1. After breakfast on 17 Oct, we set off for Kota Kinabalu, traveling Eastwards along Temburong Highway. We reached the Bruneian immigration checkpoint at about 8 am. Rather quiet when we reached there. Ours must be the first few cars that left for Kota Kinabalu.
2. After departing Brunei's Temburong, we entered Malaysia's Sarawak. Shortly after, we came to a cluster of brightly painted new buildings, in what looked like an immigration/customs checkpoint. But, it was empty; clearly not operational yet. A few kms on, we came to a ferry point, less than 100 m wide. A bridge was under construction nearby. After crossing, a lady driver, also in a Pajero, led us to the Sarawak's immigration checkpoint, located in 2 units of an inconspicuous row of shop-houses. They must be temporary facilities before they move into the new facilities which we just passed.
3. At Lawas (still in Sarawak), we decided to take a break and look at the morning market. The permanent market building was mostly empty as the stalls spilled out to the adjacent open areas filled with morning shoppers. Most stalls were manned by ethnic people, many wearing "tudong", providing livelihood to many. We had a cup of sugar cane juice and bought some fruits.
4. As we proceeded, we were looking out for the Sarawak/Sabah immigration checkpoint. We were alerted that, though they belonged to the same country, Malaysia, there is immigration control between the 2 states; apparently part of the agreement when Sabah joined Malaysia in 1963. Eventually, we came to it - 2 small buildings, one on each side of the road, about 10 m apart. After the passport was stamped by the Sarawak side, we were told to move to the other building on the other side of the road for our passports to be stamped by the Sabah side. If we did not ask and not told, we would have just sped off and missed the Sabah's immigration counter.
5. All in, to get from, Brunei to Kota Kinabalu, we have to go through 8 immigration checks and cross 2 rivers by ferry on the Sarawak side, one before and after Temburong. The 8 points were:
(a) 2 Brunei OUT and 1 Brunei IN
(b) 2 Sarawak IN and 2 Sarawak OUT
(c) 1 Sabah IN
6. For my car, the Brunei authority gave me a pink card that allowed me to get in and out of Brunei for a month. On way out to Limbang, we were asked to show the pink card. For the Malaysian side, the Malaysian embassy confirmed that there was no need for special permit and that we only need to declare by showing our car log card and insurance. Up to now, the Malaysian checkpoints have not asked to see the car documents.
7. We had lunch at the outskirt of Kota Kinabalu (KK) and reached the town by about 3 pm, 17 Oct. We circled a number of times, around Jln Tun Razak, Jln Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Promenade, looking for Sabah Visitor Centre; nearly wanted to give up at one stage. Eventually found it- located in a beautiful old building, apparently a former post office.
8. After gathering some tourist brochures and some advices from the staff there, we decided to stay the night in a hotel along the buzzy promenade, and the following night at Mt Kinabalu National Park. We checked into Promenade Hotel for 230 Rgt a night. That night, we had a great seafood dinner at Portview Seafood Restaurant along the Promenade; very fresh (crabs, fish, clams etc), 160 Rgt for 2 persons, very good value, in our view. Also in the restaurant was a large tour group of Chinese tourists. Was told by a local that tourism in Sabah is doing well, and it is receiving good number of tourists from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and now China, some coming to look at the prospects of owning a 2nd home here.
9. The next day, 18 Oct, spent the late morning visiting Sabah Museum. Its a 4 storey building, with its architecture inspired by the long house. I particularly enjoyed the section on the recent history of Sabah, how it was interwined with the sultanates in Brunei and Sulu and how the coming of the "white" people changed everything. Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside the building. The section on heritage buildings was also worth looking. Overall, the Museum is worth a visit, before one moves on to see the rest of Sabah.
10. Had a quick lunch there before we departed for Mt Kinabalu National Park, where we had already booked a room at Mt Kinabalu Heritage Resort and Spa, formerly known as Perkasa Hotel. Traveling North and then East along a winding road, going over the Drockers Mountain Range, reaching more 1300 m at some points, and passing the Mt Kinabalu Park HQ before reaching the hotel. Along the way, we took a break for durian.
11. Located at the top of a hill, the hotel looked a little run down but it was surrounded by tall pine trees (reminded me of Da Lat in Vietnam) and had a great view of the surrounding areas. From our room on the 7th floor, we took some great sunset shots. Room rate is Rgt 250 a night, inclusive of dinner and breakfast for two. We will walk the park tomorrow morning and perhaps play a round of golf.