FOR 11 days, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah embarked on an epic road trip on the Pan Borneo Highway that started in Tawau, Sabah, on Sept 3 and ended in Telok Melano, Sarawak, on Sept 13.
The brainchild of the King, the Kembara Kenali Borneo tour was meant for Their Majesties to get to know the people of Sabah and Sarawak more closely.
The Sarawak leg of the tour got off to a wet start in Lawas on Sept 7, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd waiting for them.
Thousands of people braved the rain to welcome Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah when they arrived at the Lawas Waterfront.
Similar scenes unfolded throughout the tour as huge crowds lined the route and gathered at scheduled stops, with many dressed in traditional attire for an opportunity to see the King and Queen in person.
The warm welcome from Sarawakians was reciprocated by Their Majesties, who took time to greet and interact with the people along the entire journey.
After crossing Brunei on Sept 8, the royal entourage arrived in Miri the next day, where they visited the Miri Handicraft Centre, met the people at a beachfront venue and had high tea with community leaders at Kampung Pangkalan Lutong.
On Sept 10, the King and Queen stopped by Tanjung Bungai Beach in Bekenu to mingle with the local community before making their way to Bintulu.
At Rumah Raymond Plen longhouse in Sebauh, near Bintulu, Tunku Azizah took part in a cooking demonstration to prepare several dishes, while Sultan Abdullah and their three sons went fishing.
The royal entourage also visited Kampung Penan Muslim in Bintulu and posed for photos at the Nyabau Interchange, the longest flyover on the Pan Borneo Highway, in Sarawak.
The tour continued the next day to Sibu, where Sultan Abdullah expressed his appreciation to the people for their warm reception.
“Thank you to the people of Bintulu and Sibu for giving us a rousing welcome.
“I am very touched and this is a manifestation that the people of Borneo are fantastic as they are willing to wait for my family and I,” he said at a community dinner at the Malay Union Club Hall.The following morning, the King and Queen were welcomed by a crowd of 2,000 people at the Sibu Central Market, where they met traders during a walkabout.
The royal entourage then proceeded to Kuching, arriving much later than scheduled as they continued to receive an overwhelming welcome from the people along the way.
“I was informed that this is unprecedented, it has never happened before here in Sarawak where almost everyone was waiting along the highway for me and the royal entourage.
“This will be a sweet memory for my family forever,” Sultan Abdullah said at a state banquet in Kuching on Sept 12.
The final leg of the tour took the royal entourage to KM0 of the Pan Borneo Highway at Telok Melano, completing a journey of 2,154km.
It was an unforgettable journey, not only for those who met the King and Queen but also for the royal couple.
In a statement issued by Istana Negara after the tour, Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah expressed joy at fulfilling their dream to get closer to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Their Majesties are deeply touched by the love and support shown by the people who tirelessly lined up by the roadsides to greet them, be it day or night, rain or shine,” the statement said.
The King and Queen also expressed their deepest gratitude to the people of Sabah and Sarawak for the reception given to the royal family throughout the tour.