Hey, get ready for a long post!!
It's been almost two weeks since I arrived back home from my Borneo trip. I swear I really wanted to write a post about this earlier, but darn the post-vacation blues situation is real over here.
Also, by the time I reached Sibu in Borneo, I got a problem with the keyboard on my laptop to the point I totally lost my desire to write. Now that I'm home, I've purchased yet another keyboard to smash. 😐
Well, since it took almost a month for me to explore Borneo on my own, this post won't do the justice about what I've seen throughout my trip. I'll create some more follow-up updates about each place I've been or how it's been.
So, in this post I'll be focusing on the where and the whys.
The Reason Behind This Borneo Trip
Well, I'm not the kind of person who would recommend you to quit your job to travel. I, probably like some of you, like to travel once in a while to explore. But slowly.
I mean, I personally don't like the idea of being a digital nomad because it's exhausting to think about moving from one place to another periodically. Especially with some work to do. Believe me, this was my first time traveling while occasionally doing some work in the mid of my trip and it was quite stressful!
As you may already know, there are plenty of ways to travel. And while I love doing it in the cheapo, I couldn't really tell that I did backpacking in Borneo this time. I chose the land trip to get to the next city I was visiting, but I made sure that I would stay at a hotel or a place that was comfortable enough for me to take around my luggage.
Anyway, for those of you who have read my 2018 resolution, you probably know that I was initially planning to go to Laos and Cambodia this year. That, until I realized that I really wanted to pass by the Golden Triangle there but I am still yet to find out what's the best route to get there. Also budget-wise, I was afraid that Laos and Cambodia would exceed my budget this year.
Well, to check my to-do-list before 30, visiting all 10 ASEAN country members, I had one country nearby that was still on the list: Brunei Darussalam. Hence, this Borneo trip! 😀
Places that I've Been and Why I Chose Those Destinations
So, Brunei Darussalam was one of the countries that I had never been, but on my list due to my bucket list to visit all 10 ASEAN country members by 2019. The thing is, even though Brunei is in Borneo, which is geographically close to Indonesia, to get there alone is rather expensive.
The only direct flight there is to Brunei from Jakarta is with Royal Brunei, and the ticket price could basically break my bank. Also, people say that Brunei is quite ‘dry' in a way that if you visit the place for a week, it would be too long. So, considering the period of travel and the ticket price, the trip to Brunei was meant to be something longer than just Brunei.
Some people aim to go for Borneo Nature Tour to enjoy the most of the Emerald of the Equator. As for me, I went there for the sake of seeing how Borneo really is.
Not to mention that I've never been to anywhere in Borneo. Not even the Indonesian part of Borneo, so I was checking out the price to Pontianak, and it wasn't expensive at all. So, earlier this year, I decided to purchase the ticket to Pontianak only to create the itinerary in the last minute. 😛
1. Pontianak, West Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Growing up as Indonesian, there is one thing that we remember by heart when it comes to geography: we're a country that is located exactly in the Equator as there is a city in Indonesia that is positioned across the equator line: Pontianak.
Apart from that, I basically knew nothing about the city. Not the place, not the history, basically nothing.
As I did some research about how to get to Brunei or go across the border from Indonesian part of Borneo (we proudly call it Kalimantan instead of Borneo though!) to East Malaysia or Brunei, I found out that Pontianak connects people to either place by bus or plane. Needless to say, it's relatively easy to get around from Pontianak.
That's the main reason why I picked Pontianak as my starting point. That, and also the fact that the flight ticket to Pontianak from the capital city of Jakarta was only around IDR 600,000 (around $41 USD).
My First Impression on Pontianak
Not only the Equator, where we can visit the Equator monument in the city, Pontianak is also the home for the longest river in Indonesia, Kapuas River.
Based on my Couchsurfing friend's suggestion when I started creating the itinerary, I stayed in Pontianak for 2D3N. At first, I was planning to do the 3D4N, but my friend said that it might be too long even to explore the city.
As I traveled there, frankly speaking, there's nothing much to see around Pontianak in terms of tourist attractions. For example, I expected more from the Equator monument.
At least, I really thought that we could find some information translated in English in order to attract international travelers, but nope… Nothing there. It's easy for me since I'm Indonesian.
However, even though the city might be a little boring, the food in Pontianak is definitely to die for.
If you've been to Indonesia and you think the food in Java is good, give Pontianak a chance. Because I could assure you, even the fried rice in Pontianak has some unique taste that you couldn't find anywhere else in Indonesia.
