Situated along the coast of Borneo, Sarawak, Bintulu is well known for its abundance of oil and gas. Expats flocked here for the promising wealth, and at the same time, attracted Chinese from the nearby towns to set up their businesses in Bintulu. Beyond the oil and gas, Bintulu has a lot more than that, especially for travellers. The quaint little town lets you seek respite and immerse in the local communities.
The first time I stepped foot here, I could not disagree with people who claimed Bintulu as boring, thanks (or no thanks) to the lack of tourist attractions and landmarks. But throughout the trip, I learn that it is precisely why Bintulu is charming the way it is.
To do in Bintulu
1. Pantai Tanjung Batu
Located not far from the city centre, Pantai Tanjung Batu is possibly the most well-known spot in Bintulu. The beach is a home for everyone to interact, exercise, eat or simply enjoy the sunset over the South China Sea. Although some people do swim here, it is highly not advisable — no lifeguard and weather warnings available.
Grab a few friends to enjoy the sunset with while sipping some ABC or indulging in some local street food like rojak and barbeques. There are plenty of street buskers ready to fill the silence with some live music as well. A lot of locals love jogging along the beach as it has a designated pathway.
2. Similajau National Park
If you are into trekking and thick lush jungle, you will love Similajau National Park. There are several trails available – some are only a few hundred metres long while others can stretch up to 10 km. Rest assured, whichever trail you pick, it will reward you with any of the three pristine beaches: Turtle Beach 1, Turtle Beach 2 and Golden Beach.
Along the way, you will get a chance to spot plenty of animals like lizards, squirrels, monkeys and birds — and even saltwater crocodiles if you are lucky! If you wish to stay longer here, I will recommend you to spend a night at the parks’ chalet or set up a tent near the beach. Start the bonfire and get some barbeques going, please!
3. Taman Tumbina Bintulu
Taman Tumbina is an integrated botanical and zoological garden with lots of local birds and animals. Some animals you can find here are various species of hornbills, tiger, Borneo Sun bear, Binturang or also known as bearcat, deer, ostrich, flamingos, owls and eagles. Your little ones will enjoy this place, looking at the various wildlife and thick forest.
The park also comes with seating spots if you need some time to rest or simply if you want to chill and read some books. Climb to the top of the hills to get an unobstructed view of the South China Sea while enjoying the cool sea breeze on a hot sunny day.
4. Borneo International Kite Festival
Borneo International Kite Festival is touted to be one of the biggest international kite festivals in the world. The festival always attracts a lot of kite flyers from across the globe — be it professional, amateurs, or locals having fun with their families and friends.
During the festival, the bright sky of Bintulu is bursting in colours. All the different types, colours and shapes of kites fill the sky all day! Besides promoting various kites from all around the world, this festival is also a platform to showcase Bintulu’s cuisine and culture. Each Bintulu ethnic such as the Melanau Ba’ee, Ibans, and Orang Ulus like Kayan and Kenyah builds their own stalls, selling local handicrafts and foods.
Every night, you can also catch some performances of local artists: live bands, stage performance, karaoke, etc. It’s never boring here!
5. The Old Town of Bintulu
The old town of Bintulu has its own charm with its low old buildings getting crammed along the road. It is like a city that refuses to be modernised.
Walking along the waterfront will bring you to Pasar Tamu and Pasar Utana, the locals’ favourite wet markets in Bintulu. You can find fresh seafood caught by local fishermen and directly brought over from the boat docking area at the waterfronts. Pasar Tamu is also popular for its lip-smacking addictive Belacan Bintulu made by the locals. Just across the Pasar Tamu, you will see Tua Pek Kong Temple, a well-known Buddhist temple in Bintulu.
Where to stay in Bintulu?
Although not easy on the wallet, New World Suites is strategically located in a prime area, giving convenience for tourists to explore Bintulu. The hotel is also attached with Parkcity Mall and nearby eateries, so don’t worry if you have sudden cravings.
If you are travelling in big groups or with kids, staying in a spacious service apartment is more comfortable. Jinhold Apartment is located along the waterfront with a fantastic view of the sea. Picky eaters can whip up their own meals here!
3. Maxi Inn
Maxi Inn is highly recommended for budget travellers for its value for money and brilliant location, right smack in the middle of the Park City area. Convenient to find foods around the area.
How to get there?
Bintulu is accessible by both land and air transportation. It’s a 2-hour-and-15-minute flight from KL and is even shorter from Sarawak and Sabah.