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Lawas is a small frontier town in the northeastern corner of Sarawak state in Malaysian Borneo. 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 serene Lawas River against the mountains of Sarawak's interior.

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 Ba Kelalan in the Sarawak Highlands.

Get in[edit]

By air[edit]

Lawas is rather unique in its communication system in the early days (during the sixties), its a very small town yet it has two airports, one is the existing airport and the other belongs to the Australian missionaries which was used by the missionaries to help the highland native. The later was closed down during the eighties.

Lawas has an airport (code LWY)(Tel: +60-85-211200) which is served by the rural air service provided by MASWings [2] which took over from FlyAsian Xpress (FAX) on October 1, 2007. Twin Otter planes link Lawas with Ba Kelalan, Kota Kinabalu, Limbang and Miri.

Lawas was very isolated in the sixties, river is the only option to get out other than by plane. There was no Secondary School in Lawas until 1967 when the SMK Lawas was established. Before 1967, Selected students must go to Limbang for their secondary education, the only boat available then was the very slow Chinese Cargo Boat, it takes 12 hours (from 0600hr to 1800hr) to go from Lawas to Limbang. The same boat also travel to Brunei.

  • 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.

By road[edit]

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. See 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 check point on the Sabah side of the border.Journey from Lawas to Merapok takes 30 minutes, another 15 minutes will take you to Sipitang. From Sipitang to Beaufort takes 45 minutes and another 90 minutes, you will be in KK(total journey +- 3 hours).
  • To/from Temburong, Brunei: Temburong is connected by road to Lawas town via Trusan, where there is a ferry crossing, ferry service at Trusan was terminated after the completion of the Trusan bridge in 2011. 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. Previously, the checkpoint operates out of a corner shoplot in a row of shops just east of the ferry. Since the new customs and immigration checkpoint completed on 2011 all documentation could be completed at the new checkpoint. From Labu, its another 20km to Bangar, the administrative centre for Brunei's Temburong district. You should also head to Temburong if you want to go to Limbang, Miri and the rest of Sarawak.
  • 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 takes at least six hours. The road goes through at least 20 villages in the Long Sukang, Long Luping and Long Semadoh areas.

By bus[edit]

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 as well as with Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei via Bangar and Limbang. Sipitang Express Sdn Bhd (Tel: +60-(0)16-8326722 in Lawas, +60-88-213722 in Kota Kinabalu) runs one daily bus between Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan, leaving Lawas at 12:00 for Kota Kinabalu and at 12:30 for Bandar Seri Begawan. Bus departs from both Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan at 07:30. Journey is about five hours (two hours to Beaufort) and the one way fare is RM20 from Kota Kinabaru, RM11 to Beaufort and RM60 to Bandar Seri Begawan.

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.

By boat[edit]

As of September 2016, only boat connection from Lawas is Labuan. Daily boats depart Lawas for Labuan in the morning and return from Labuan in the early afternoon. Boats to/from Limbang and Brunei no longer operate. That leave the bus the only option to get these places. It is still possible to get off at small town of Bangar in the first Brunei enclave (not to be confused with 'Bandar, better to tell Temburong District to buy bus ticket) and take a boat to Bandar Seri Begawan to save two set of border crossings (it is a bit cheaper and faster).

Get around[edit]

Lawas town is small enough to get around on foot. There are local buses and minivans linking Lawas with neighbouring towns and villages like Punang, Trusan, Sundar, Awat Awat, Kuala Lawas, Long Tuma and Merapok on the Sabah-Sarawak border.

Awat Awat.
Mangrove forest along both sides of the Awat Awat Road.

See[edit][add listing]

Kuala Lawas - see the beautiful water villages on stilts along the river mouth.Buy some fresh and cheap fish or prawn from one of the chinese shop if you come at the right time.

Punang Beach- See the caging fish farm or buy some fresh fish if you are lucky.

Awat-Awat - Along the road to Awat Awat, you will see the beautiful mangrove forest lining up both side of the road, fishing and crab catching is a common sight along the road.

