I am often asked how do you find Bintulu?; this tiny, tiny dot somewhere on Borneo Island. What can I say? You see, I’ve always been a small town girl. My father’s job took us around oil palm estates as far flung as Sandakan. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I moved to Kuala Lumpur and that too, I left to Bintulu before I turned 30.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like living here. Even for someone used to small towns like me, it took about a year to really settle down.
If you can take these 10 truths of my small town life in stride, you’ll be a small town pro in no time.
1.Indians are as rare as orang utans.
When I see another one, my skin prickles with excitement but there are protocols to follow. If it’s a lady, she and I might exchange smiles. If it’s a man, he will stare for a moment and then hurry off like he thinks his wife is watching.
2. West Malaysians need a permit from the Sarawak Immigration to live, work and study here.
I often joke to my local friends that I am an expat in my own country.
3. Good customer service is a once-in-a-blue-moon experience.
At restaurants, it’s normal for the waiter to scowl at you like he’s paying you to eat but you’re doing a shitty job of it.
4. I miss West Malaysia Chinese food so much.
Even more than shopping malls, trendy cafes and movie theaters.
5. I don’t have to go to Bali or Phuket for sunsets like this:
6. There is no Gardenia and Masimo bread.
Only one bakery makes decent bread here and if it runs out, we are breadless until they restock. For whatever nonsense reason, Gardenia and Masimo are available in Brunei but not East Malaysia.
7. It’s dangerously easy to be bored out of my mind here.
The first 3 years I lived here, I was too caught up being a new mum and working to even think about being bored. The kids still keep me super busy now but without a full-time ‘real’ job, it’s tough to stay sane because I am not the kind of person who can thrive on motherhood only. I need something going on that’s just mine. Right now, freelance writing and my gym sessions are doing the trick.
8. Seafood is not cheap.
Nothing is cheap. At best, it costs the same as things in Kuala Lumpur.
9. I can be anywhere in Bintulu town within 20 minutes of leaving my house.
Unless of course, it’s peak hour but obviously, it’s nothing like LDP or Federal Highway.
10. Home is where your loved ones are.
And this is the gospel truth – no matter which corner of the world I may be in.