When I applied for my International Driving permit, I thought that from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu was not too far. I didn’t even check the map. It was stupid but then again, people do stupid things sometimes. So I applied for two weeks only. This meant that I only had two weeks to drive from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu, which is around 1131 km. I later regretted this, because I was in a rush and it sucked my energy big time and also because I met so many nice people along the way but could not stay long.
After Sibu, I drove straight towards Bintulu. It was already dark and I could not continue to drive, so I stopped at the first light that I found. It turned out that it was a vegetables shop and the lady was Indonesian. So she welcomed me and asked me to stay a night. The lady was very kind and so was her little boy. They both love animals and we all slept inside a small shop with her nine cats. This was not my first time meeting a cat lady because, when I was in Belitung, I also stayed with a lady who loves cats.
I took these pictures the next day before I left. I didn’t realise that the lady had very long hair. She says she cut her hair just a few days before I arrived so is not as long as it used to be.
The next morning, they didn’t want to let me leave until I explained my situation to them. I left with a heavy heart, because I really liked them both, and I continued to Miri. It was around 3 pm when I arrived in Miri, so I decided to spend the night there and leave the next morning for Brunei. I did not want to spend a night in Brunei because Brunei is expensive and because my couchsurfing host hadn’t replied to me yet.
The next morning, I drove to the Brunei border. The border policemen gave me drinks and food for my lunch so as to save me money. That was very nice of them. I didn’t see many interesting things in Brunei. For me, Brunei didn’t look like a country, it just looked like a town with very fast traffic. When I was on the highway, I saw three or more dead monkeys. I had never seen so many monkeys die on the road before. As a matter of fact, I had never seen any monkeys die before. I was so shocked. And I could not take a picture because I was shocked and the traffic was moving too fast. Not all the roads were busy. Some roads were empty and you could still see monkeys sitting around but, as soon they knew you are coming, they ran away really fast.
As it is such a small country, it didn’t take me long to drive across Brunei to the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan. I found it was not a metropolis, like capital cities usually are. Instead, Bandar Seri Begawan looked like town, except for the fancy mosque building that stood out from other buildings.
In this developed country, I never thought that they would run out petrol. I thought that was something that only happened in my country, Indonesia. But… well… it happens in Brunei too.
I was in Bandar Seri Begawan until the evening, waiting for my host from couchsurfing to answer his phone. In the end, it was late and he had not answered or replied to my text, so I decided to continue to the next part of Malaysia. The funny thing about the border between Malaysia and Brunei is that after you pass Bandar Seri Begawan you will arrive in Malaysia again and then after little bit of Sarawak, Malaysia, you will arrive in Brunei again. And then after this, back to Sarawak, Malaysia again.
Alcohol is not allowed in Brunei, so at the border you can see so many restaurants selling alcohol and people who want to drinks have to drive to border and drink on the Malaysian side.
When I passed the first Brunei border, it was almost dark, so I slept in the Mosque in Limbang, Malaysia. I had to spend a long time convincing them that I’d be fine sleeping outside the Mosque, because the people there were worried about me get raped, etc. One of the guys asked me, with disbelieving looks, more than 5 times if I was all by myself. It took them so long to finally agree to let me sleep there. The next morning, I continued towards Kota Kinabalu. On the way my, exhaust pipe broke and started making loud noises. It was so embarrassing, because I sounded like a young man from the village. Lucky me, I found a mechanic’s shop close by. Because it was early in the morning, the shop was not open yet, so I waited a while for the mechanic to come. In the end, he made it work again.
On my first night in Kota Kinabalu, I slept in a hostel. The next day, when I was checking out from the hostel, I found this bracelet hanging on my bike, with “Ganbate“written on it. Ganbate literally means “do your best” in Japanese. I never knew who put it there but I wore it as my charm bracelet.
The next day, someone from couchsurfing said they were able to host me for one night, so we agreed to meet up in the evening. During the day, I had an interview with “The Borneo Post”. My host and I agreed to meet up at 8 pm but, since I came too early, I waited in the petrol station next to his place. As I was waiting, one of the bikers from Ranau saw me and we talked and ended up going for dinner. After that, we exchanged numbers and I went straight to my couchsurfing host’s house. He is a photographer and has a very unique combi. I was very grateful he was able to host me at the last minute.
The next day before I left, I took pictures of my couchsurfing host, his combi, and my bike. I went straight to the police office to get my stamp done and the police officers there told me that I should go to the Indonesian consulate in Kota Kinabalu. I went to the Indonesian Consulate in Kota Kinabalu and everyone there was so kind. They even said I could stay in the shelter in the embassy and told me that if I didn’t have place to stay in Tawau, I could always stay in the consulate there. Again, my International Driving Permit was about to expire and, as I had already stayed two nights in Kota Kinabalu, I could not stay longer. That is sad because I liked KK. Today, I also saw my interview in The Borneo Post. It was my birthday, so that was a nice birthday present.
With a heavy heart, I continued to Ranau. It was rainy season, so I expected that weather would change really quickly. All the way to Ranau, the view was amazing. If it was not so hazy, it would have been so awesome.
I had to stop a few times because I could not see the road and I was worried the trucks could not see me either.
When I finally arrived, the guys from Ranau Bikers Club were waiting for me and we were happy to see each other.
My exhaust pipe had broken again, and the bikers asked me to stay while one of them rode my bike to a mechanic’s shop. But because my bike is different, no one could ride it – they are not used to four-wheelers.
So finally, I drove my bike to the mechanic’s shop myself. After my exhaust pipe was fixed, we went to the hotel that they had already booked for me. They were all are so nice to me and made my two days stay in Ranau wonderful. Thanks to Ranau Bikers Club for your hospitality!
After Ranau, I went to Sandakan and then Tawau. Someone said he was going to host me in Tawau but I waited for him and he never called me back. It’s annoying when people do that, because you waste your time and you don’t have a plan B. This is also happened to me in Brunei… but then again, not everything in life fits according to your pIan.
In the end, I went to the Indonesian Consulate. From this part of Malaysia, there is no land border to Indonesia, so the only way is to cross over by boat to Tarakan, an island off the coast of North Kalimantan, Indonesia. The ferry from Tawau to Tarakan does not run daily and, as I arrived in Tawau on Saturday, the next ferry to Tarakan was on a Tuesday. The Indonesian Consulate is closed on the weekend but I was lucky because, when I arrived, there were some people in the office who welcomed me and gave me a place to stay. It felt like home straight away and the accommodation was lovely and I was treated like guest of honour.
When I was in Tawau, I went to a learning center for children who cannot go to Malaysian schools. The children cannot attend Malaysian schools because they were born in Malaysia but do not have Malaysian parents and therefore cannot get a Malaysian birth certificate. Most of them were born to Filipino and Indonesian migrants who came to Malaysia in search of better jobs. The kids were excited to see me and were amazed when I told them about my travels. It was nice to be able to share my story with them and I hope I inspired them to reach their dream. Dream big, kiddos!
I wished I had more time to visit more learning centers in Tawau, but my International Driving Permit was about to expire and I had to leave Malaysia. On the day of the ferry to Tarakan, I was sad had to leave my new friends in the Indonesian Consulate. As I was leaving, the Indonesian Consulate gave me a donation to help me on my trip. I didn’t expect it, because I was so grateful for all the hospitality and the friendship there. When I stayed in the Indonesian Consulate, I learned that you are never alone even when you far far away from home. It was also such a relief to know that there are people out there who still care for unfortunate children. It make me feel that the world is not such a bad place. The Indonesian Consulate in Tawau should have new slogan, “Your home away from home“, because it did feel like home.