Hot Spring - There is a hot spring about 67km away from Lawas, Rooms and food available. booking necessary.

Ba kalalan - This is the Highland village famous for its fine rice and tropical apple yard. small lodge available. can go by land or air. four wheel drive and a good guide will be a better option if you choose to go buy land.

Do[edit][add listing]

Pesta Lawas , Festival Chak Go Mei in Lawas Hock Teck Shi Temple

Buy[edit][add listing]

1. Famous for its highland iodine salt which is good for preventing thyroid disease.

2. The Bakalalan fine rice is also a delicacy, costing around MYR 20 per 'gantang'.

3. The local Lumbawang Nasi Bungus (rice wrapped in Leave) can be purchased at the Bus station stall, its handy to carry around and goes well with salted fish and tapioca leafs, popular food amongst the local native. perfect for picnic.

4. A small fish called Beritus found around the Punang, Kuala Lawas and Awat Awat coast line is cheap and tasty. It is usually seasoned with salt and deep fried, perfect match for rice and beer.

Deep-fried beritus.

5. The famous rich and poor food, the Salai (also called Tahai) is made from the small Tamban fish. It is a smoked fish,which has to be smoked for long hour sand can be preserved for long period, locals like to add it into a dish called "Masak Lemak" to increase the flavor and sweetness.

Ikan Tahai, red onion, chilli and tamarind juice properly grind and make into hot spicy paste is a perfect match with white rice or Nasi Bungkus.

There are several good Chinese restaurant and noodle stalls in Lawas. The Kolo mee is the most popular breakfast, and tea time dish for both the Chinese and the Lumbawang (local native)

As for the restaurants, Lawas is famous for its Soon Hock fish, or locally known as Ikan Batutu by the Malays. It is a river fish found in the Lawas and Trusan river, it costs more than MYR 100 per kg in Sabah. You can get it for less than MYR 100 in Lawas (ready cooked).

Another famous fish from the Trusan river rapid is the "Ikan Sema", price and quality is on par with the Batutu.

Steamed ikan sema.

Lawas also has plenty of mud crab, can order from the local seafood restaurant at a reasonable price.

Eat[edit][add listing]

As Lawas is a part of Sarawak, the famous local Sarawakian food, known as Kolo mee, is a must try. It is different from the Sabah and West malaysian Kolo Mee. Sarawak "Kolo mee" is made from a type of raw noodles that is boiled in hot water till cooked, then take out and drain the water, stir mixed with light soy sauce, fried onion, spring onion chips, and lard. The end product will be a dry stir mixed noodle with a small bowl of soup that cost only plus minus Rm 3.00. It has become so popular that,local Chinese and natives virtually cant resist this dish for their breakfast and afternoon tea break. this dish originated from Sibu among the Foochow.

Other noodles you can find in Lawas is the "Fry black noodle", "Hokkien Noodle", "Fry wet Noodle" "Fry handmade kuey Tiaw", "Mee sua in red Chinese wine"," Fry mee hoon with Gulong stew pork". For all food lovers, these dishes are strongly recommended. ask the locals they will tell you where to get it.

Another unique food is the Glutinous rice in coconut milk, with spicy dry prawn or meat fillings wrapped in leaves. it can be obtained in the market before 0700hr. later than that you will have to wait for the next day or make special booking through telephone.

A dessert unique to the highlands of Lawas is "Ekor Kuyuk" or "Beras Jawa". It's made from Beras Jawa cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves extract. Beras jawa is very expensive, cost near to RM 100 a gantang. It is not available in coffee shop, if you like to try ask the local and place your order one day earlier. The plate of Beras jawa shown in the attched picture cost about Rm20.00.

Beras Jawa.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are plenty of small hotels in Lawas, prices range from Rm 50 to Rm80. The new Sri Malaysia Hotel Started operation 2010, Its located at the beautiful Lawas River Bank and within the town center, three minutes walk to the Market and town. Price used to be About RM 150, recent promotion has dropped the price to Rm 99.00.

Stay safe[edit]


Get out[edit]

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