A Travellerspoint blog

Miri

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My prevailing sentiment of world weary introspection provoked by repeated recent provocation was somewhat thankfully alleviated in a failure to hook up with the lovebirds that day, and so I assumed a refreshing mode of solitary relaxation, compounded by a rare chance to switch off and indulge myself in watching a hitherto underappreciated delight in Bush Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It made me aware as to just how much I had lived life down to the wire for so long, that simple pleasures such as a good film or music could render so much importance, sacrifices I had forsaken so long ago that I had lost sight of their significance.

A much greater favour still though was introduced with the arrival of a disarmingly sweet and pretty Danish girl who remarkably showed an immediate penchance for returning my attentions in an unaccustomed favourable manner. Sine from Aarhus was here to pursue the draw of Mulu like myself, and later that day my invitaton to join me in a foray out to local attraction Canada Hill was accepted devoid of reservation. Upon tracing our way through still largely unexplored Miri and then up a sweat sapping snaky incline, rich conversation and mutual appreciation had me realising much more than the summit upon which Malaysia had founded her first oil well in 1910. It was that emminently rarer of all commodities, it was love. As I my eyes drilled helplessly captivated into her soul, her kaleidoscope eyes would unmistakably betray a chemistry which she could only belatedly force herself to deny with an endearingly shy smirk and downward gaze. What a sweetheart.

With the booking of Mulu proving problematic I had already opted to postpone and curtail that venture in deference to the similar draw of the Kelabit Highlands, agreeing to fly up there with Roberto for a hopefully cheaper and more authentic jungle experience. Sine however had somehow managed to get onto an allegedly booked out early flight to Mulu even if her tour was outrageously expensive and it was now heartwrenching to learn that a recently arrived couple joining her would help push the price down. Together with Roberto and I, the trek along the renowned Headhunter's Trail from Mulu back to civilisation had now become a reasonably priced alluring alternative, but Roberto's mind was already set and I couldnt run out on him now.

I wasted 2 hours of my life watching the diabolically lame film The Interpreter before seeking solace in the live band playing downstairs. Though the music was another long missed indulgence, Sine didnt drink much and so had opted to stay upstairs, my mind perpetrated in that direction in frustration at the situation.

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Hawaii Beach

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With many considerations to be made for onward progress, I resolved to devote a day to reading and a backlog of writing, a necessary indulgence which I hoped to offset by doing it on a day trip to a spot out of town known as Hawaii Beach. The freshly formed lovebirds were headed out there, and though I initially felt the instinct to resist the reluctant emotionally blackmailed invitation from Superbitch, I changed my mind when I saw that the city was Friday shut in the main. The promise of a beach was one I had not anticipated and decided in the end not to be intimidated by belligerence. Indeed, part of me found a fascination in not for the first time enduring bafflingly inappropriate behaviour which allowed me to realise payback in simply not being deterred, if I was a thorn in the side then I would let it sting.

The stroll out to the bus station proved to have been an immediate bonus in revealing the adjacent tourist info centre, a pertinent priority since together with new sidekick Roberto from El Salvador of all places, we were under pressure of time to promptly assess and reserve accommodation for our impending and supremely popular next destination, Gunung Mulu National Park. Informed that we now had to inconveniently somehow book it direct whilst juggling similarly scant transport availability, it at least took the first chip out of the stumbling blocks. The indecently erratic and indiscernible bus service afforded us time to investigate a nearby produce market, where we promptly scoffed our supposed picnic of many unfamiliar exotic fruits in waiting for the bus. Rambutans were a handy snack of furry red balls which you burst open to reveal something akin to a lychee with a seed in the centre, then Mangosteens which were a purple tomato shape offering very small but addictively sweet and slimy segments. By the time we had endured the super cramped half hour trip out of town a whole pineapple was all that remained.

