Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Scenes - Kuching to Sarikei Sea Trip

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Bahagia, Oct 2007
Borneo Post advertisement.
Check the newspapers for latest times.


Balik kampung (going home) for Chinese New Year? If you don't get sea sick easily during the monsoon season, the express boats are a faster option (3.5-4hrs) than the road trip on the pan-Borneo highway (5hr-6.5hrs). You will still get some waves during the non-monsoon season when the craft is out in the South China Sea. It's best to sleep during the bumpy section out in the sea.

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Sea Jet, Oct 2007

(Update: Sea Jet does not operate this route any more)

You can purchase your tickets (RM$35; $40 in 2011) in advance or on board. Allow time to reach the Sim Kheng Hong Wharf at Jalan Perlabuhan at Kuching's light industrial zone. A new wharf was almost completed there in Oct. Bring a jacket as the air con can be very cold. I had to mummify myself with towels and spare T-shirts.  Life jackets are plentiful.

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Bahagia, Oct 2007.
Luggage section is at the back (open air).

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Bahagia, Oct 2007.
First class is in upper deck. Economy class...well...you know.

Bigger luggages have to be stored in the open air back section of the express boat. It will be covered by a canvas to protect the luggages from the occasional high waves. There are 2 VCD/DVD players playing Hollywood or Hong Kong movies. If you have just cleared your ear wax, you can make out the dialogue against the engine sound and the waves. Food and beverages are sold on board at reasonable prices.

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Bahagia, Oct 2007.
Economy Class is at the bottom deck.

After it has entered the Rejang River mouth from South China Sea, it will go past the peaceful Rejang village. The boat will make a stop at the new Tanjung Manis town to unload goods and passengers for Tanjung Manis, Rejang, Jerijeh and Belawai. From there, it'll be a fast half an hour to Sarikei's Terminal 2. If you don't recognise Sarikei's Terminal 2 and fail to get off, you will be on the way to Sibu to eat kampua noodle.

Kuching to Sarikei Express - Bahagia, Oct 2007
First Class section.
Find the canvas covering the luggage at the back.

First class is at the upper deck with similar chairs but with a flip down table (like an air plane's table). It costs RM$5 more for apparently more buffer against bumpy waves.

My boat was quite empty that day. I was tempted to snap a picture of some of the folks sleeping at full length across several empty seats in the economy class and declare that as truly first class in economy class.


tuanlokong said...

Hi Daniel have a good trip?...
Yep my last on those express was three years ago. Must have changed since. Ply to Kuching, Hey, I think it is better than using Bus...

Now I remembered the First Express was made of Plywood (Not know the name. In the 60s, it ply from Sibu to Dalat. Later in the late 60s too another Historical event "Sibu Express" was introduced to ply from Sibu to Sarikei. This is built from metal. I was young then and my late father and I was among the crowd and at that time I think Dato' Ling Beng Siong was giving a speech to declare open.

Lidasar said...

Long before this Sea Jet 2 and Ekspress Bahagia No.1 was their predecessor Concord No.1 and it was a great lap forward if compare to the earlier travel by night cargo ship add on passenger steamer PoloKi Chiong and Rajang Mas. Rajang Mas started earlier than PoloKi Chiong and that was in the 1950s. Rajang Mas was build in Penang and was operated by a firm owned by European and when it was first introduce the bow (front of the ship) was very high and later it was modified lower so as not to catch too much wind.

If you have to ask what was even earlier than it was a steamer called Bulowan that started even before the war and extend into the 1950s. Of course there was this wooden boat in the early days long before Rajang Mas and earlier than Bulowan called Nam Hai 南海 that was build by the founder of CTC sawmill Mr.Jung Kwan whom was a Cantonese. So if your Ah Kong was studying in St. Thomas and return to Kuching for the new school year then he might have to sail on 南海 or Bulowan.

Kanga said...

