Cycling Borneo – Chinese New Year 2013

Posted by in Biking, Featured, Pictures, Travel

The third time is the charm. After two prior attempts to join Michael Turton in cycling Sabah, I made it. I only had to skip a week of snowboarding with fellow TYPO3 geeks in Austria.

Bike Borneo or snowboard the Alps?

What a tough choice, but since I’ve snowboarded the Alps a couple of times now, Borneo it is.

Overall, I had a wonderful time pedaling along the Borneo pathways. However, would the real Malaysians in Sarawak please stand up?

The further south we went, the more Chinese it became

Seriously… I ate more Chinese food and spoke more Chinese on a daily basis than when at home in Kaohsiung Taiwan. English in Southern Taiwan is a like a lost art, but the amount of Chinese’ism in southern Malaysia was totally unexpected.

When we did get to meet real locals, it was amazing. Extremely friendliness all the way.

We also had fantastic opportunities to eat some of the best BBQ wings and skate fish of our lives. Super fresh juice of 5 different fruits and vegetables, just helped it all settle smoothly.

Up in Sabah, that’s northern Malaysia, for those who like me don’t look at a map until in country after a few days; the roads are smooth, reasonably marked and populated by extremely friendly slow driving locals. The small towns were even more so friendly. A truly wonderful, first few days of our biking getaway.

Kota Kinabalu – Lawas Route

Thank goodness for GPS tracking errors. I can’t seem to clean up the data, so it’s 1,200 kilometers out of whack.

Lawas – Tedungan Route

Our first foray in Brunei was simply, cool. A long, new, beautiful highway into the jungle across the landscape. Wow! Jungle and rice fields, gorgeous. The second foray into Brunei wasn’t so much fun after a bad night’s stay in Tedungan.

It only got worse as the roads are marked in such a manner to keep outsiders to the main highways, even to the tune of adding easily 60 kilometers of riding between points. I admit that 24 kilometers of excess riding was my own fault for not backing the GPS out to see that we were making a circle to within 15 kilometers of our starting point.

Pffpt…

Flat goes Michael’s rear tire and all spares. Whoomp, momentum sloweth. He limped into Kuala Belait with help from real locals and on Sunday, we pricey taxied to Miri.

Tedbugan – Kuala Belait Route

I really did check out several shops in Miri to find tubes. Alas, during Chinese New Year, you truly find out how many businesses are Chinese owned. I think we spent 4-5 nights in Miri.

Miri Bike Inner Tube Hunting

There was a nice jungle trek to Batu Niah caves. I’m so glad we did it, but darn that trail was slippery. I wouldn’t be surprised that several people break a leg or arm every each year.

Cycling from Miri to Batu Niah was my favorite ride of Sarawak. We actually got to ride along the ocean and see it. Only a few times up near Sipitang did we get to see the water. Otherwise, the rolling hills were tolerable and road conditions fair with easy going drivers.

Miri – Batu Niah Route

Michael said these were roller coaster hills. I didn’t think much, just concentrated on up, down, cycle harder, numb, brain, dead.

Since the inland road was even rougher and drivers a bit more racing, we tossed the bikes on a bus and rode the last part.

Bintulu – Tatau Route

In Tatau, we once again tossed the bikes on a bus into Sibu. Rolling hills and racing drivers make the longer distance cycling in the heat, not so much fun.

We spent 3-4 nights in Sibu gobbling down mangosteens and rambutans when possible. On Sunday, we toasted our bodies while taking an express river boat to Kapit.

Ah, isn’t in the middle of the jungle with no cars supposed to be barren like? It was more of a frontier town just an easy drive away instead. Crazy… but cool. Oh yeah, one of the best ABC ice’s yet.

Outside of a little going the wrong way, Sibu to the airport was a nice finish to our Borneo cycling adventure. The Sibu airport folks are very friendly and helpful in getting our bikes checked in. However, I would recommend bringing sandwiches or other food from town if you plan on eating at the airport. The departure level food stand isn’t too bad, but ground floor was wasn’t appetizing. Of course, I could just be tired of seeing and eating the same thing, day-in, day-out.

Sibu Airport Roll Route

Once back in Kota Kinabalu we crashed for a couple of nights and wondered out every few hours to eat, take photos and people watch. About time we could watch others instead of them watching us sweat riding our bikes in Borneo.

Return?

Yes, I would. However, I’d stick to Sabah, northern Brunei, and down to Limbang next time. There’s plenty to see and do there to keep me happy for a couple of weeks cycling, boating, and whatever else comes to mind.