‘Enjoying’ Brunei-Pontianak trip by inter-state bus

DSC07798Darul Aqsha

AFTER six years living as an Indonesian migrant worker in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, last December I had a chance to make a trip by using an inter-state bus from Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei to Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan province in Indonesia’s Borneo.

The only bus to Pontianak for Saturday was ‘JSJ’, an Indonesian private bus. I bought the ticket a day before, Friday afternoon, at a travel agency in Bumiputera Building, located in the front of Bandar Seri Begawan bus terminal. The bus ticket price was BN$80. Earlier, I’d got information that the bus gives service to its passengers three times of meals during the trip. It’s good for about 26 hours trip, I thought at that time. The officer of the agency, a Bruneian, told me that I had to be ready at the bus pool an hour before the bus departs at 2.30pm.

I came at 2pm in the bus pool sent by my colleague. It’s located in front of the Royal Wharf of Bandar, opposite to An-Naba Restaurant, where I and my wife always visit it after Subuh prayer to enjoy Roti Kosong and Teh Tarik when she visiting me.

bis SJS_1The bus condition was not good enough but it has toilet. It’s one of the reasons that why I didn’t want to use Damri because my wife once said the Indonesian state-owned bus’s toilet could not be used and the passengers asked the driver to stop everywhere just for pee…

Prior to depart, I crossed the street to An-Naba Restaurant, buying five cake ‘sambosas’ and a bottle of water. In line with the ticket, I sit on the first row close to the bus’s front door. The passenger next to me was an Indonesian. He introduced himself as a visiting worker. He worked as a chef at a Malay restaurant in the BSB area of Mata Mata. He hailed from Indonesian town of Serang, Banten, but I recognized his Javanese dialect. He was forced to go to Pontianak go and forth every month because his documents were being processed by the immigration and labor departments. He claimed to have salary BN$700 and more than half of it was sent to his family in Banten. He has two children. The oldest one was a girl who is still studying in the senior high school. During the trip, the guy in his 40s never detached his cap from his head… 🙂

The first and the last one
The bus departed right on 3.30pm with around ten passengers. It means that more than half of the bus’s seats were empty. I moved to a seat in the second row. The bus had two drivers and a crew. The crew started to distribute ‘nasi katok’ (rice and a piece of fried chicken) to the passengers. I thought it’s a preliminary meal, but in fact it was the first and the last one… 😦

bis sjs poolThe bus driver picked several passengers. It stopped more than 15 minutes before the toll post in Kuala Belait waiting for the last passengers from Brunei. After all passengers entered in the bus, the bus continued the trip till the Brunei check point in Sungai Tujoh. I moved back to my seat. I thought the new passengers were Dayaks or Javanese, but they turned out Madurese. The bus was almost full now. Full of Indonesian migrant workers. The bus crew switched on the video with the action movies.

Just one question
At the check point, all passengers and the bus crew debarked from the bus, walking to the police station together. I came in first and put my passport but I was the last person who was called by the police officer for interview. If the other passengers got many complicated questions, I just got one question: Are you working for this newspaper? The officer knew it and let me go shortly after reading my passport that I work at a reputable English newspaper in the sultanate.

Not easy
Next was the Sarawak’s check point. We debarked as we did in Brunei check point. While waiting for other passengers of the bus getting check point, I wanted to pee and tried to find a toilet there. But, the only public toilet that I found was locked… Damn! The bus crew did not allow me to pee in the bus’s toilet because they worried that if the Malaysian immigration officers know it they would be fined. During the trip, I did to pee in the bus’s toilet several times. In fact, it’s not easy to pee in the running and swaying bus, indeed…. 😦

The bus entered the Sarawak town of Miri in the dusk. I was holding to pee for hours till the bus stopped at a patrol station in Bintulu area. Before entering this town, the bus driver picked the last passenger, a woman wearing heardscarf. From his talking, I knew she was a Javanese from East Java.

