Link to the other parts are at the bottom of this page, together with a map of the route with elevation profile and a street level photo map taken from our bikes.
Here are some general things to know travel Borneo on a Budget.
few facts about Brunei
Kilometers are meant from Beaufort.
from Beaufort to Lawas
After 44 km we cross Sipitang, a coastal village with brown sea water, perhaps because of the monsoons or perhaps for the nearby refineries, there's a boardwalk with a lot of restaurants here, good for a lunch stopover.
We cross the border between Sabah and Sarawak, they stamp the passports as if we are crossing the border of two different countries. Sarawak and Sabah are the two regions that make up the Malaysian part of Borneo.
palm oil camping
In the morning, we cross a small hill from where it's possible to realize the immensity of the plantations, 'til the horizon. But at least there is something nice to see in this area, the traditional stilted houses, beautiful and colorful, mostly made of wood, with manicured gardens and flowers beds. At km95 there's the small river town of Lawas, which has plenty of accommodations, some interesting stilted villages out of town and a boat connection o the Tax-Free island of Labuan.
From Lawas to Limbang: across the Small Brunei
across the Big Brunei, to Miri
Very important: there are no money exchange nor ATM until you reach Tutong! Change your money in Limbang!
Not knowing the prices in the Sultanat we eat at a Chinese restaurant just before the border. Past the checkpoint (30 days visa free for most nationalities) we immediately notice the difference of wealth, the houses are big and luxurious, in front of each villa at least 4 or 5 cars are parked, cars are very cheap here, no taxes. This part of Brunei is more urbanized, the first 45 km have a few unremarkable hills, a supermarket and not much else, we have no money and no water, luckily an Indian guy buys us some liquids.
The next morning we have breakfast in a bakery shop in the center of the town and leave again, from here the road is not very nice, a busy highway until Seria, where most of the refineries are. Seria is a town full of expats working for oil companies, it's not a nice place but an aspect of Brunei that i interesting to experience.
Everywhere are chimneys on fire, some small roads lead to the sea, water is green/brownish and many extraction platform line the horizon. The only pleasant thing is the restaurant where we have lunch, more expensive compared to Malaysia, but really delicious, fried breaded mussels for me and a tofu soup for Elena, the menu is endless.
astounding close encounters of the 3rd kind
Then it happens, two hornbills, in the middle of the road! I try to approach quietly, they fly to a nearby tree, I still can see them. Horbills are large beaked bird, very rare and on the verge of extinction, the one we see are Rhinoceros Hornbills, the symbol of Sarawak, recognizable from the banana-shaped yellow casque. There are just a few left, it's very hard to see one in the wild, lucky strike!
"...some Dayak people, especially the Ibanic groups, believe it to be the chief of worldly birds or the supreme worldly bird, and its statue is used to welcome the god of the augural birds, Sengalang Burong, to the feasts and celebrations of humankind"(Wikipedia).
The road is flat and pleasant, forest on our side and many monkeys. One of them apparently wants to kill us and threatens not to get close to the tree where he lives.
strip-tease of the no-mans-land
Many from neighboring Brunei come to spend the evening in this place where there is everything that is forbidden in their home country, especially beer and all sort of alcohol, but not less important, half-naked girls. It's a surreal situation, there are Chinese strippers, a Chinese long-haired cook covered in tattoos, a nerd maid and her grandmother who is at the counter doing origami, and counting money. Long live to the Chinese. Welcome back Malaysia.
our cycling adventures in Borneo:
pt1: from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, crossing the Crocker range
pt2: Jungle Train, from Tenom to Beaufort
pt3: crossing Brunei by bicycle (you are here)
pt4: around Miri, Lambir Hills and Logan Bunut national parks and Tusan Beach
pt5: the caves of Niah National Park
pt6: from Belaga to Kuching by boat
pt7: Kuching and Bako National Park
pt8: Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
pt9: Overland crossing from Sarawak to Kalimantan, the secret border of Aruk
pt10: Sambas, a wooden Venice in Borneo
here are some general hints to budget travel in Borneo (by bicycle or not)
Check also our reportages:
Chap Go Mei in Singkawang
pierce your face with swords for the sake of Borneo Gods
Hydroelectric devastation in Borneo
part 1: Interview with SaveRivers
part2: a visit to Sungay Asap