It transpired that Hawaii Beach was somewhat optimistic nomenclature for a beige strip along the South China Sea, its character primarily qualified by the presence of stilt houses and small fishing launches lining a river running just inshore. Having met another traveller couple off the bus, my intended work was somewhat distracted by a gorgeous Austrian chick who proved to be contrastingly affable and easy going, as the boys challenged the ocean and Hippy Bitch worked on her tanline. Pineapple and cookies were another diversion, after which all of the worlds injustices seemed to be epitomised by a ridculous episode of the lovebirds' mutual distraction serving to make us miss the infrequent bus. With no choice but to resort to hitching, they finally showed up at the roadside to prompty snaffle the elusive ride which should have been ours, I excruciatingly took the last seat after shouting apologies to the eminently preferable Austro-Geman couple. Having made undefined promises to meet up for the evening I was now left plagued with guilt at having had to abandon them and with no way to contact them, I sadly never saw them again. Roberto's friendly demeanour finally provoked some semblance of decency from his partisan partner and so we shared a beer and curry with a newly arrived Parisian guy, before finally retiring to suddenly appreciate a telltale itch. Suspecting bed bugs, investigation revealed the daunting reality that I had unknowingly succumbed bigtime to the attentions of sand flies at the beach, small distinctive bites which made bed bugs and mosquitos seem unlikelily preferable. I sat up all that night until dawn under the constant pressure to lather my limbs in Tiger Balm, a ritual I would play out relentlessly for the next week or more, redeeming some sort of achievment from the day in finally exacting research of the complicated choices ahead. There had been a further frustration that day in realising it to be Indonesia's independence day, a celebration I would have savoured but had learned of too late to adapt into my plans. Too bad.

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Niah National Park

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Fuelled up with a default Martabak brekkie, it was a pleasant 3K hoof along a riverside path studded by rickety slapdash shacks and crazy dogs out to the park HQ, where my arrival pierced an unexpected calm with not a soul in sight. I was still frustrated however when the reception told of the discontinuation of cheap hostel accommodation, it had inexplicably been hiked up to 6 quid a night for a dorm bed which rather took the piss. After dumping my bags still uncertain as to my intentions, I took a small chugboat still miraculously anonymous the few seconds it took to cross the Niah River, where I hit upon the Archaeological Museum inspired by unique and important finds here.

NIAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

It told of the area having originally been a limestone bed which had emerged from the sea only 1 million years ago, with subsequent weathering enlarging sea eroded caves further, stalagtites and stalagmites forming over the millennia and passages expanding to reach a width and height of up to 100 metres. Excavation work during the 1950s at the West Mouth of the Great Cave revealed human remains, especially the renowned "Deep Skull" discovered at a depth of 106 inches, which has uniquely been used to date human habitation in the area as far back 40,000BC. Fragmented yet whole minus the mandibular section, it has tentaively been aged to be a teenager but the sex is indefinable. Its closest morphological affinities remarably link it to Aboriginal Tasmanians, it was on display reconstructed with the mandible still intact and bearing a few teeth.

It is then from 14,000 years ago we find traces of burial practices. Other discoveries were the unique "Double Spouted" pottery vessels and "3 Colour Ware" dated from 1000BC to 500AD, more unique finds only ever found at Niah and nearby Miri. The Painted Cave here is also the only known example of such artwork in Sarawak. Before the discovery of the "Deep Skull" the earliest find of human remains was the "Perak Man" skeleton going back only 10,000 years, though paleolithic technology had suggested earlier habitation as far back as 31,000BC, and Australomelanesian finds in nearby Palawan in the Philippines pointed to such a culture before the neolithic expansion of Austronesians 4,000 years ago. Primitive stone and bone tools were complimented by bronze and iron utensils of a later era and pottery and further human and faunal remains betrayed a history of continuous human habitation until modern times. The nearby Painted Cave, only rediscovered in 1958, had its floor littered with "Boat-coffins" containing skeletons, ornaments and pottery, and the walls of the cave are adorned with haematite paintings of boats and dancing figures. The coffins have been dated as originating from betwen 2,000 to 1,200 years ago.

Human involvment still endures with the pretext of harvesting the nests of the 3 species of Swiftlets which roost here, masses of congealed saliva which are sought by the Chinese to make their famed Bird's Nest Soup. 2 of the species are able to employ echo location in order to fly in the dark just as bats do, and indeed 6 species of Bat live here, including the delightfully named Bearded Tomb Bat, Cave Fruit Bats, Cantor's Roundleaf Horseshoe Bats and the Hairless Bat, which is the worlds largest insect feeding species. There are estimated to be around a quarter of a million of them inside Niah Caves, which stream out of the West Mouth of the cave in unison every dusk. These punters are responsible for depositing around a ton of guano a day which in turn attracts all manner of beasties such as spiders, scorpions, millipedes, long legged centipedes, robber wasps, moths, beetles and countless other undesirables. The Cave Gecko is unique to this habitat and a local snake the harmless Cave Racer also inhabits them. Its reckoned that the birds nests here were harvested since the 16th century until their protection in 1995 and the collection of guano for fertiliser is also important.