Unbitten meat
Passing midnight, the bus stopped at a restaurant in the town of Selukoh which was full of passengers of buses from Brunei, Sarawak, Pontianak or private vehicles. The restaurant was big but too crowdy. I thought that meals in this restaurant were free, but it turned out we had to pay. I’m not so hungry but I wanted to try the local foods. I was served by a boy and spent 15 RM for the meal, which was consisted of bowled egg, rendang meat and vegetable plus a bottle of water. It’s not good meal. When I saw some people looked so enjoying ‘Sop Tulang’, I also ordered it. A portion of the soup costed RM5. It’s not bad. But, the meat which was sticked on the bones was still hard to bite. I left some pieces of the meat unbitten.

Sleepy driver
The bus continued the trip, penetrating the rainy and dark night. I couldn’t sleep along night of the trip perhaps because I was sitting in the front row seat. Meanwhile, a Chinese-descent passenger was always talking to the driver continuously. It seemed good to avoid the driver sleepy. But, when the young Chinese slept and the driver was driving alone I saw him was sleepy. I indicated for the bus move which sometimes swaying right and left. Then, “Pak, pak, pak…! (Sir, sir, sir…!)” I suddenly screamed to the driver reminding him loudly when the bus was moving too left of the road side. I relieved because on the next day, I saw on the TV that some 36 passengers were killed when a bus plunged into a ravine caused by a sleepy driver in China…

Suddenly, I just remembered that I hadn’t performed Maghrib and Isya prayers yet whereas the time for Fajr prayer was coming soon. I forgot to perform it when the bus stopped at the restaurant. When the other passengers were sleeping I performing prayer while sitting.

I just could sleep after Fajr prayer and woke up when the bus stopped a gas station close to the Sarawak check point in Tebedu around 7am. Almost all of the passengers stormed the toilet to pee or just to wash the faces. Waiting for the bus filling gasoline, we watching small fishes scrambling the rice which was thrown by several passengers.

At Tebedu, we all debarked the bus for checking point out of Malaysia. I saw several Dayak women who peddling durian and other fruits. They were free wandering there. After check point, the bus went to Entikong, the Indonesian check point in West Kalimantan, not far from Tebedu.

Before arriving at Entikong, a bus crew reminded us not to care anything offered by some people who entering the bus who selling anything, including offering money changes.

Enjoying durians
The process of immigration checking was not long. Around 9am, the bus leaving Entikong. During the trip to Pontianak, the bus stopped three times. Firstly, in a small restaurant when many passengers and bus crew enjoyed durian and toilet. I was tempted to buy a durian because I wanted to try the durian of Kalimantan. But I worried it could make my stomach sick while the trip was still far. I just bought a bottle of water and a green tea. I saw the bus driver bought up a box of durians, perhaps as a gift for his family.

On the roof
Along of the trip, I saw many flags, posters and pictures of prospective parliament members of provincial various political parties. It seemed the session of political campaign in the province but as far as I knew the national general elections will be held in early April 2014. Another weird scene for me was some passengers sitting, even standing, with stuffs on the roof of the speeding bus like demonstrans or supporters of soccer clubs in Jakarta.

DSC07801The second bus stop was at a Padang restaurant. As usual, the toilet was the passengers’ main target and after that the resto’s meals. I ordered rendang meat and orange juice for almost 50 thousands rupiah. Some passengers bought several bunches of rambutan fruits. The fruits looked big and fresh. I was tempted to taste and bought it, but cancelled it because I didn’t want be bothered by bringing the rambutan in the bus.

bis SJS_2When the bus ran, I asked to the Chinese youth who was talkactive with the driver if he knew Hotel Garuda in Jalan Pahlawan, Pontianak. His response was surprising me. He said that there was no Jalan Pahlawan in Pontianak… I didn’t believe what he said and I doubted that the young man who was father of a son was a Pontianak man. My doubt was right. He was not a Pontianak man. He got off before the bus stopped at a mini restaurant managed by Chinese for the third time towards Pontianak. At that time, I felt disoriented. I still felt that I was still in Brunei or Malaysia. I was wondering when I saw the resto selling Indonesian meals and cakes such as rempeyek and nogosari. I just realized afterwards that I had been in Indonesia. However, I just ordered a cup of coffee with ginseng.


