A disheartening start

I slept like a rock on the hard mattress of the Brooke Inn after the day of traveling. No time for dilly-dallying though; Colin and I packed up and were back on the road on a 10 a.m. bus after grabbing a meager breakfast mostly of fried stuff in plastic bags at the Miri Central Market, where they hadn’t seen too many Westerners, it seems. A guy who called his car a taxi drove us to the long-distance bus station outside of town, where we were swarmed before we got out of the car by men looking to get us on their bus.

The four-hour-long bus ride from Miri—in the most comfortable seats we’ve encountered on the trip so far—brought us to Bintalu, where we immediately caught an actual taxi to Similajau National Park.

Malay women selling rambutan, lychee, bananas, durian, and another fruit along the bus route.

We finally unloaded our stuff in the park’s bright yellow, wood-paneled hostel and went straight for the beach, which the guidebook boasts is among the state of Sarawak’s finest.

The water looked like 奶茶—milk tea—but right at the mouth of a good-sized river, you expect a little brown frothiness.

“Are you kidding me? This is a national park and people just leave their trash at the beach?”

But the concentrated arrangement of water bottles around a log-turned-bench was an exception, as the majority of the plastic water bottles and wrappers and styrofoam littering the fine white sand apparently washes onto shore from the South China Sea. A team of people would need many bags and many hours to make a dent, and the garbage would wash ashore again by the end of the week. It was heartbreaking and spoiled my mood.

Colin implored me to fret about saving the world on another day and to try to enjoy myself since we worked so hard to get there, so I let it go for the time. It couldn’t be the romping in the sea and sand that I’d hoped for, but the air and the water were warm enough to wade waist-deep, and the crabs were entertaining to watch. Clouds heavy with rain moved across the sky and ended our afternoon on the sand.

Similajau Beach


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