You’ve got to get a 4WD into Belaga if you’re heading in from Bintulu, you need to be a little bit time rich and there’s no other option, fourby is where it’s at. I searched all over the Interwebs to try and find out exactly where we could locate one of these elusive vehicles but there was no information. In fact most of the information I found online was posted in 2008 apart from one blog from last year but that dude hitchhiked from Simpang Bakun (Bakun Junction) and that was our reluctant plan B; stay overnight in Bintulu then catch a bus to the junction and hope for the best with both thumbs out.
The info is probably out there buried in blogs like this one but not a lot of people land here. I ended up calling Daniel Levoh for help, his number is listed in the Lonely Planet and at the bottom of this post, and in the event that someone searching for advice on how to get from Bintulu to Belaga stumbles upon this blog I’ll put everything you need to know about locating a 4WD to take you there for RM50 at the bottom.
So it was around oneish when we finally got underway. It’s mostly via sealed road, even once you turn off at Bakun Junction (where there’s fuck all bar a few stalls flogging stuff you can apply to your facehole whilst you wait to thumb a ride), but eventually after about three and a half hours you swing a right and that’s when shit gets real. The last 34kms are done very slowly along a narrow shit of a road. It’s kind of tarmacked but it’s like there were a load of bodies in the way and they couldn’t be arsed shifting them so they just tarmacked over them. There are more lumps on that road than a braille copy of War & Peace. You need to start thinking about how you’re going to make it up to your spinal column and maybe invest in a neck brace. And a sports bra.
Once you’re in Belaga there are a disproportionate amount of places to stay, seriously, we found six. It’s a tiny tiny place, you can explore the whole damn thing in an hour provided your flesh doesn’t take liquid form in the heat first. We’d already decided to stay at Daniel’s Corner, it’d only be polite given he’d helped us find a 4WD and had answered my questions about the possibility of catching a boat to Kapit, and RM40 for a double room is fine. He’s a very helpful chap but he wasn’t in town right now so he’d asked one of his sons to open up for us, no one else was here, we didn’t see any other tourists around town either and if they were there we’d have seen them, it’s so small. It seems to shut down as soon as it gets dark too.
Okay so no Daniel meant no easy way to find a guide to visit a longhouse. We’d read on several websites that he was overpriced and stingy with money but we were quite prepared to take the path of least resistance and go with him anyway rather than asking around town. I’m far too shy for that sort of shenanigans. We also had a number for a chap called Hamdani but he wasn’t replying to my texts, I’d heard you could ask around for him but I’m super socially awkward, I couldn’t bring myself to wander around asking a bunch of strangers for some bloke who may or may not still live around here. As I said, all information seemed to stop at 2008. Tarrant sent him one last text message as we sat in the common area at Daniel’s discussing our options, telling Hamdani we were in town and in need of a guide if he could help us.
There was, I found out online, a longhouse about a thirty minute walk from Belaga so we figured we’d go and have a look, so we did and were far too shy to go in or speak to anyone so we pointedly ignored it, stared at the river for a while then walked back. For fuck’s sake. I’ve no idea how I’ve managed to travel as much as I have, I’m utterly fucking useless. Tarrant isn’t much better when it comes to these things, I’d already dragged her out of her comfort zone by convincing her to quit her job and travel SE Asia with me and that took three bloody years. Fine. I texted Daniel again, something I’d avoided doing, worried I was going to annoy him with my relentless questioning. He said his phone was out of order and he’d lost all his numbers so he couldn’t help us find a guide but we could walk to Lirong Amo, the place we’d walked to and bottled out.
He gave us the name of a woman to ask for and told us to take gifts; candy for the children and for the women, red tobacco, sugar or coffee. Right then. We could do this. We’d do it tomorrow in fact. We’d walk right in there and fake a load of confidence and ask for this woman, and if we made dicks of ourselves who cares? We’re never coming back here anyway, no one knows us. We bought two big bags of sweets and five packets of red tobacco and headed back to the guesthouse for the evening where I spent most of the night worrying that they wouldn’t like the gifts. Fuck you, anxiety.
Belaga, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Daniel’s Corner
Useful shit to know…
- When I called Daniel Levoh he suggested that we go to Welcome Inn in the old town of Bintulu and ask around there. Usually he’d be able to contact someone for you but his phone was broken and he’d lost all his numbers. There were a few taxi drivers knocking around, we’d already found out that some taxi drivers know people with 4WDs, and there was a bloke who was waiting for his 4WD lift. A guy there who was fluent in English helped us out. Turns out he’s a driver too but his truck was already full so whilst I don’t know how hit and miss it is I think the best place to at least start looking would be outside Welcome Inn.
- The 4WDs from Bintulu usually leave around 1pm or 2pm. I don’t know the name of our driver but his number is +60 (0) 13 818 6000, he speaks enough English if you want to call or text him to sort out a ride.
- It cost us RM50 per person, everyone in Belaga who asked how much we paid nodded approvingly when we told them and said that was cheap. We were told that it should take 3.5 hours but it took closer to five.
- Daniel Levoh’s number is +60 (0) 13 848 6351.