If that's not enough, the strong Chinese influence also gives you some delicacy that you might not find elsewhere in Indonesia. From the chai kwe A Hin at Jalan Siam, to mie tiaw Apollo, those delicacies must be on your to-do-list if you ever get a chance to stop by Pontianak.
2. Singkawang, West Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Well, this is actually the reason why it took so long for me to create a fixed itinerary for this Borneo trip. I just wanted to visit the city on my way there. I just had to.
So, Singkawang is most known for their Tatung Festival, an international festival held during Cap Go Meh (the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year). Known as the city of thousand temples, the majority of the city's population is Chinese, so no wonder why some call the city “Hong Kong van Borneo“.
I know, when I went there, it was still far away from Chinese New Year, but that's actually the point. I wanted to see how the city looks like during the off-peak season.
My First Impression on Singkawang
I stayed there for 3D4N as my friend suggested since he told me that Singkawang is more worthy to visit than Pontianak. And I didn't regret my decision to follow his suggestion.
I mean, I travel slowly since once in a while, I had to finish some work at the hotel.
However, almost all main tourist attractions could be done by walking, except for the Klenteng Surga Neraka, as you need to at least go there by car due to its location.
And I gotta say, pretty much like Pontianak, Singkawang is also a foodie heaven because there are just lots of food to try there. Mostly Chinese-influenced delicacy, and all taste freaking great.
One of the must-try food in Singkawang is also the chai kwe, or choi pan in Tjhia Family House. Tjhia Family House is the local heritage as it's believed that the house is one of the oldest and the most prominent buildings in Singkawang.
Nowadays, the descendants of Tjhia ancestor still live there and they run a restaurant business in the front part of the house.
3. Kuching, Sarawak (East Malaysia)
Kuching, the city named after the word ‘kucing‘ which literally means cat in Indo/Malaysian, is one of the cities that I always wanted to visit.Strolling Around the Jungle as a Female Solo Traveler: 2 Days 1 Night at Bako National Park
Well, it wasn't because I could proudly declare myself as a cat lady that I decided to stay in the city longer than other places that I've visited. The reason being was because since it's Borneo that we're talking about, I suppose I just had to see orangutan while I'm there. You know, some sort of FOMO from my side.
At first, I wanted to see orangutan in Sepilok, the one in Sabah. But Suzie, my Bruneian friend, brainwashed me to the point that I had to find an alternative to that… 😛
And as I did some further research, Semenggoh in Kuching it is!
That, and also Bako National Park since I've never been to any national park in Malaysia. Therefore, I follow my guts to stay for 6 nights in Kuching area, including an overnight stay at Bako.
My First Impression on Kuching
The first time I stepped my foot in Kuching, it was raining. But there's some vibe about Kuching that ensured me that I was just going to love the city.
And now that I've been there, if there's anything I have to say about Kuching, it is that I could actually see myself staying there for a long time. That's how much I like the city.
The city center is rather laidback, compared to the hectic city like Kuala Lumpur or even Kota Kinabalu, my last stop in Borneo.
When transportation is required, I used Grab during my time there and it wasn't that expensive. In fact, I got connected with a Grab driver called Gabriel from the Cat Museum, he was also the one who would eventually take me to Semenggoh.
Even if your budget is too tight for using Grab, if you stay around the city center, it's quite easy to get around.
I used the bus to go to Bako National Park, and I personally found it super convenient. I will write about this in details later in another post. But it's fair to say that the highlight of my Borneo trip is those days when I was in Kuching.
Like, I just loved everything about the city or the things that I've seen there. Not to mention that the people I've come across are super nice too. From the hostel owner, to even some random Sundanese fellow I met at Bako. It definitely feels like home to me. 🙂
4. Sibu, Sarawak (East Malaysia)
In case you didn't know, one of my goals is to visit at least a cemetery when I travel. That's exactly why I actually spared some time to visit Kranji in Singapore. After all, isn't that our eventual life goal? To die?! 😐 *emerging dark humor*
So, the only reason why I decided to stop by Sibu is that I randomly found some article on Hoover Memorial Garden in the city.
At the time I decided to stop there, I really didn't know much about Sibu or what's there to see in the city. Everything is just impromptu, besides some of the lists that I've found on the internet.
My First Impression in Sibu
Not so good. *lol*
I reached Sibu early in the morning, and since I arrived way too early than expected, I decided to have an early breakfast at the bus terminal. I had nasi lemak then, only to get the waiter ask for my number.
