1. Oct 31, Day 17, we set off from Miri early, expecting up to 10 hours of driving ahead. We were not sure how long immigration/customs will take at Entikong. We were uncertain about the road condition too.
2. The drive to Entikong was about 120 km, fairly well sign-posted, branching off to the right at Serian. We topped up our tank, including the back up tank in the car, at Serian, before heading for Entikong, as petrol is cheaper on the Malaysian side; about S$0.80+ to $1.00+.
3. All in all, we took about 1.5 hrs to clear immigration/customs at Teledu and Entikong; time mostly taken up at the Entikong end. Immigration at the Sarawak end was a breeze. About hundred meters ahead was the Indonesian control of Entikong.
4. We were happy to see an insurance company located next to the customs office. For a while, there was a little confusion as the JP Insurance agent, Ibastari, asked for the Malaysian permit for my car. We explained to him that there was no need for a permit for the Singapore car to drive in Malaysia and showed him the letter issued by the Malaysian Embassy in Brunei. Ibastari was still unsure and he referred our case to the Customs officer. Luckily, the Customs officer had a copy of the IMI recommendation letter issued to me by IMI in Jakarta pinned to the board in front of his desk. They were already expecting my arrival. After he made copy of the various documents, he proceeded to fill up the Carnet. After the Carnet was completed, we proceeded to buy 2 months of comprehensive car insurance from JP Insurance for about S$80. According to Ibastira, only comprehensive car insurance was sold there. After this was done, a traffic officer proceeded to issue us a "road tax" disc for putting up on the windscreen. Finally, Ibastari brought us to see the senior customs officer who gave the final clearance.
5. At all times, Yeow Pheng's ability to speak Bahasa was crucial in smoothing out the process. Otherwise, I am sure we would have taken more time. The officials were friendly and helpful though not too familiar with forms in English. In the end, we took a picture together with the Pajero, like friends. At 10.30 am, we were off, on way to Singkawang.
6. We set the GPS directly for Singkawang. We were expecting to hit Sg Pingyuh at the coast before heading North to Singkawang. As it turned out, the GPS took a more direct and shorter route across the hills, along narrow roads that could barely allow 2 vehicles to pass, though villages and oil palm plantations. It was slower traveling and certain more hazardous. But, we had the chance to see the more rural areas - the many distinctive wooden buildings, though rather run down, and the many beautiful wooden churches.
7. It was a common sight passing fully loaded buses with young students seated on their rooftops and others hanging on to the side. A times, they tilted precariously to one side and Yeow Pheng and I were just keeping our fingers crossed that they do not roll over.
8. We reached the outskirt of Singkawang at about 4 pm, local time (Singkawang is one hour behind Singapore/Malaysia time). We waited at a stall opposite a military camp to link up with Yeow Pheng's relatives, Ah Keong and Ah Lan.
While waiting, we had a durian. It was a big one and we shared that with the kids there. Yeow Pheng was the Santa Claus for the moment, distributing Hello Kitty stickers to the kids who lined up to collect them. Yeow Pheng certainly made their day.
9. When Ah Keong and Ah Lan turned up, it was unanimously decided that we should go and eat the popular chay kueh tiow here in Singkawang. So off we went. Passing through the town, Ah Keong stopped at Michelle's old house (this had since been sold), 2 units of a 2 storey shophouse. Yeow Pheng said it was huge inside. Further down the same street, at the centre of the junction, I was surprised to see this distinctive column with a very Chinese dragon coiled around it.
10. A short distance away was the shop that sells the chay kueh tiow. Unlike the Singapore's chay kueh tiow, the Singkawang noodles were thicker, fried with prawns, not cockles. It was just as delicious. Could see why Yeow Pheng was looking forward to it. Ah Keong told us that Singkawang has a population of about 200 000, with about 60% Chinese, mostly Khek. Lingua franca among the Chinese here is Khek.
11. After the chay kueh tiow break, we checked into Hotel Mahkota, reputed the best hotel in Singkawang. Very traditional looking, in Indonesian style. Only misgiving- hardly any power point in the room.
12. That night, Ah Keong and Ah Lan bought us a wonderful seafood dinner. Curry crab dish was really good, very fresh. Their friend, Mr Zhang, was also present. Mr Zhang, from Guangdong province in China, was here in Singkawang on a one year stint, conducting weekend classes for about 100 Chinese language teachers.
13. Next day, Yeow Pheng is going to mass and to pay respect at his in-law graves. I will jalan jalan around the town, before heading for Pontianak in the afternoon.