How to take a bus from Brunei to Kota KinabaLU

Land border crossing is very bad.
They are one of my least favorite parts of the trip.
Not only do they usually mean waiting in line for hours under the scorching sun, but fraud is rampant, instructions do not exist, and no one seems to really know what happened. Yes, when I write this article, I mainly refer to Southeast Asia.
In the early days of my trip, I tried my best to avoid land transit. I flew from Budapest to Kiev to avoid crossing by train, and then flew from Kiev to Moscow five days later.

Thailand Cambodia border crossing
At the border between Thailand and Cambodia, I spent five hours queuing outside. It was very hot. Image source: Alexey Studio/Shutterstock
These days, I am no longer as timid as before, but striding across the border.
I know that I need to investigate in advance to ensure that I know any fraud that may happen to me, remember the exact cost of the visa, and prepare to wait for several hours, hoping to get unexpected surprises.
Nevertheless, the land border has never been the highlight of my adventure.
So, why do I find myself sitting in a hotel in Brunei, trying to persuade Dave that we need to take a bus to Api? A bus will take you to eight different immigration officials, not so.
Four border ports.
Eight new passports are stamped.
Basically for this story.
I want to do this for this story.
Because there are not many places in the world where you can get eight new passport stamps in a six-hour trip.
So, four borders? How can this be possible?
Well, the geographical environment of Borneo is a bit unusual because Brunei is divided into two lands. Here is a photo.
Map of Borneo
From BSB to KK, we need to go out of Brunei, into Sarawak, out of Sarawak, into Brunei, out of Brunei, into Sarawak, out of Sarawak, into Sabah. Whoa!
From Sribagawan to Kota Kinabalu, there is only one bus every day, called the Xibitang Express, which starts at 8 am. We bought the tickets a few days before we left, because it was a little cheaper to buy them online than on the bus, and each person paid RM100 (US $24).
Our hotel is a distance from the capital, so we got up at 7:00 in the morning to catch the local bus into the city. In Brunei, taxis are few and very expensive, so the cheapest and most uncomfortable choice makes me tired again.
Sunrise in Brunei
The dim sunrise of our last morning in Brunei
There are three ways to go from the city of Sribagawan to the city of Costa Kinabalu 250 miles away.
The first is flight. If possible, I try to avoid short distance flight. At that time, the cost of an hour’s flight was $100, which felt particularly uneconomical.
You can also take a ferry from Brunei to Labuan Island in Malaysia, spend three hours looking around, and then continue to take the ferry to Aberdeen. This may be the most comfortable journey, but it will still take more than half a day. However, the thought of being seasick is enough to make me run for a ride.
Sipitang Express starts from Jalan MacArthur and is in front of Joy Guesthouse. There are more than ten people waiting in line for the bus to let us know that we have come to the right place.
I walked into a nearby grocery store and reluctantly bought a bottle of pints — official snacks for long and boring travel days. I wonder if this will be a frustrating journey.
Boats in Bandar Seri Begawan

We handed our passports to the driver when we boarded the ship and waited for instructions.
No indication.
This is not surprising, because we are in Southeast Asia after all.
One hour later, we arrived at Gualalula and started our first transit today. Fortunately, it is still early, so we are just ahead of the non-existent team. Dave and I got our passports from the driver, sealed them in about 10 minutes, and then jumped on the bus.
Considering that after 50 meters, we will stop at the next immigration point and stamp for entering Sarawak, Malaysia, so it really feels a little meaningless to return to the car.
So far, everything has been very good. These are the two crossing points with the highest efficiency and the least fraud in my travel.
If you do it long enough, long-term travel may lead to boredom.
I know that after five years of full-time travel, I need a lot of things to impress me. When you look at hundreds of beaches, some of them are in places like Maldives and Bora Bora. The stretches of beaches that used to make you drunk are now in opposition to the more beautiful beaches you used to see. This is also one of the reasons why I decided to have a base to return between the two trips — rest helps me appreciate the beauty of each travel destination.
However, one thing that never bored me was the new passport seal. On those worn pages, there is a fresh ink pattern that fills me with joy. From the first day of my trip, I had this strange little ceremony. Once I entered a new country, I sat down and read my passport from the first page to the last page.
My passport is five years old now, and 36 pages are full of stamps, so it always takes a few minutes. However, when I studied every memory, a wave of joy flooded into my brain. I thought that I would faint because I could go to so many countries one day.
These stamps remind me of the ridiculous bribery attempt I met in Guatemala, the fear when I entered D.R.C., and the panic when I got a visa in Tanzania.
When I read these pages now, I have a feeling that at some point in the future, I will find myself pausing on this page of Borneo stamps. When I recall this ridiculous travel day, I smiled.
An hour later, we arrived at the next border.
We arrived at Ujung Jalan in Brunei from Pandaruan in Malaysia within 20 minutes. I knew I was back in Brunei and couldn’t help laughing. In another hour, I will return to Malaysia again.
When I repeatedly told him how interesting it was, Dave was puzzled by the happiness he had witnessed.
We spent 60 minutes cruising in this small area of Brunei. I stared at the scenery outside and knew that I would probably never come back or see these towns again. I have no reason to return to Brunei in the future, so I try to remember it as much as possible.
When we returned to Malaysia, our driver announced that we would stop for lunch.

Lawas in Sarawak

I’m very excited.
Malaysia’s Borneo is divided into two states. Sarawak and Sabah. In the next month, Dave and I plan to travel in the latter. Sabah sounds more interesting to us, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorry for not staying in Sarawak for a while. Just stopping for lunch in a random town in the state is meaningful to me to some extent.
We stopped in a small cafe, which was full of local people and the menu was full of Malay. I ordered nasi lemak to a smiling lady because it was the only dish I could recognize and remember.
After eating the amazing delicious food, we still have one last crossing point to deal with. You may want to know why, because we are already in Malaysia.
Both Sabah and Sarawak have retained control over their borders because they are afraid that local people from the Malaysian Peninsula will work in Borneo. These citizens from Western Malaysia cannot work legally in Borneo, Malaysia, and the strict immigration rules of the island mean that travelers must cross the border to enter Sarawak and Sabah.
Once the final transit is completed, we only need to pass for a few hours in the rush hour, and then we will take the first step in the country.
Next: eat everything we can eat. You can look at my guide to the cuisine of Kota Kinabalu and know my recommendation for the best places in the town.

Food court in Kota Kinabalu

In general, considering that we have to face so many borders, I am surprised at the ease of this trip.
When we made this trip in March 2018, the road was quite quiet, there was almost no traffic at the border, and the crossing point itself was also very efficient. We never spend more than 20 minutes in each immigration office, and the bus has air conditioning, which is very comfortable.
If you are considering this trip, I suggest you take the road.
Just, uh, make sure you have enough space on your passport.

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