Brunei to Labuan by ferry

Going to Labuan island from Miri by flight is common. That is what ordinary people do. Nothing special. Nothing worth writing nor sharing. Everybody did it. And there are daily flights to Labuan some en route Kota Kinabalu. Just go to Airasia or MH website, book tickets, pay by credit cards, and off you go. No need passport because you simply travel within Malaysia (Miri to Labuan and return).

Attraction points in Labuan island (pix courtesy of others)

You cannot drive to Labuan. Simply because it is an island. And an island is surrounded by waters. And cars need road. Except one car I was on TV ad — new edition Ford Ranger. Itu pun atas lopak air saja.

So that is how this trip began. Out of curiosity, you may say. Out of take-the-road-less-traveled view of the journey. Read on to know more about this adventure. Miri to Labuan – part by road and part by ferry. BTW this project took place in September 2012.

The story began in Miri. Why Miri? Because it is the place of my assignment. I have worked there since 2010 after returning from Yangon. Not really though – Miri is really a nice place to work and play and may be a good place to settle down also, subject to approval from you know who. I am supposed to write something about this second largest city in Sarawak, but well… still a work in progress. Since when a man of action become a man of excuse? Also I am supposed to share on some interesting road trips in Sarawak.  Lets go back to main road.

From my rented home at Pujut 4A in Miri to Sungai Tujuh checkpoint, it took less than 30 minutes. See my previous posting how to navigate border crossing at Sungai Tujuh.  Take note that Sungai Tujuh checkpoint opens 6am everyday. We needed to be early at the border as I had to drive some 150kms within Brunei to reach Muara town Brunei in time to catchup the ferry departing for Labuan at 930am. For info, Saturday was a working day in Brunei and roads were rather congested with morning traffic in Kuala Belait and Seria interchanges. Friday and Sunday are weekend in Brunei. Saturday and other days are workdays. How unique! Just like their geographical location — two adjacent fingers with Malaysia’s Limbang sandwiched in between. Oh my.. now feeling hungry already. But no submarine in Miri. Maybe not yet. Lets go back to the main road.

From Sungai Tujuh, the road (part road and part highway) runs all the way to Bandar Seri Begawan (aka BSB) and eventually ends up in Muara town, where Serasa Ferry Terminal is located. For info Muara to BSB is about 25kms. Just follow the roadsign to Muara. Don’t be tempted to exit to BSB along the highway.

Serasa ferry terminal (passenger terminal) in Brunei

When we reached Serasa Ferry Terminal at about 10 to 9, the cars and bikes were queueing up already to board the ferry. This is a car ferry — which means the ferry also carry cars and bikes and trucks and buses on the lower deck and of course people — young and old, on the upper deck.

We decided to leave the cars we drove from Miri at the ferry terminal, and jumped on the ferry to go to Labuan. NOTE: For ferry passengers, you may leave cars at the parking lot near ticketing counter cum shed. It was free parking but at own risk.

For newcomers, entrance to Serasa ferry terminal is a bit confusing. The first entrance is going to the car ferry terminal (operated by Shuttle Hope) and the second entrance is going to the passenger ferry terminal. Both terminals have their own custom and immigration checkpoints. Yes this is an international border crossing (exiting Brunei). You need a valid international passport and perhaps visa (for other than Malaysians). The parking lot at passenger ferry terminal is chargeble at BND 10 per day per car parked there. You may see some cars parked by the roadside prior to entrance — to avoid parking fee. Your choice. Really.

After parking the cars and taking luggages out, the next thing to do was to buy ferry tickets at the ticketing counter. You must produce your passport and pass to the ladies inside the counter, in order to buy tickets. They would take down the passport details and determine the price. We paid BND 15 per adult and BND 8 per child under 12, taxes included. Ringgit Malaysia is not accepted here. NOTE: Buy some Brunei Dollar in Miri, or before entering Brunei. At the time of this travel, BND1 = RM2.48.

Then we proceeded to the Brunei immigration checkpoint (read: shed) to get the passport stamped for Brunei exit. The same shed handled passengers in cars and on bikes, so be careful when walking.

Then we took a long walk with all our things, from immigration shed to the waiting double-decker ferry. Just before boarding the ferry, ferry men checked our tickets and took away his portion, while we kept ours. Once in the ferry, we went up to the upper deck and into passenger cabin. The cabin was so comfortable, fully airconditioned, with big LCD TV playing the not-so-latest movie — Armageddon, preceded with ‘doa musafir’ recital and safety briefing in case of emergency while seaborn. Then began the 90-minutes journey into Brunei Bay going to Labuan.  View was spectacular. Coastal and ocean-going vessels cris-crossing along the way. Brunei Navy shipyard. Offshore services jetties. Fabrication yards. Speedboats plying Brunei – Labuan routes. Oil platforms operated by Brunei Shell. Fresh breeze. Get your camera ready to snap huge Maersk container sealiner. Seamen in coverall waived at us. We waived back. Seamen seemed to have a high sense of comraderie. Yes you need lotta friends when in the high seas, where your enemies are weather and pirates.

Labuan international ferry terminal - from here you can go to Brunei, Limbang, Lawas and KK

Reaching Labuan, we could see Labuan skylines. A Petronas methanol plant was the most visible landmark with its green logo on their tanks. The ferry eventually completed its journey at the Labuan International Ferry Terminal. Upon disembarkation, we were ushered to the Malaysian Immigration checkpoint — a building rather new but compact, to get the passport stamped for entering Malaysia. Again you need a valid international passport to enter Malaysia. This building is not part of main ferry terminal, so we had to walk to the main terminal building, where we could catch taxis or local buses. Downtown Labuan is such a compact place where most hotels are all within walking distance. We rented a car and stayed at the Palm Beach hotel, at the northern tip of the island in a village called Kg Batu Manikar.

Labuan island has a good road system and easy to explore, just like Langkawi island. Halal food and masjids are aplenty, as 75% of the population are Muslims  — Kedayan, Brunei Malays, Bajau and Kadazandusun  from Sabah mainland. Masjid Jamek Annur has a unique structure not  easy to go unnoticed. You can rent a car to move about the island.

Enjoy the photos, courtesy of Panasonic Lumix TZ7 camera.


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