Experiencing the Sabah State Railway
Everything you need to know about the only train in Borneo
The Sabah State Railway, formerly known as the North Borneo Railway, is the only railway in the island of Borneo. It’s a piece of colonial history, a very unusual and adventurous train ride worth experiencing. It’s a total of 134km from KK (Kota Kinabalu) to Tenom. Here we describe the 48km from Tenom to Beaufort.
This article is part of our series of DIY budget adventure travel in Borneo, it’s the 2nd leg of our trip from Kota Kinabalu to Pontianak (West Kalimantan, Indonesia), links to the other parts are at the bottom go this article.
the train ride (with schedules and prices)
We take the latter one, just out of the house’s gate the weather beaks in a tropical downpour, lucky us. We pay a total of 5MRY (Malaysian ringgit) each, around 1€ for us and the bikes, although our host Barbara says the previous cyclists she hosted didn’t paid for the bikes. Sometimes it depends on the mood of the conductor, however, they have also gave us a receipt for the bicycles that makes it all look official.It seems that we will have to change trains somewhere but we have not figured out where. We load the bikes on the train full of passengers, luggage and hens. Passengers of this train look less wealthy than the average Malaysians.
The train consists of three iron carriages, all slightly different, of a gay blue color. Sits are hard and worn out, doors are kept open like some old western movie, so that passenger, me included, can lean out of the car to enjoy the view and, more important, to smoke cigarettes.
We proceed very slowly, following a placid river to our left, the water is dark and muddy, there are crocodiles and I spot one in the water, it’s the Padas river. Around us is lush tropical vegetation, some tiny houses can be seen hidden in the jungle, looks like the only way to reach these little houses in the forest is this train.
After a dam the river becomes impetuous and spectacular, there are many large rocks that impede navigation. To our right still seamless jungle, people get down the train in odd spots and penetrate the forest, really worth it taking this train so far.
We stop in one of these villages to change train, apparently the next stretch’s tracks are of a different size, quite odd. The locomotive doesn’t come before two hours of waiting, we are just 7 km from Beaufort, we would have been way faster walking.
arriving in Beaufort
We get to Beaufort, ugly enough, but we find a very cheap (60MYR) and clean hotel in the center of town, there is also a TV with a couple of English channel, so we can watch an American post-apocalyptic movie. We go to a nice restaurant, lamb steak for me and mushroom soup for Elena.
Made this trip? Comment!
pt1: from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, crossing the Crocker range
pt2: Jungle Train, from Tenom to Beaufort (you are here)
pt3: crossing Brunei by bicycle
pt4: around Miri, Lambir Hills and Logan Bunut national parks and Tusan Beach
pt5: the caves of Niah National Park
pt6: from Belaga to Kuching by boat
pt7: Kuching and Bako National Park
pt8: Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
pt9: Overland Border crossing from Sarawak into Kalimantan, the secret Aruk border
pt10: Sambas, the wooden Venice of Indonesian Borneo
Chap Go Meh in Singkawang:
piercing yourself with swords to please your Gods
Hydroelectric devastation in Borneo
part 1: Interview with SaveRivers
part2: a visit to Sungai Asap
here are some general hints to budget travel in Borneo (by bicycle or not)