I mean, I was flattered and all but really I just wanted some nasi lemak. 😛
By the time I reached the hotel, I couldn't check-in since the room was still occupied so I had to wait for hours until the guest checked out.
Compared to the other cities that I've visited in East Malaysia, Sibu is rather a small town. And there's nothing much to see around there. Even the memorial garden is rather disappointing.
So, Sibu is the home for the biggest wet market in Southeast Asia, but even the wet market didn't impress me enough.
It didn't help that I got my first laundry drama on my last day in Sibu. That, I'll write in a separate post. 😛
5. Miri, Sarawak (East Malaysia)
As I checked when creating the itinerary, there's really nothing much I want to see around Miri. However, I still decided to stay there for a couple of days. Well, it turns out to be the best decision ever since I surprisingly like Miri better than I thought I would.
My First Impression on Miri
If I arrived way too early in Sibu, I got a delayed bus when I got to Miri from Sibu. But it was rather a blessing in disguise since I arrived in such a good time to have a proper breakfast. And the perfect time to check in too as I already requested for an early check in at 8 AM. I arrived at 10!
You know the situation when you feel like everything is in place? Well, that's what happened to me in Miri.
The first person that I talked to in Miri, it was my Grab driver who took me from Pujut bus station to the hotel. He basically saved my life later, but that part of the story, I'll continue in yet another post. 😀
Miri is a big city, it kinda reminds me of Singapore. Only without a good public transportation system.
I stayed there for 3D2N, and since there's nothing much I want to see around Miri, it was a great place to recharge my energy from the whole journey. I took so many good naps in Miri. *lol*
But apart from that, I also found a good place to hang out for a beer. Sure, it was rather awkward to drink on your own, but guess what? This random waiter could tell I'm Indonesian ever since I acted awkwardly, trying to get a table.
6. Bario, Sarawak (East Malaysia)
Honestly, I never really heard about Bario until I did my research about what to visit in Sarawak. Even that, I was at first a bit conflicted between Gunung Mulu and Bario.
The thing is, I only wanted to see the pinnacles in Gunung Mulu. But then when I checked the price to see the pinnacles though, it is freaking expensive that I might have just bought a ticket to somewhere like Dubai! 😛
Anyway, even then I doubted at first since I read that it is hard to get the internet connection in Bario. The thing is, most of my work now requires internet connection. Even just by Whatsapp. So that's the thing that I was concerned about.
I also came across the post written by one of the blogs that I follow on WordPress, Eris Goes to, before I tried to gather more information about this. Long story short, I got the contact for a homestay close to the internet center there. That, even though I already excused myself from work for a few days for some sort of internet detox. 😛
My First Impression on Bario
It was such a hell experience to get to Bario. First of all, it was my first time to actually fly with Twin Otter aircraft and I gotta say, I got quite dizzy during the flight. 😛
But it was only for a start as I saw below, I felt like I got some kind of epiphany to see such beauty.
I mean, I always heard the thing about Borneo being zamrud Khatulistiwa, or the emerald of the Equator. But, I never really understood why until I saw the beauty of Borneo from the aircraft for the first time as the aircraft flew in rather a low altitude.
It was so beautiful to the point that I suppose it was the time that I felt closest to God. It was so beautiful to the point it literally made me cry for a bit.
Well, maybe it was just me being silly. But then again, I had never seen anything so green and so beautiful in my life. And for some reason, I felt like I took everything for granted in life.
And I'm glad that I decided to make a stop by Bario. The connection I've had with the people here is another story to share, but the feeling I get even before I stepped my foot on the ground was real.
I stayed there for 2D3N, and I feel like I could stay even longer.
7. Brunei Darussalam
Well, as I mentioned in the early of this post, Brunei Darussalam is in fact my main destination for the trip in order to fulfill my bucket list to visit all ASEAN countries.
Apart from that, I also met a Bruneian friend in Vietnam a couple of years ago and if anything, it was a perfect time to visit. Lucky me, because the next thing I know, Suzie, my Bruneian friend, basically arranged everything for me.
She made the best itinerary for me, and she picked me up at the bus stop. She also took me around the city, and I feel like I wouldn't enjoy my time in Brunei if it wasn't because of her.
I mean, it helps that she's a local Bruneian who used to work as a tour guide so she told me lots of story about Brunei or the Sultanate.
My First Impression on Brunei
Well, it's fair to say that whenever I told people that I was going to Brunei, their response was pretty much similar: “Why? It's so dry. There's nothing there.”