After biting another financial bullet and securing a torch at the last minute, from there it was a few Ks along a boardwalk thoroughly encroached upon by full on rainforest and deliciously almost devoid of other tourists, nature's symphony of intriguing bird calls and rasping insects was pereversely shattered only by the odd motorbike heading home to a nearby longhouse. I spied many large and varied butterflies, one notably massive one being a striking black and brilliant yellow, also a fluorescent green lizard and another black and brown species with a white cheat line. Bird life was more elusive but I did catch a brilliant cobalt blue Stork Billed Kingfisher flash by right in front of me, another an indistinct species of russet red and black, finally a lurid green Bee Eater or similar. The odd large Squirrel scurried about but were typically too fast and shy to snap.

Having been forewarned of a temporary detour and armed with a less than satisfactory sketch map, it was a little disconcerting to confront a sign absent of arrowing decreeing no further access beyond, it wasnt even plain to which path it referred. Fortunately plumping for the correct one, I eventually reached a T junction amongst the trees, resisting the right turn towards the enticing Painted Cave when I unexpectedly spied distant promise of the longhouse in the other direction. I traced the short stroll up and over a rickety humped plank bridge spanning a minor river and found a rustic timber village patently larger than the advertised longhouse, all ramshackle stilt houses, caged chickens and a contrastingly bright modern school block. A wander along the meandering boardwalks revealed a few kids who couldnt understand my Bahasa Indonesia, but my quest to make contact eventually sealed a cold drink and a meeting with one of the local honchos. It was only now that I learned that the place was actually promoted as a homestay, with the notably Christian idolatrised longhouse boasting 107 doors. The functional architecture of these constructions was not the drawcard however, it was more interesting in its expression of a communal lifestyle whereby occasional meetings under the tutelage of the headman would address problems and deliberate future policy for agriculture for example. Traditions continued by my suitor such as body tattoos and hunting were juxtaposed by the modernity of primary services and occasional car ownership, it evidently still worked well for them.

Retracing the boardwalk out, I continued straight in anticipaton of the now imminent primary attraction the Painted Cave, only to come across an even more ambiguous and doubt provoking sign which allegedly told me to forget the planking and head off into the jungle. It was at this point that my wildlife spotting inspired dawdling allowed a couple of English chicks to catch up with me, and in tracing the evidently makeshift slash through the trees only allayed by periodic red markings on their trunks, I mused that at least we would all be getting lost together. Its dubious disposition more often than not descended into a quagmire of mud and bog and we were dumbfounded that they would knowingly send people this way, one of the chicks lagging behind so much in her trials that we began to worry for her. We finally retraced an elevated boardwalk however and it was only a short jaunt tellingly now past looming limestone rock faces that a staircase ascended to realise our goal. It was a bloody great big hole. Entering revealed that the passage was actually a tunnel, though of such dimension that however infeasibly a Jumbo Jet could conceivably be flown through it. The ceiling hung with stalagtites hanging over the odd mound of stalagmitic accretion accumulated over millennia and giant slabs the size of houses lay strewn around, having clearly fallen from above and now mimicing a giant crazy paving. The left desended dark and treacherous looking but an elevated banking which sidled up to the right allowed a fantastic appreciation of the whole underground chasm. It was along this wall that its major claim to fame was realised too, some archaic cave paintings which though humble and a tad disappointing reputedly portrayed dancing figures and water symbols. The Painted Cave had been used by local ancestry as a mammoth burial chamber and though I failed to find the alleged one remaining example, skeletons had been discovered here interred in "boat coffins" dating from between 2000 to 1200 years ago. Retracing the boardwalk, a continuation soon had us confronting another even more mammoth sized gape in the rockface, a fitting primer to the Great Cave. A staircase led me up into the stalagtite wielding cavemouth from whence a long encroaching passage narrowed until I was entered into a much darker claustrophobic world of intimidating shadows hundreds of metres long. Occasional skylights in the roof allowed less tentative passage, revealing a trully awe inspiring chamber on a scale which would have been impossible to predict, the dimensions of it could have swallowed Edinburgh Castle (and rock). Another gaping entrance off to the right allowed penetraton of further light, revealing bats bombarding around overhead in high pitched squeaks, though giant boulders the size of appartment blocks still shielded dark hidden depths. At a junction I elected to opt for the staircase left though, the climb rewarded now with the chance to appreciate a similar even larger window to the world outside. Exiting here, I must have covered perhaps a kilometre underground, discovering a second even more gargantuan chamber in the process. It was by this egress that a fenced off area enclosed Niah's renowned archaeological site where the "Deep Skull' had been discovered amongst many younger remnants, the earliest such traces ever discovered of modern man in all of South East Asia.