Very unfortunately I am not a person who enjoy on boating in the sea. River travelling is OK for me. Used the Concode No.1 before and it was rough for me. I had also used Rajah Mas et al, and my stomach never was in peace. Tried seasick tablets but made me funny.I still prefer by road or fly to Sibu first.

Nelson said...

I love to go KCH or sibu by boats. I like the feeling, the sound of the engine, the smell, the scenery etc. I hope sibu ship builders can expand by building bigger and more sophisticated ships. pravol!

BurungHelang said...

Can't forget the experience when I was on one of these from Kuching to Sarikei (to prepare for my wedding) and got stuck on a sand bank for more than an hour near the river mouth.

Daniel Yiek said...


EXPRESS boats operating between Kuching and Sibu are facing a bleak future after getting fewer and fewer passengers each day.

There used to be at least six express boats making return trips between Kuching and Sibu daily with short stops at Sarikei and Bintangor.

Lone ranger: One of the two express boats operating the Kuching-Sibu route is seen moored at the jetty in Kuching.
But currently, only two boats are servicing this route daily — one that leaves Kuching at 8.30am, and another that leaves Sibu at 11.30am.

The reason why they are losing out is because air travel is now cheaper and the road networks have improved.

Boat operator Ling Kuok Chiong was servicing the Kuching-Sibu express route for about 20 years. He finally decided to sell his boats and is now only focussing on the Sibu-Kapit route.

“The express business was really good in the 1980s and 1990s because express boats were cheaper compared with air travel, and faster than land travel. Besides, there were not that many express buses those days,” he said.

“Over and above these, diesel prices kept going up — fromabout 70 sen per litre to RM1.43 per litre now,” he said.

Ling said he sold off some of his express boats in early 2000 after he noted a big drop in passengers and eventually scrapped his Kuching-Sibu service completely.

Today, he maintains only three express boats to service the Sibu-Kapit route.

Daniel Yiek said...

“Business is still good between Sibu and Kapit because there’s no connecting roads yet but I hope the fuel prices will not be increased too much, otherwise, operators like me will again suffer,” he said.

A return trip used 1,200 litres of diesel and tickets were priced at RM30 per trip for first class, RM25 for second class and RM20 for economy class. An express boat can seat up to 200 passengers.

Concurring with Ling, an employee of Express Bahagia, who did not wish to be named, said currently only one express boat would depart from here to Sibu daily.

“What used to be a full house daily, now have become just a few passengers. We only enjoy good business during Gawai when people are rushing back to their longhouses for the celebration,” he said.

He said the boat would make stops at Tanjung Manis, Sarikei and Sibu and one way ticket was priced at RM40 for Kuching to Tanjung Manis and Sarikei and RM45 for Kuching to Sibu.

“A trip would take between four and a half hours and five hours,” he said.

Compared to air travel, a person could reach Sibu from Kuching in about half an hour for less than RM100 these days, he said.

Sarawak Third, Sixth and Seventh Divisions Express Boat Association chairman Lau Hieng Choon said there used to be hundreds of express boats connecting the towns in the state but now only a few places needed them.

“These places are now connected by roads and many people can afford to buy their own cars, so they have stopped using express boats for nearly 10 years,” he said.

“The only routes that are still relevant for us are Kapit, Matu-Daro and Igan areas which are not connected by roads yet.”

He said many of his association members had ventured into other businesses including operating express buses which were more profitable and sustainable.

Ting said...

The first express to ply Kuching to Sibu was called Labuan Express.It was relatively small carry around 96 passengers and travel at 24 knots. I was amazed that the boat of this size was allowed and able to venture into South China Sea. My father told me that it was make of double hull and they originally used it for Labuan and kota kinabalu. The business was very good until bigger and faster express from competitor came. My father sold the express to Singapore oil company that ferry their workers from different islands.

Daniel Yiek said...

Nice history. If you have a picture of Labuan express, pls email me. Thanks!


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