Many in a rush to get home for Gawai, Raya

Passengers waiting at Kuching Sentral to go home for Gawai and Hari Raya.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, May 29: The Hari Gawai Dayak and Hari Raya Aidilfitri ‘balik kampung’ rush has started with bus companies doubling bus trips as demand spikes.

A clerk of a bus company told DayakDaily that on normal days, her company mounts 11 bus trips daily but since May 23, it has increased to about 20.

“The highest demand is the Kuching-Sibu route, where many of those working here are travelling back to Sibu to celebrate Gawai,” said the clerk, who requested anonymity.

Screen showing the scheduled departure times of buses and their destinations at Kuching Sentral.
Baba Penguang

Passenger Baba Penguang, who was waiting for his bus at Kuching Sentral, said it would take about one day for him to get to Limbang.

Baba, who works in a tile factory, said his journey was scheduled to start at 4.30pm today and that he would reach Limbang by 7am tomorrow. Along the way, his passport would be stamped twice as the trip had to go through Brunei.

From Limbang town, he will have to travel a bit more before reaching his longhouse — Kampung Entakong in Medamit.

“I usually go back home once a year, usually for Gawai, and I will take a long holiday of two weeks. For Christmas, I don’t usually go home,” revealed Baba.

Passenger Mita Anthony, who is heading for Bukit Aup in Sibu, shared a similar experience as Baba.

“For Christmas, it depends. It is not a must to go back during Christmas, but it is a must for Gawai,” said the young mother who is travelling with two children, Marian, 7, and Johannes, 9.

Mita’s kids Marian and Johannes.

Mita’s husband, who is working on an offshore rig, cannot make it home for this Gawai Dayak.

“I must bring my children back because Gawai is the time where my children will spend time with the rest of my family, and that is very important. It is during festive seasons that the children can meet up with other members such as their grandparents and other relatives,” said Mita.

Meanwhile, Mita claimed that bus companies and express boat firms sometimes take advantage of festive seasons by forcing passengers to dig deeper into their pockets.

“For example, the bus fare is supposed to be RM50 from Kuching to Sibu, but there was a time I was charged RM60. My friend in Sibu also complained that the express boat operators tried to increase the boat fare from RM25 to RM70. And even for children, who are supposed to be charged half fare, they are charged full fare during festive seasons,” she said, adding that the authorities should look into this matter.

Nurazmina Ismail and Siti Nuriezzaty Daud

Meanwhile, Nurazmina Ismail, 21, and Siti Nuriezzaty Daud, 21, said they started their ‘balik kampung’ journey yesterday. Met at Kuching Sentral, where they were waiting for the bus to bring them back to Sri Aman for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, these two students of University Islam of Surabaya only reached Kuching this morning after taking a flight from Surabaya and transiting in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our bus was supposed to keave at 1pm, but it is delayed. So, we are still waiting. Yes, we are very tired and hope to reach home soon,” said Nurazmina, who said it would be another four hours of travelling on the bus before they both could be with their families. — DayakDaily