Saturday, September 25, 2021

My 9 Hours Bus Journey From Kuching to Sibu

It has been more than a decade since I took any bus express bus service in Sarawak. Due to my unexpected mandatory quarantine came to an abrupt end after the recent change in entry requirement, I had decided to go back Sibu earlier. Options are limited as flight was not available every day and air ticket price can be insanely expensive.

Buying bus ticket can be done online now. Ticket to Sibu cost RM48 after 20% discount. I chose Bus Asia (previously known as Biaramas) because they seem to have the most frequency of the day.

My journey started from Kuching Sentral. This is my first time here and it ain't big as I initially thought. For those who are familiar with Bandar Tasik Selatan Bus Terminal, navigating Kuching Sentral would be a breeze.

As the pandemic keep raging at the state, the bus schedule is rather dynamic and many schedule trips were cancelled.

I got to take a double decker bus. An operator will check for police permit before we were allowed to go onboard.

The bus will not be seated to full capacity and there will be proper distancing between passengers. This bus has a spacious seat and what appear to be built in with its own entertainment system. Unfortunately, the entertainment system was just there for show.

As the bus air conditioning system is not installed with HEPA filter like aircraft, I decided to keep myself safe with a respirator after assessing the risk.

The bus departed on time at 1000 and make a quick stop at their depot before continue for the first stop at their cargo collection point in Serian (1118).

I would thought this will be the only stop in Serian but I was wrong. After collecting some cargos, the bus then proceed to the nearby bus station.

After Serian, the bus will stop at Sri Aman (1340), which is about the middle point of the journey. I am glad to see Fort Alice has been restored as a museum now and no longer in the dilapidated state during my last visit here.

Sri Aman bus terminal is situated in what appears to be a new commercial area and share the same building with the Pasar Tamu. This would be a perfect place for a toilet break and they charge RM0.20 per entry.

From here on, I would thought the bus will then head straight to Sarikei but it made another stop at Jelukong bus terminal (1445)  where the bus drivers usually have their meal. This will be an ideal place for passengers to buy refreshment or snack.

The Pan Borneo Highway remained unfinished after all these years. The bus journey was somewhat reasonably comfortable even with this unfinished project.

Sarikei will be the last stop (1745) before the bus heading to Sibu. 

I finally arrived Sibu Bus Terminal at 1900, after hitting the road for 9 hours. Initially, I estimated a 7 hours journey and I didn't expect it would took so long. This could be attributed to the many stops on the way while the bus limits its maximum speed at 80 km/hr.

Even though this was a long journey, I get to see the transformation of the small towns along the way.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

My Quarantine Experience in Kuching

As announced by Sarawak government a day before, those who are fully vaccinated will no longer undergo the 14 days mandatory quarantine when entering Sarawak today.

About 6 months ago, I also underwent the mandatory quarantine process in Sibu and this time it will be in Kuching. I notice a slight difference how things are done in both places. 

Unfortunately for me, I didn't see that coming and I travelled to Kuching just a few days before the new directive and was subjected to the mandatory quarantine. 

After we stepped our feet at Kuching International Airport, we were segregated between Sarawakian and non Sarawakian. While standing in line, the Malaysia Civil Defense Department personnel will attach the bracelet on our left arm.

Back in Sibu, we put the bracelet on ourselves and the Malaysian Civil Defense Department personnel will trim the excess strap.

After the authority checked our e-health declaration, we had to filled out at the necessary forms. The quarantine order will state the duration of the quarantine. At this point, we still didn't know where our quarantine center will be. Back in Sibu, our quarantine center will be clearly stated in the quarantine order.

After clearing the immigration and picking up my luggage, I was directed to the waiting bus. Here, we were again segregated to Sarawakian and non Sarawakian. Once onboard, I still have no idea where is my quarantine center. 

Only when the police escorted bus passing through Sekama Road, I can shortlist a few hotels which will be our quarantine center before the bus finally came to a stop in front of Kuching Park Hotel. We were directed to a hall and filled a few paperwork and given a briefing by the Malaysian Civil Defense Department. There will be another swab test on Day 10 of our stay here.

I stayed in this hotel a few times before over the years and I know what to expect from staying here. After my horrendous quarantine hotel experience when I were in Sibu 6 months ago, I count myself lucky to be placed in Kuching Park Hotel.

The translucent plastic bags placed outside is actually refuse bag. The garbage collection differ from day to day but roughly around 8.30am until 11.30am. We will be given 2 plastic bags every day.

The room is what I expected, the way I remembered it from my last stay here. I am glad the room window can be opened to improve the air circulation inside the room.

The whole process from the time the aircraft landed and by the time I stepped into my room was about 3 hours.

Apparently the surrounding area of the hotel is also cordoned off hence member of public will not able to enter or park their car in front of the hotel.

A carton of water bottle (24 x 500ml) is provided in the room. This amount will not be enough for the 14 days duration. Back in Sibu, 1.5 liter of bottle water was provided every day.

Hence, it is always wise to standby a portable water purifier to ensure potable water is always available. 

There are enough sachets of coffee and tea to last the whole quarantine duration.

The food is satisfactory. Breakfast (6.30-7.30am), lunch (11.30am-12pm) and dinner (5pm - 6pm) are served on time every day.

The workstation table is a bit small to set up my laptops and other essentials. 

Our fate here is still in the dark with the latest entry directive. I hope the authority will end our quarantine period earlier, most probably 10 days and without any swab test if did not display any symptoms.

Update: We were released on the18th September 2021 due to the latest entry procedure where fully vaccinated traveler no longer need to be quarantined.