Running back into the English chicks here, a few local muslim boys were handy in betraying the way back out to the park HQ, and we followed their example in deference to the detour signs wary of more quagmire, electing to pursue the "off limits" habitual route. We saw why it had been bypassed as its renovation enforced passage along new precariously narrow and elevated concrete supports still naked of planking, a tightrope act which was still deemed preferable however. We eventually retraced a more rickety older path to take us back to the river and park HQ for a welcome wash and plate of noodles, happy that the job was done and deemed to have been a much merited excursion. Together with the chicks I still faced the problem of onward transport, and though delighted in the anticipation of more unexpected early progress up to impending city Miri where the chicks were already based, it didnt look good for me. Their persistent standoffish behaviour revealed one of them to have clearly taken an instant dislike to me and the other adopting an understandably partisan policy of selfishness in the pursuit of a lift, but I was eventually lucky in being squeezed into a vanload of Italians headed that way, as it turned out the same Italians I had shared the boat with up to Kapit but patently avoided. With apologies from them who baulked at the driver still demanding over the odds from me despite the van already being paid for, it was then compounded by hippy Superbitch peaking in her argumentative rudeness in even shying from volunteering where their nearby hostel lay. Grudgingly obliged to co-oprerate, together with Roberto a rare traveller from El Salvador who had similarly scored a lift, I excellently found myself safely ensconced in Miri well ahead of expecation. With Hippy Bitch Jodan having conversely found instant chemistry in Roberto even in the darkness of the Great Cave, it was somewhat fortuitous that after giving him a nudge in that direction I was left unmolested to frequent the convenient expat bar downstairs with suitably more mature and benign Chick no.2. A beer and a Rod Stewart concert on the big screen was a superb panacea for the bad manners and bullshit endured.

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Bintulu to Batu Niah

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Bintulu had evolved as little more than a staging post for transport between Sibu and more northerly Miri, a place which deliciously saw its foundation as a pirate's hole-up from where they would attack passing shipping on a long established trade route running along the north Borneo coast. Bintulu means "a place to gather heads", and though sailors are now safe from the promise of summary decapitation, the modern not unappealing town had only grown to importance with the discovery of sizeable offshore gas deposits in the 1960s. The heads had certainly gathered since. That rather explained the dearth of local points of historical interest then, and it was a perverse happy realisation that it wouldnt warrant more than a few hours that morning before moving on again, I was glad to be now making unexpectedly swift progress. A short tour around the city centre revealed a pleasant riverside scene of very colourful fishing boats tied up alongside a fish market, where a freshly arrived catch of what I took to be metre long Barracuda and many sharks reminded me of the Chinese penchance for Shark's Fin Soup. Even the local Chinese temple was remarkably subdued however, and it wasnt far until I reached the sole real point of note around town, an obviously Islamic influenced obelisk crowned with a golden onion-dome cupola. This was the Council Negri Monument, a testimony to Bintulu's one historical contribution in hosting on this spot in 1867 the first convention of states which would later be unforeseenly federated together as Malaysia. A surprising spot for it, it was perhaps merely selected because it was geographically a centrepoint for Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula. I resisted the allure of the Malay "kampung' (stilt village) the other side of the river and completed a loop back to my hotel via the old disused airport whose runway remains marooned, surrounded now by modern conurbation. Locals redeemingly unused to tourists unilaterally volunteered the whereabouts of the elusive bus back out to the terminal, from where I realised I was close to a tempting animal park but plumped for progress instead. The touts in civilised Malaysia were no match for my determined stance, but a bus leaving imminently for Miri was not to be resisted. Aiming for small town Batu Niah only equidistant from Bintulu, I tried to ensure that I would be dropped off in town and not just out on the highway as suspected, but it was no surprise when I was grumpily dropped at an interchange still 11Ks short. In the process I had at least gained a better insight into the pervading scene along the highway, a 2 hour trip prompted by an incessant patchwork of roadside longhouses, variously modern and pristine, some now in brick, others timber wrecks, every one signed with their headman's name. "Rumah Entawai" for example simply meant "Entawai's House", even if it was a whole community 400 metres long. The palm tree plantations were more in evidence along this stretch, with many trucks laden with palm nut bunches, some having fallen out onto the road to be avoided. Occasional pockets of clearfelling and slash and burn practices were thankfully humble, and more memorable was the stark contrast of still pristine jungle clad mountains topped by radio masts. The odd logging truck, a first, was another matter.

