The serene Lawas River against the mountains of Sarawak's interior. Picture by Chin Mee Poon.
Lawas is a small frontier town in the northeastern corner of Sarawak state in MalaysianBorneo. The town is located in a strip of Sarawak territory sandwiched between the Temburong district of Brunei and Malaysia's Sabah state. It is cut off from the rest of Sarawak and is more easily accessed from Sabah.
The town does not have many attractions to interest the traveller but you may find yourself here if you are travelling overland between Sabah and Sarawak. Quiet and peaceful, Lawas is quite pleasant if you have to stop for a day or two.
Lawas is also the starting point for the logging road to Bakelalan in the Sarawak Highlands.
Lawas has an airport (code LWY)(Tel: +60-85-211200) which is served by the rural air service provided by MASWings which took over from FlyAsian Xpress (FAX)] on October 1, 2007. Twin Otter planes link Lawas with Bakelalan, Kota Kinabalu, Limbang and Miri.
To/from Ba Kelalan: Flights on Mondays and Saturdays. One way fare is RM46 before fuel surcharge and other fees.
To/from Kota Kinabalu: Two flights a week. From Kota Kinabalu, flights depart on Tuesdays and Sundays while from Lawas, flights depart on Mondays and Sundays. Fare is RM54 one way before taxes and surcharges and journey time is 45 minutes.
To/from Limbang: Flights on Mondays and Wednesdays. One way fare is RM34 before fuel surcharge and other fees.
To/from Miri: At least four flights daily, with some flights going through Limbang. One way fare is RM60 before fuel surcharge and other fees.
The road network in Lawas is directly linked to Sabah while access to the rest of Sarawak requires you to travel through Brunei. You will most likely find yourself in Lawas if you are travelling overland between Sabah and Sarawak, and will pass through it when on the way from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei in a day. Lawas is also the starting point for the ex-logging trail to Ba Kelalan.
To/from Sabah: Travel to/from Sabah is straight forward as there is a direct road from Lawas to the Sabah-Sarawak border at Merapok 35km away, where the road continues to Kota Kinabalu via Sipitang, Beaufort and Papar. Please note that non-Sarawak residents have to go through immigration procedures at Merapok and Sindumin on the Sabah side of the border.
To/from Temburong, Brunei:Temburong is connected by road to Lawas town via Trusan, where there is a ferry crossing. The Brunei-Sarawak border is at Labu but there is only a Brunei immigration checkpoint there. You will have to sort out your Sarawak immigration requirements, whether being stamped in or out of the state, at the immigration post at Trusan (officially known as the Mengkalap immigration post), 20km from Lawas and about 8km from the actual border. The checkpoint operates out of a corner shoplot in a row of shops just east of the ferry until the new customs and immigration checkpoint which is being built is completed. From Labu, its another 20km to Bangar, the administrative centre for Brunei's Temburong district.
To/from Miri and the rest of Sarawak: Follow directions to/from Temburong and see Brunei section on how to proceed from there to Miri and the rest of the state.
To/from Ba Kelalan: The 125km road to Ba Kelalan is a former logging trail, and conditions can be pretty bad especially during the rainy season. The road is only suitable for four-wheel drives and the journey can take up to six hours. The road goes through Long Semadoh.
Minivans and local buses operated by the Lawas Bus Company Sdn Bhd link Lawas neighbouring towns like Trusan, Punang, Sundar and Merapok as well as Beaufort in Sabah. Most minivans leave in the morning. Air conditioned long-distance express buses connect Lawas with Kota Kinabalu and towns in between like Sipitang and Beaufort. Sipitang Express Bus Sdn Bhd (Tel: +60-(0)16-8326722 in Lawas, +60-88-213722 in Kota Kinabalu) runs one daily bus to Kota Kinabalu, departing at 12:30. From Kota Kinabalu, buses depart at 07:30. Journey is about five hours (two hours to Beaufort) and the one way fare is RM20 or RM11 for Beaufort. The Lawas Bus Company runs a daily express bus service to and from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah leaving Lawas in the morning and returning from Kota Kinabalu at 1pm, arriving in Lawas at about 5pm. RM30 one way.
To get to Ba Kelalan, private four-wheel drives usually offer seats to passengers. They cost around RM40 one way. Check around where buses and taxis stop.