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
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
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
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.
Setar (paddy museum) -> Bujang
valley -> Gunung
Jerai -> Alor
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
Weather: overcast and some rain in the morning.
After that mostly sunny for the rest of the day. Some clouds in the
In the morning I call the Hertz agent to
ask for a car for today, but Shima (the agent) tells me she isn't
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
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.
Setar -> Teluk
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
(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
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
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.
(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
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
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
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.
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
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
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).
national park -> 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
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
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.
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
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
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
At 6:20pm I drive into town and have some dinner in the Bintang
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
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
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
-> Bakun dam
Asap -> Miri
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
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
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 (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
-> Bau caves
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Anyway, using Google maps I walk to Orchard road and finally find the
tourist office. There they tell me that nothing substantial has been
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Home, sweet home.
Weather: sunny, blueish sky with some clouds in
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