On principle I belligerently avoided the sharks' not unreasonable 10 Ringgit fare into town, frustrating at the lack of fellow takers, only to finally realise a brainwave solution. I simply hoofed the short distance back to the junction and stuck out a finger, not a moment later I was nabbed by a local hungry for petrol money, with my agreed 5 Ringgit being reduced to 4 in the end in the absence of change. He had even had the decency of going out of his way to drop me at the sole cheap flophouse in town without my behest, sweet. That perversely rather presented a quandry since it had been my original perhaps somewhat ambitious plan from there to immediately tackle the 3K bag laden jungle trek out to the HQ of the adjacent Niah National Park. At 5pm, it wasnt a bad time of day to tackle it yet I finally resolved to resist it, unsure as to whether there would be a bed for me at journeys end. Prior booking in Kuching had been impossible since there was no telling of my arrival date, certainly I hadnt imagined it would be so soon, and for sure Niah was popular. I shacked up at the tellingly deserted Niah Cave Hotel then with the promise of an early start the next day, redeemed by Sarawak's facility even in tiny Batu Niah of being able to square away more pressing work on the net. Just as well since at just a few hundred metres square by the side of the small Niah River, there werent too many other distractions in town.

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Kapit to Bintulu

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Still in the dark as to possible connections upriver to Belaga, all I could do was make an early start and hit the jetty for 9 that morning in the hope of an odd speedboat making the trip. That was looking unlikely yet I did come across an express boat heading just as far up another tributary to a spot called Putai. The scant information of the guidebook revealed that to be nothing more than a logging camp, though it certainly promised the allure of untouristed territory. I elected to contemplate it during a diversion to the now happily open Fort Sylvia then, the main attraction in town and now a museum relating its fascinating history since its foundation in the days of frontier pushing pioneers.

A history of Kapit told of the migration of Chinese groups into the area, the Iban into previously uninhabited river reaches and the Islamification of the Melanau. Malays also joined Hokkien traders plying the Rejang, reaching as far as Belaga which boasted 14 shops by 1893. It was a typical tale of a fort being established in order to subdue unrest, to be then adopted as a trading post by the settlers. Inaugurated mainly to settle disputes and maintain law and order, Fort Sylvia was originally provoked by headhunting and migration into prohibited tributaries of the Rejang by the Iban, especially the Baleh which was only opened up in 1906. Native rebellions were quelled with numerous military expeditons, especially against the Iban of the Gaat tributary. After the 1924 peace treaty the fort was subsequently stationed with Sarawak Rangers before becoming colonial district offices under the British, then the Resident's house of the newly formed Kapit Division. These District Officers were listed here on a roll call of civil servants and possibly included a few Scotsmen, with a MacBryan and MacPherson serving during the 1920s, and the final colonial born Resident being a certain M.M. McSporran no less! It also listed many Iban who had performed military service during the Malaya emergency and against the Indonesian "Konfrontasi' campaign, with many having been recruited as trackers. Colonial photos also showed 3rd Rajah Vyner Brooke with legendary Iban chief Temenggoh Koh, and 3 chiefs with a kilted Malcolm MacDonald, another later Resident.

A particularly fascinating yarn told of Temenggoh Koh's life story, one of the great Iban chiefs who was born in Dutch Borneo, his family later emigrating to the village of Song on the Rejang. He took part in tribal wars against the Kayan and Kenyah, at one time revenging the death of his uncle by destroying 8 longhouses and taking several heads. He then lived as an outlaw but eventually faced colonial justice, from then on co-operating with governmental efforts in quelling uprisings and helping to promote the cultivation of rubber plantations. He gained a prominent position on the Baleh River when it was opened to the Iban in 1922, and finally received the MBE for his efforts in 1953, bizarre.

