NOTE: This project took place in 13-16 March 2011. One of the most tiring but interesting road trip I ever I undertook. If you are passport-stamping collector, you will love it because you will have to go thru 10 border checkpoints from Miri to KK. Yes, 10 checkpoints which means 10 stampings on your passport. When I mention border checkpoints, it refer to both immigration and custom. The immigration officer will check your travel document, whereas the custom officer will check items you carry and the vehicle you are driving. The same car pass you were given at Sungai Tujuh will be valid thru out this journey.
Checkpoints encountered (in order of sequence from Miri to KK direction):
Sungai Tujuh (Malaysia)–>Leaving Sarawak at Sungai Tujuh (Sg Tujuh is 30km from Miri)
Sungai Tujuh (Brunei)–>Entering Brunei at Sungai Tujuh
Kuala Lurah (Brunei)–>Leaving Brunei at Kuala Lurah
Tedungan (Malaysia)–>Entering Malaysia at Tedungan (Tedungan is 42 km to Limbang)
Pandaruan (Malaysia)–>Leaving Sarawak at Pandaruan
Kg Puni (Brunei)–>Entering Brunei at Kampung Puni in Temburung district
Labu (Brunei)–>Leaving Brunei at Labu in Temburung disctrict.
Mengkalap (Sarawak, Malaysia)–>Entering Sarawak at Trusan
Merapok (Sarawak, Malaysia)–>Leaving Sarawak at Merapok
Sindumin (Sabah, Malaysia)–>Entering Sabah at Sindumin
Refer image below which summarizes the border crossings from Miri to KK. Image was captured at one of the Malaysian Immigration checkpoint along the way.
The Miri-KK Map
The write-up below makes reference to this map. Click here for the map. I knew the map is not that perfect or as accurate as google map or the one provided by Tourism agency, but it provides rough ideas with basic landmarks which will help you along the way. I’d suggest you download this map in pdf format and print it and take it with you as a reference along the way to KK.
Miri to Sungai Tujuh:
This is 30-minute or so journey passing thru Miri new township of Permyjaya. Just follow roadsign leading to SUngai Tujuh or Kuala Belait. You will pass a huge 2-lane bridge called ASEAN bridge, may be a joint-venture with ASEAN countries I myself not sure. Pay RM10 at the tool booth after going down the bridge. The bridge actually crosses over Sungai Baram, where you can see shipping and marine activities at Kuala Baram port. It is a good idea to fill up your car with petrol in Miri before reaching Sungai Tujuh because in Brunei only limited petrol stations can sell their products to drivers driving Malaysian-registered vehicles.
Maneuvouring thru checkpoint is a bit tricky. First you must pass Malaysia Immigration checkpoint. This is a drive-thru facility. No need for you and passengers to get off from the car. Just drive thru and at the counter hand over all the international passports to the clerk inside the booth. Malaysians do not need visa to enter Brunei, international passports will do. Other nationalities please check with your own consulates. After passports stamped and returned, you will drive thru a winding road passing thru Brunei police station. By now you are already in the Brunei side of the border already. Do not stop at the police station. Just drive up along the winding road and you will reach Brunei Immigration checkpoint. Again, just drive thru and hand over the passports to a clerk at the counter. Here she will stamp the entry visa in your passports which allows you to stay in Brunei for up to one month on social visit pass. Then you will come to Custom checkpoint. Since you are bringing Malaysian car into Brunei, they will ask you to fill up a car pass. Get the form from them and fill up vehicle particulars. All info requested about the vehicles can be found in the car grant or title issued by JPJ Malaysia. So it is strongly recommended that you carry along a copy of such car grant. Pull over to a waiting bay to fill up the form. Brunei is such a rich country that no fees whatsoever required. By the way the vehicle pass is valid for one month, which means you can use the same pass many times to enter Brunei. Thats why you see some drivers just drive thru and hand over their old car pass for stamping by the Custom official — because they already filled up once. Remember to keep this car pass safely because you need it again to exit and re-enter Brunei again.
Once you are done with the Brunei Custom, you are already on the way to Bandar Seri Begawan, some 127 kms from Sungai Tujuh checkpoint. On Brunei roads you will see majority big cars with Brunei plate numbers which starts with B or K refering to districts in Brunei. You can easily be mistaken with Kedah or Selangor plate number which also starts with K and B respectively, but the difference is bigger font size. You will pass by towns like Kuala Belait and oil town of Seria. Just before you reach Tutong (some 20kms from Tutong), you need to turn right to Tanjung Maya. Since this is highway with divider, you need to go ahead a bit and make u-turn to Tanjung Maya. Please follow the direction in the map to get to Kuala Lurah from here.
Sungai Tujuh border checkpoint has been described in my previous posting. Click here.
Sungai Tujuh to Kuala Lurah/Tedungan
Please follow the direction in the map to get to Kuala Lurah from Sungai Tujuh. There are 2 ways to get to Kuala Lurah. One is thru Tanjung Maya/Lamunin road and the other is to drive up to Tutong and follow roadsign to Kuala Lurah. Distance-wise I reckon the former the shorter and even simpler. But for this March 2011 trip I chose the latter.
Kuala Lurah is at the Brunei side of the border. Tedungan is on Malaysia side. Both checkpoints are drive-thru. It is easy crossing provided you have your documents ready (international passport and car pass). During weekend or school holidays, queues are long. During my trip, it was about 1 km long going into Tedungan.