DSC07802It was the first time I visited Pontianak. I had been wanting to visit the city because my cousin live here. One of my destination was to visit him. I asked the crew bus to get me off close to Jalan Pahlawan. But the bus didn’t pass the street. He directed me what the public transport should I use. I was got off in the area of a market.

I got in a public minibus which was hung on the edge of the road as shown by the bus conductor. The minibus was old and rickety. When I asked the driver if he a Dayak man, he said that he was a native Pontianak. But when he talked in his mobile phone, I knew that he was a Madurese. But I didn’t know if he was a native Madurese from Madura Island in East Java or a Madurese who was born in Pontianak. Knowing that I’ll sightseeing on the next day, he offered himself to accompany me. The symphatetic offer made me confused because I planned to rent a car, while the minibus was rickety, even it’s hard to close its door… I decided not to rent his minibus, finally.

I was got off in the left side of traffic light opposite to Jalan Pahlawan where I could see Hotel Garuda. The hotel’s room with cost of less than US$30 was disappointing. Its bathroom was old and without hot water. Meanwhile, the rain fell since the evening. It’s cool enough. From the hotel’s window I could see the Damri bus pool where my wife and son staying overnight before leaving for Brunei in the end of December, 2010. I went out the hotel to buy simcard for my HP, enjoyed East Javanese meal of Ayam Penyet, facebooking and posting some news to my blog at an internet cafe which is crowded with children playing games. When walking back to the hotel, I bought Madurese chicken satay and ate it in the hotel’s room. I charged my HP and camera batteries. Because of these weak stuffs, I could not take pictures during the Brunei-Pontianak trip.

Fade away
In the next early morning I contacted several car rentals but they said their cars already booked at that time. Finally, I contacted my friend, a Madurese, who I knew him in Brunei and now living and working in the city. He said that he would rent his neighbor’s car and was ready to send me to my cousin in Mempawah, some 90 kilometers from Pontianak. He asked my permission to took away his wife and son. I was okay.

After a long waiting, my friend came almost at 11am with Daihatsu Taruna. Thus, my hope to go around the city, at least to visit the Palace of Pontianak Sultanate, seemed to be fade away. The rain started to fall when we came to the Equator Monument and, once again, I could not take a picture there because of the rain, the time was too short and the trip to Menpawah to see my cousin was still far. It took around one and half hours. We stopped at a mosque for prayers. I saw that my friend’s wife was gag. I gave my aromatherapy to her.

Only 30 minutes
Close to Mempawah, my cousin directed us to his address from his HP. I saw him was standing in the left side of the road. He stood in the front of his house. Finally, I met him after almost 30 years. He introduced his wife, a civil servant. I was not long meeting and talking with him because of the flight schedule to Jakarta in the evening. It just only 30 minutes meeting. Then, we returned to Pontianak. We stopped at a sea food restaurant and ordered a local traditional meals.

My friend drove the car with speeding maybe because of my flight schedule as well as his wife was still nausea and dizziness. After getting off his wife and son in his house, he sent me to the Supadio airport. Sriwijaya Air that flying me from Pontianak landed in Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta aiport at 8.30pm.

The Brunei-Pontianak trip by inter-state bus almost completed my experience to roam the northern coast of Borneo, known as ‘Pan Borneo’ along 1800 kilometers. Several years ago, I made a trip from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, with my colleague by his own car.

BSB, 13 April 2014


2 thoughts on “‘Enjoying’ Brunei-Pontianak trip by inter-state bus

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