Sarawak: locals catch the bus

Despite air services having liberated traveling this biggest and geographically challenged state in Malaysia, travelling over land by bus in Sarawak still remains widely popular.

Better roads, connectivity and frequency of bus services in Sarawak has attracted more people to opt for overland travel in recent years.

The Pan Borneo Highway, construction of which began after the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and now spans 1,047.2 km, connecting major cities and towns inSarawak and also Sabah and Brunei, has been a boon for public transport operators.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian section of the highway, known as the Trans-Kalimantan Highway connects the city of Pontianak, Indonesia to Tebedu, Sarawak.

According to Biaramas Express Sdn Bhd manager Lai Sin Kiong, travel by land was still preferred by many as buses served wider areas including remote towns that are not covered by commercial airlines.

The company is one of the key players in the express bus industry in Sarawak.

So far it has a fleet of 50 buses, including four new sophisticated executive coaches that ply major towns.

“We have four such Asiasa Star coaches serving Kuching, Sarikei, Sibu, Miri and Limbang. Comfort for our passengers is guaranteed. We have a stewardess to attend to their needs including food and drinks.

“Each seat is also attached with an individual screen where they can watch movies or play games,” Lai told Bernama.

One of the travellers met at the Bus Express Terminal near here, Indonesian citizen Iskandar Simon said he travelled frequently to Kuching with his wife for medical appointments.

“We come for a regular health check ups at the Normah Medical Specialist Centre, on a monthly basis. But there are only three Kuching-Pontianak flights per week, so sometimes if we miss the flight schedules, we will go by bus.

“There is a daily bus service plying this route, so it’s convenient for us,” said the 70-year-old retiree from Pontianak in West Kalimantan.

The journey from Kuching to Pontianak takes about eight hours and the bus fare is between RM55 to RM80.

For culinary arts student Samuel Ding, who studies at a private college here, opting for bus travel between the capital city and his hometown in Bintulu is largely driven by the cost factor, costing him only RM60 compared to the cheapest air fare of about RM160.

“Although the journey is time consuming, it’s comparatively cheaper than flights and it’s rather comfortable,” he said.

– Bernama