Kuala Lurah/Tedungan to Limbang
Tedungan, it is about 42km to Limbang town. Just follow the roadsign to Limbang town or Feri Pandaruan. Roads are good but there are few turnings you must not miss in order to get to Pandaruan checkpoint. Limbang itself is a town by a big Limbang river. There are rumah air (houses on waters) also in Limbang, just like in Brunei but at a smaller scale. The tallest hotel in town Hotel Purnama is painted colorfully enough to attract tourists and travellers.
A shopping center known as Centerpoint is located at the ground floor. There is a spacious town square surrounded by rows of offices, shops and restaurants. Stop by at Pasar Limbang and nearby tamu if you have time to buy local products famous Bario rice and ikan tahai and udang salai (smoked shrimps) which can be eaten like snacks.
Limbang to Pandaruan/Kg Puni
Journey from Limbang to Pandaruan is a short one, maybe 10km or so, passing thru Limbang airport, schools and hospital. There is a new Malaysian custom and immigration complex at Pandaruan, which provide drive-thru services. Pandaruan is on Malaysia side and Puni is on Brunei side. Both towns (or villages rather) are separated by very narrow Batang Pandaruan (Pandaruan river) connected by a ferry service. The fare is RM8 for compact car or BND4 (currency for Brunei is Brunei Dollar=BND). Before you reach the river, you must stop at Pandaruan checkpoints to clear Malaysia immigration and custom procedures. This is a drive-thru facility. By the look, the complex itself is just recently completed. Previously when the complex was under construction, Malaysia immigration and custom building were located at the heart of Limbang town, by the river. Now that they had moved to the new Pandaruan complex, you can skip stopping over at Limbang, if you are running out of time. Take note that all border checkpoints close at 10pm everyday.
Kg Puni to Bangar to Labu/Mengkalap
After you cross the Pandaruan river, drive about 1km (or slightly less) further up and you will come to a Brunei checkpoint at Kg Puni. The road from the river are so wide and straight that you can easily miss this checkpoint if you are driving too fast and not paying attention to the roadsign. Another good reason to miss this checkpoint is because it is located in two wooden houses, one for immigration clearance the other for custom clearance. At one house you hand over your passport and at another house (custom counter) produce the same car pass you had filled up at Sungai Tujuh checkpoint. Nobody will bother you if you simply drive past this checkpoint, but the real problem will only appear at Labu checkpoint when exiting Brunei again. I heard some friends who forgot to stop here, upon reaching Labu checkpoint, were made to drive all the way back to Kg Puni to get their passports stamped, else they could not leave Brunei. So beware of of this blue-colored wooden buildings. Just pay attention and follow the sign POS KAWALAN PUNI (Puni control post).
You are now in Temburong district of Brunei. From Puni, the stretch is well-paved, with wide road shoulders at each side. The distance is about 30km. You would come pass a beautiful town of Bangar, the center of administration for the the district of Temburong. (FYI Brunei has 4 districts — BSB/Muara, Kuala Belait, Tutong and Temburong). The town center is very clean and peaceful. Government offices and shopping district are separated by the Temburong river.
Labu is on Brunei side whereas Mengkalap is on Malaysia (state of Sarawak) side. Labu control post is temporary office in porta cabins. You can drive thru for immigration clearance, but for custom inspection you must stop and hand over the car pass (same car pass you got at Sungai Tujuh) to officer in the cabin. Mengkalap is a new immigration and custom complex. You just drive thru and pass documents thru small window to officer inside the cubicle. No need to stop and park the car.
Mengkalap to Lawas to Merapok/ Sindomin
Mengkalap is in a district of Lawas in Sarawak. From Mengkalap, proceeding to Lawas, you will come across a small town called Trusan. There is a new bridge entering Trusan town. Previously there was a ferry crossing Batang Trusan, but now already replaced with a concrete bridge. Trusan is small town with a row of shophouses, a library and a community hall. The main road — world-class and tree-lined — goes uphill after the bridge. Driving up, you will come to the town of Lawas. Another quiet and peaceful town by a big river, Lawas River. There is a jetty with speed boats going to the interior of Limbang Division, Labuan or even Brunei. You can get to Ba’Kelalan by road and boat from Lawas. Smoked river fish or known as “tahai” by locals are popular here. Driving further up, you will come to Merapok.
Merapok/ Sindumin to KK
This border crossing is between Sarawak and Sabah (both are neighboring states in Malaysia). Merapok is at Sarawak side whereas Sindumin is at Sabah side. Both are drive-thru facilities. You must get your passport stamped twice at two different booths, located very close to each other under the same roof. Stay in the car and hand over the passport to the officer at the booth. If you have time, you can take a simple detour going into old Merapok town (village rather). At the roundabout before going to the checkpoint, follow road sign to PEKAN MERAPOK. The old town seems deserted with nobody on the street. A few very old wooden houses still stand at the end of the road. That is the furthest you can go and you have to take U-turn to get back to the roundabout. The houses seems occupied, looking at the old curtains hanging on the windows. Kinda haunted though. A little bit detour and you will come to a brightly colored Chinese temple.
This is a final stretch of my journey.There is no more checkpoint after Sindumin. KK is about 170 kms from Merapok and on the way you will pass by towns like Sipitang, Beaufort and Papar, of which I will not go thru in details in this posting. Just follow the roadsign to Kota Kinabalu (KK) and you will be on the right track. FYI, Beaufort is a gateway to Labuan, by ferry. From Beaufort, turn left at some T-junction to go to a coastal village of Menumbok wherefrom you can board ferry to Labuan island.