I WAS glad when learning that three ASEAN neighbouring countries in the framework of Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), namely Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam, had agreed to open a border-cross land transportation in October 2008.
Indonesia deploys its buses from the state-run land transportation of Damri, while Brunei trusts the operation to the private companies such as ADBS. They started their operation since 28 October 2008.
The Pontianak-BSB trip by the interstate bus takes more than 24 hours. As comparison, the flight of Jakarta-Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) by Royal Brunei Airlines only takes more than two hours. But its total expenditure for one way is cheaper than by air: BN$146,6. Therefore, I tried to be patience and relax during the long journey.
I flew from Jakarta to Pontianak by state flag airlines Garuda Indonesia a couple month after the official operation. In line with schedule, the bus would leave on the next day. I chose to sleep at the Damri office. It prepares rooms for transit travelers. I paid only Rp 15,000 ($2,2)/night. Here, I got acquainted with several other transit travelers. Hotels near the office offered price out of my budget, above Rp 100,000 ($13,3)/night. The Damri’s rooms are located at the third floor so that I could enjoy the city’s scenes.
On the next day, the Damri bus departed at 8.30 am with three drivers by turns. It left for BSB, leaving the Pontianak city with its black dirty drains, putrid and sea water smell. The bus’s crew only distributed snack and a bottle of drinking water. Many restaurants had not opened yet. Fortunately, I brought some bread and instant noodles for breakfast.
The bus condition was convenience enough. The 2-2 position of seats with recycling back and leg of chair plus toilet and full of sweet memories music made the trip was not boring. The only inconvenience thing was one of the drivers was smoking during driving. I covered my nose with my headscarf after I spread it with perfume or cajupute oil.
At 9.10 am, the bus stopped at a restaurant for breakfast in the Landak regency. The restaurant was surrounded by paddy fields and hills. The weather was cool and the sky was cloudy. Smokes and fogs still covered the area. Water in the river close to the restaurant looked clear.
Every times the bus crossed a town I always noticed writings which showed the location to know where our position were. I brought a map of Borneo. At 1.00 pm, the bus stopped at a restaurant in Sanggau regency for lunch. I used the opportunity for performing Dhuhur and Asar prayers all at once.
The bus arrived at Entikong, the Indonesia-Malaysia border point, at 4.00 pm to stamp our passports. After that, I couldn’t communicate with my mobile phone anymore. But I was consoled after seeing the beautiful and clear scenes of Sarawak’s mountaineous areas in the evening.
Just for fun, I counted the number of mosques and churches. So far, there were 10 mosques and 30 churches along the trip from Pontianak. I also learned that there were many people in Borneo, especially West Kalimantan and Sarawak, with narrowed-eyes. Looking on their faces, I could not make a difference if they were of Chinese or Dayak ethnic groups.
At 5.15 pm, we arrived at the Sarawak area of Sorian. Then, the dusk was coming. The bus sped on, penetrating the dark road. I wondered where the driver would stop the bus. As far as the trip, I didn’t see any restaurant and shop. I wanted to pray and to get pee. Finally, I couraged myself to ask the driver to stop the bus. The driver stopped the bus at an office compound. I found a clean toilet, but it didn’t has prayer room.
Then, we continued the trip to find a restaurant. At 10.00 pm, the bus stopped at a closed restaurant. Thanks god, the owner apparently didn’t mind to reopen her resto to give service for the hunger passengers. As usual, I used the chance to pray Maghrib and Isya all at once.
In the meantime, I got some new friends during the trip. A woman approached and asked me whether I was a physician because she saw me spontaneously helping her daughter when she was sick. I told her that I just a teacher. She gave her cellphone number and offered me fried rice. The woman, named Linda of Pontianak, was during her holiday trip with his family to Brunei. She asked to continue the friendship. I also got acquainted with a businesswoman of Kota Kinabalu. She gave me her name card and asked me to visit her.
I observed that the bus stopped whereever the driver liked. It could be understood because as a new operation maybe they haven’t made a coordination with the restaurants’s owners.
About 10.00 am on the next day, December 27, we arrived at the Malaysia-Brunei border point of Sungai Tujuh, Miri, Sarawak, to stamp our passports, out of Malaysia. Then by foot, we went to the Brunei’s immigration office, also to stamp out the passports. The immigration examanation lasted for 30 minutes.
The bus entered Kuala Belait, the capital of Belait district. It’s estimated that we will arrive at the Bandar Seri Begawan terminal at least 2 hours later. But the bus speed was too slow, about 40-60 km/hour, making me was impatience. Finally, the bus arrived at the BSB terminal at 12.30 pm.
The long journey by bus was tiring but it has broadened my horison about Northern Borneo areas.
20 January 2010