At the fish market in Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

From Tawau to Tarakan: a piece of cake!

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Do you dream of tropical beaches? Do not spend your holidays in Tawau! The people here are nice, but this Malaysian city in northeastern Borneo is mochissime. Its only attraction is to be the entry point to Indonesia.

Tawau and his concrete

This is what Tawau looks like ... No comment.

Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

At the Indonesian Consulate in Tawau

It was therefore in Tawau (Malaysia) that I took the ferry to Tarakan (Indonesia). After four hours of crossing, I am tonight on the other side of the border.

Before boarding, I had to go get a visa for Indonesia. I was afraid it would be long and complicated ... but no! I still can not believe the effectiveness of the Indonesian Consulate in Tawau.

In front of the Indonesian Consulate of Tawau Consulate (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

I got up yesterday morning at 9:30, shortly after the opening, when there were lots of people coming to get some papers, as part of a government immigration program. And I came out at 10:30 typantes, with my visa in due form. Great hospitality, we do everything to help you.

(See end of post, practical details, for the Malaysian-Indonesian border crossing at this location.)

Market and fish market

So, I had all day in front of me to discover the charms of Tawau ... it was done quickly. Excursion to the big market near the pier (but I had found that of Kota Bahru, three years ago, more spectacular), then to the nearby fish market.

The big market of Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

At the fish market in Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

There, I was the attraction of the day. I started by photographing some stalls, then the fishmongers, with their permission. Result, they all began to ask me a photo, happy to take the pose with their poiscaille ...

I shuddered in horror for a moment, when a nice lady, who wanted me to take the pose next to her husband, took my little camera in her hand, shining with bloody bloody juice ... It was well worth it, the photo is missed. And I did not propose to redo another!

At the fish market in Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

There were some fish-balls on the stalls and it made me a little uncomfortable, to see them there, all flabby, dull eye, while I had taken so much pleasure to photograph them, alive, a few days ago ...

I offered myself a comforting afternoon tea at a nice little bakery, just behind the market, and I completed my walk along the waterfront, ugly too, but romantic.

This is where loving couples meet, wisely sitting side by side. With the offshore wind, it is better than on the moist sidewalks of the concrete arteries.

Tawau Beachfront, Lovers' Meeting (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

Tawau (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009).

For the rest, Tawau offers a good choice of cheap restaurants and comfortable hotels. There are many Chinese traders here, and quite a few Christians. The contrast between women is always a little surprising: on one side the modest veil of Muslim women, on the other the relaxation of young Chinese who go bareheaded and willingly wear shorts, miniskirts or skinny jeans.

But at night, the city is downright sinister. The streets and car parks are gloomy, poorly lit. We see packs of stray dogs lurking in a concert of barking.

Arrival in Tarakan

In Tawau, I did not meet a single pale face before taking the ferry. And then I saw landing at the entrance of the terminal a young couple of backpackers, too happy to finally find another tourist!

Paul and Becky are English, students in Cambridge, and like me, they go to Derawan. Being three should make it easy for us to complete the journey and share the transport.

We came across Bobby on the arrival of the ferry to Tarakan. An Indonesian from Sulawesi, who makes the taxi and plays intermediaries with tourists.

He carried my dive bag along the endless pier (special dedication to Alimata), and drove us to our respective hotels.

Guesthouse "cheap" with shared bathroom for young people, nice "middle-range" hotel with hot shower, air conditioning and free wifi for me who is starting to get bored.

Great barbeque fish in a boui-boui to complete the evening ... Too easy, this arrival in Tarakan!

Bobby, Paul and Becky. Grilled fish in a Tarakan boui-boui (Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009).

Tomorrow morning, if everything goes as planned and weather permitting (it's raining torrents tonight and the wind is blowing), Bobby will have obtained the chartered boat promised to make the Tarakan trip Derawan, which will save us long hours of driving. Otherwise, to go to Derawan is an entire expedition !

Rate announced for the speedboat: 1.8 million Indonesian rupees, to be divided by three. Or 600.000Rp per head of pipe (40 €), it's worth it. In principle, we start super early, from 7am. We should be able to walk the sand of Derawan around 10:30, 11am at the latest! ! !

I do not know if I will have the opportunity to reconnect from the island, not sure that there is a computer connected to the internet. At worst, I will give little news via SMS via Twitter. At worst, I will crack and use my French 3G roaming key, which will cost me the skin of the buttocks.

Soon a manta-ray on Twitter? Who knows ?


Tawau-Tarakan-Derawan: practical information

Some information that can be used for those who would be tempted to make the same journey ... Attention to inform you anyway: these are news of July 2009, and everything changes very quickly in Indonesia.

  • In Tawau, the cost of the tourist visa for Indonesia was at the time of 170RM (34 €). The consulate is located Jalan Sinn On, it opened at 9am. Cost of the taxi ride to get there from the center when I was there: 8RM. Otherwise, there is a bus.
  • The Tawau-Tarakan ferry leaves every day except Sunday at 12h and arrives around 16h. Ticket price: 130RM + 5RM terminal tax. It is necessary to turn towards 10h to buy his ticket. We pass the immigration around 11am. Cost of the short taxi ride to go from the center to the jetty (right next to the big market and the fish market): 5RM.
  • Finally, to reach Derawan, a third alternative is possible, by plane. According to Bobby, there is an air link between Tarakan and Berau (Tanjung Redep) for less than 400,000Rp. After, kijang to Tanjung Batu + boat.
Travel map of Tawau to Derawan.
Travel map of Tawau to Derawan.

See all articles on this trip:

→ Travel Borneo [Malaysia + Indonesia]: July 2009

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009