But then again, I'm Aquarius, I tend to do the opposite only to prove people wrong. 😛
Here's the thing. It's not like Brunei is so dry, because I think when it comes to social media these days when everything requires visual proof or whatever, Brunei seems like almost next to nothing as there are places in Brunei where camera is prohibited.
Also, have you heard about the propaganda by western media about the Sultan who hates LGBT and Brunei being a country with sharia law whatever?!
Well, did you know that Brunei, in fact, never really applies sharia law? You're not gonna see a person with amputated hand as he once stole a cabbage in the market like in Saudi Arabia, because things like that don't apply there in Brunei.
As Suzie said, if anything, Brunei is a part of Nusantara that gives a fuck the least. People mind their own business there. So they don't even care what the international media talks about them.
And that, the kind of attitude that I'm trying to achieve. Well done, Brunei! 😛
8. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (East Malaysia)
You might think I'd climb Mount Kinabalu since I get a chance to visit Sabah, but nah…
I mean, I'm not exactly into hiking myself. And the only thing I could call myself a climber is as a social climber. *lol*
So, my plan in Kota Kinabalu is just to stroll around the city and see what's there. Since I found some articles about island-hopping, I decided to do it too.
I mean, it's great that I could visit the whole thing in Borneo, from visiting orangutan, trekking at the rainforest, and now that I got a chance to do the island-hopping, it's great to get a chance to wear my bikini. Yassss!
My First Impression on Kota Kinabalu
The island-hopping part was rather disappointing. At least for me.
I mean, I've been to a place like Bangka and Belitung, and for me, they're far better than Manukan, the island that I went to from Kota Kinabalu. At least, they're cleaner.
However, the highlight of my visit to Kota Kinabalu is that I connected with a local who turns out to be a fellow Indonesian.
Like, we literally started our conversation in English as we thought we're not fellow countrymen. 😛
But then when I told her I was from Bandung, she decided to let her Indonesian accent out and she told me that she was born and bred here despite she's 100% Indonesian as her parents are originally from Makassar.
She showed me around, even to some spots that I suppose not so many people now. Like the spot where I could get to see such a beautiful sunset.
I only stayed in Kota Kinabalu for 3D4N, and I think it's enough to explore the city. At least for the city center, since I didn't have time to explore other places like Sandakan or other places in Sabah.
So, here's the thing about Singapore… I feel like I've been there way too many times that if I get a chance to stop by Singapore, I don't feel like going anywhere.
But then again, I've got a few friends that I wouldn't mind to catch up, and since Singapore gave me no choice but just stay at a hostel during a short stay, it wasn't really comfortable to just stay in either. What a dilemma! #firstworldproblem 😛
This time, during my 24++ hours stay in Singapore, I managed to meet Shi Hui and Fiza on the same day. Shi Hui for the late lunch, and Fiza for dinner. Yeay! 😀
FYI, Fiza took me to this restaurant at Haji Lane called The Malayan Council and I was freaking impressed with the food and the service there as it was only my first time there.
They serve fusion food, so we ordered pasta. Fiza picked this pasta carbonara with duck and nasi lemak seasoning. I chose aglio oglio with Padang sauce. Fiza's pasta tasted better, btw.
But I was impressed with how generous they were. For example, as we had to wait for around 20 minutes to get our meals prepared, they literally gave us a complementary portion of chicken wings.
Thought it was just that, guess who got home with yet another complementary slice of onde-onde cake? This girl! 😐
10. Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Peninsular)
My intention is to actually book a ticket to Jakarta from Singapore, but then when I was about to book the ticket, there were two flights that made me reconsider: Lion Air and Malaysia Airlines.
The price difference is only around $2 USD, with Malaysia Airlines is more expensive but with 30-kg checked-in baggage and in-flight full service. I chose the latter before JT 610 tragedy happened. God bless the victims.
But then it means that I had to wait for around 8 hours at KLIA. When you landed at KLIA around midnight, there was basically nothing much to see. Almost no place to eat either, except for The Old Town that was still opened when I got there.
I was thinking about getting out of the airport first, but I was too tired to walk so I didn't. At this point, there was almost no energy left that everything just pissed me off. 😛
How Was My Borneo Trip?!
It was awesome!
There were ups and downs, but good things exceed the bad ones though.
It's already a long post, to begin with, but for those who seek some specific information about each destination, I will try my best to update my blog as soon as possible.
So, 4000 words already. Time to get out, cheerio! 😀