Game changers can be good or bad

IF One of them would be to drive from Kalabakan to Serudong, both in Sabah, it would take 82 hours to circumnavigate Borneo Island, drive through Brunei, Sarawak, West and South Kalimantan before going north to East Kalimantan and Sabah goes, a distance of 4,164km!

But with the construction of a road linking Kalabakan directly to Serudong, future journeys would take less than an hour as the distance will be only 39 km. Kalabakan is only 90 km from Tawau, the second or third largest city in Sabah, with roughly the same population as Sandakan.

Interestingly, the distance between Serudong and Samarinda in the southeast of Kalimantan is 961 km and the trip would take almost 24 hours non-stop.

Another 100 km further is Balikpapan. The planned new capital in Indonesia is to be built between Samarinda and Balikpapan.

Samarinda is the largest city on the island of Borneo, followed by Kuching in third place and Balikpapan in fourth place. The new Indonesian capital will certainly massively develop southeast Kalimantan, and the effects could reverberate as far as Tawau, the seventh largest city in Borneo, in the north.

Recently Sabah Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said that Serudong will be linked by road to Simanggaris in Kalimantan, and entry will be a turning point for local people as their income from economic and tourist activities would be increased.

In the future, the lives of the Malaysians and Indonesians who live or work in Serudong and Simanggaris will change drastically.

But whether they will be for better or for worse depends largely on politicians, authorities and law enforcement agencies.

Without proper planning, implementation and execution, Serudong and Simanggaris could easily descend into typical border towns plagued by corruption, prostitution, drugs and contraband, with security compromised by the gathering of shady characters.

Local authorities here should learn from the mistakes and challenges faced by border towns on the Malaysian-Thai border and take preventive action, including contingency plans, to nip problems in the bud and not freeze them.

A well-run immigration, customs and quarantine complex manned by officials of the highest integrity could go a long way in promoting and growing healthy trade and tourism, not only between Sabah and Kalimantan, but also distant Brunei and Sarawak .

The 4,164 km road trip around the third largest island in the world, Borneo, could easily be marketed as one of the most epic journeys of a lifetime and put on the bucket list of many adventurers.

On the one hand, groups of superbikers on touring motorbikes could pave the way for a clockwise or counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island of Borneo.

These pioneers were able to identify the appropriate stops for food and accommodation along the way and share their videos online.

Where there are no suitable hotels, wooden chalets could be built quickly or container huts converted into accommodation.

Villagers could be hooked up to set up stalls to sell local products or handicrafts, or to offer services such as nature guides and community-based tourism activities.

Car rental companies in Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan could pool their resources and offer self-driving vehicles for car holidays on this epic route that runs through their states and Brunei.

Local partners could provide services to tourists who need help.

With more infrastructure and amenities, bus tours on this route would become increasingly popular.

Passengers would have the option of completing the entire route over two weeks or longer, or simply taking off from or participating in one of the cities on the way.

All of this would be possible and sooner if we take the first step to the right, the 39 km long road that currently connects Kalabakan with Serudong. If no social impact assessment has previously been carried out, it must be carried out immediately now.

Likewise, problems on the Thai border should not be repeated on the Kalimantan border between Serudong and Simanggaris.

Cross-border commercial vehicles such as coaches and taxis would be a sensitive issue. They are often viewed as assaults by jealous locals.

YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for Travel Agencies, Master Trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia. He is also a consultant and writer for the tourism and transportation industries. Comments: [email protected]

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