I have been to Sipitang, Kuala Penyu, Kota Marudu, Menumbok and other small towns in Sabah. I don’t use my own transport so I rely a lot on local mini buses to move around. It is a great option. So far I don’t have much problem to go to any place.
As you know, all the mini buses in KK got the label “Mini Bus” or “Bas Mini”. In small towns, the mini buses got no label. I think they may not have the license as well. As a city guy, I was quite surprised to hear a local lady (in Kuala Penyu) told me that if I saw any van, just waved hand. If they stop, then they are mini buses. If you wait at a bus stop, they would stop and see whether you need a ride. Sometimes even Sang Kancil provides such service. At first I was not quite comfortable with getting on the bus like that, later I was so used to it and do it often.
Whenever I arrive a town, the first thing I will do is to ask the locals where to get a mini bus to go to a place and their peak time (they only move when get enough passengers). The people in small town are very friendly and helpful. They are always pleased to tell you.
In mini bus, very often you will find that you sit next to boxes of vegetables and chicken. Sometimes the driver is “topless”. If I am a female, I would not dare to get on the bus. The mini-bus that I show above is considered as high class coz it got clear label and quite big inside. The “normal” mini buses are very old, paint wore out, smelly and broken seats… Frankly speaking, they just look like a big piece of rusted metal junk that moves.
Usually the ticket costs a few dollars (actually they also don’t issue ticket). In some cases, they even asked me how much I paid usually and they would take that amount. Funny huh? Most of the passengers are regular customers. They even know one another. The drivers don’t even ask them, to know where to drop them. Coz I am always a new face in the bus, the passengers, especially the local old ladies, like to talk to me, to find out who I am and where I am from.