LAWAS: The favourable foreign exchange rate has driven shoppers and recreation-seekers from Brunei to Miri, Limbang and Lawas which overwhelmed the CIQ even after midnight despite the recent extension of opening hours.
The influx is mostly felt in Miri with the Sungai Tujuh CIQ between Miri and Brunei which could only shut down by 12.30am instead of midnight due to the long queues of returning vehicles which even stretch to the Asean Bridge over the weekend.
The sharp drop in ringgit has resulted in Bruneian shoppers returning in droves to Miri which has shopping malls, entertainment, fruits and plenty of other attractions for local Bruneians and expatriates there.
Visitors from Brunei get RM3 for each Brunei dollar at the money changers, and this fills their wallets considerably as they head to the shopping malls and places of interest in Sarawak.
According to a source from the Immigration Department a record-breaking 20,000 vehicles crossed the border, bringing in the tourist dollars to this town last weekend.
This scenario is likely to continue this weekend as the ringgit has further weakened although the crowd may be smaller as the month progressed.
Limbang, a stone’s throw from Brunei, has also seen a surge in visitor arrivals with eateries filled to the brim during weekends.
The fruit season with durians, langsat, dabai (Kembayau in Brunei Bay region), mangosteen and local farm produce in abundance has been attracting Bruneians to snap them up at markets in Lawas, Limbang and Miri.
The CIQ, which extended its operation hours from 6am to midnight since Sept 1, has alleviated the congestion with an additional two hours.
The Sungai Tujuh CIQ staff are bracing for another influx to Miri this weekend.
Meanwhile, Assistant Minister of Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin would be visiting the CIQ today to check on steps to be taken to ease the congestion.