2.9: KL -> Munich
Home, sweet home.
Weather: sunny, blueish sky with some clouds in KL.

We are in the taxi at 7am and drive to the airport, arriving there at 7:48am (there is no traffic on the streets this morning; the taxi (a large van) costs 90 MYR. Then we proceed to the check-in. Seems that the flight is delayed from 9:30am to 10am. There is almost no queue at the check-in counters today. After the check-in we have a brief breakfast at the Malaya cafe, then at 9:05am walk to the gate.

The plane leaves at 11am with about half an hour of delay. It lands in Muscat with some delay, but there is enough time to catch the next flight to Munich at 2:10pm. We finally land in Munich on time at 7pm and reach home at 9:30pm.

Copyright 2019 Alfred Molon