More superb relics showed a group photo of the 1924 treaty gathering, with the locals still wholly in traditional garb and Brooke and attendant Dutch officers porting pith helmets. The Dutch influence at that time was revealed by a huge party of 960 of them attending the ceremony. The artifacts on display were mainly uninspiring ceramics, but many small but ornate cannon were a notable wonder, of a style I had always taken to be Portugese and yet these were obviously of local manufacture. Their mountings resembled perhaps the "Aso" Dragon-dog figure and other adornments were crocodiles and ferns. Then a newspaper cutting from 1962 related that a convention of Penghulus (chiefs) at Kapit had elected to support the Cobbold Commission on their plans to federate Malaysia. Points they raised interestingly included that English should remain the national language of Sarawak and that it should be recognised as one of Malaysia's official tongues, also that migration should remain under the control of Sarawak. The Sarawak Tribune at the same time told of US-Soviet sabre rattling and nuclear tests in the run up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, quite a contrast. A display of chunks of amber related that the largest amber deposit in the world was recently discovered in Sarawak at the Merit-Pila coalfield near Belaga, including the largest single piece ever discovered.

The displays had been sufficiently diverting for me to forego the single departure for Putai, having convinced myself after lengthy soul searching that an early return to Sibu and then quickly onto Bintulu held more allure in its promised progress than the potential expense, delay and uncertainty of trying to find a bed in spartan surroundings not set up for it. I had learned upon enquiry from the curator at the fort that he had recently been to Belaga himself but it was now undoubtedly only accesible via the land route from Bintulu, even small speedboats with reduced draught were conversely now too susceptible to capsize in the troublesome Pelagus rapids en route.

There was nothing for it but to head back to Sibu then, a frustration tempered by the knowledge that I had tried and failed only due to nature's final say, it was just a pity that I had hit upon this unforeseen diversion up the Rejang at precisely the wrong time of year to be attempting it, the heart of the dry season. Notable recordings of the river levels propensity to fluctuate had been inscribed on the wall of Fort Sylvia, with its highest ever recorded level having been 62 feet above its mean, halfway up the walls of the fort and assuredly engulfing great swathes of the jungle. It was now clear why the township stood so elevated above the bank. The dry season still managed a shower to soak me on my way back along to the ferries but I was at least fortunate in securing passage on the top notch express boat back to Sibu within the hour, further witnessing how the riverbanks revealed the water level to be significantly reduced, perhaps by 4 feet. I stepped aboard Sibu bound, sad to have come so close to traditional culture yet painfuly out of reach.

To be honest my previous sightings along the Rejang together with investigative reading had convinced me that I was probably destined to disappointment should I continue determinedly on in the search for authentic longhouses and archaic practices, the greatest lesson of my whole hinterland foray was that people everywhere I might go had been commensurately integrated into modernity, I could not have been the first. With the potential for further jungle forays further north in the back of my mind I let it go.

I retraced the Rejang back to Sibu in a blur and then against all expectation found myself on a local bus out to the regional terminal for an unanticipated same day connection to Bintulu. Though Sibu was a nice spot my presumed overnight staging there was deemed unnecessary by good progress and the preponderance of buses, and so I had my first experience of Sarawak's one major road artery at last. Surprisingly, it actually proved to be just a bumpy single carriageway you might have better expected across the border in Kalimantan, and though fatigue and a showery overcast sky only allowed me snippets of it, it still managed to redeem a sense of wonder comparable with the Rejang, in jungle clad mountains and rustic rickety longhouses. Though timber yards, clearfelling and palm oil plantations were in evidence, it was nowhere near the ecological disaster which I was still afraid of running into. The patchwork of asphalt perversely transmorphed into an illuminated pristine dual carriageway for the final 22Ks into Bintulu, god knows why they hadnt spread the money about more evenly, and in the dark now a taxi was deemed the only solution in tracing the city centre from the distant bus terminal. It was reputedly an unremarkable town offering little distraction but proved lively and functional, certainly I secured a bed, a curry and more time on the net before beer in quick succession, if only it was always that easy.

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