Still part of my New Year’s Resolution, I visited another place this month.Brunei it is, The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures. I am now left with 3 more ASEAN countries to visit, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor.
Most people would usually describe Brunei as dry and boring. Well, after visiting, I have to say that if one isn’t into nature and if one can’t live without alcohol, then Brunei is really as such. I am into to nature and I can live without alcohol, hence my stay wasn’t dry, in fact it was so wet and jungly wild!
Sep 10 2016
I arrived late afternoon of Saturday. My flight was a little bit delayed hence, my complimentary airport transfer was also affected. I reached the hotel, LeGallery Suites Hotel, charged my phone a little bit and headed out for a supposed to be walk outside.
As I was about to go out, the reception guy asked where would I be heading. I didn’t make plans, hence, I just said I’d just be heading for a walk. He said the hotel van will be sending people to “The Mall” and I could join them for $5 if I want to. So, without anything planned, I just said, ok.
There I was, in a new country, visiting a mall. Haha That’s not the usual me, so I decided to head out and walked in the dark. I found this Gadong Night Market and as I could see the alluring Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque from a far, the strong urge of going close came to me. I had to go there. Not many people were walking. There were no pedestrian lanes. How in the world could I cross these lanes? After thinking of ways, walking back and forth, waiting for people crossing so I could follow, 20minutes have passed. I just decided to give up on my goal. I’d do it in day light, I told myself.
I sadly went back to the night market and gotten myself Nasi Goreng and back to the mall to get some of my needed grocery items. Now, going home, where in the world, could I get a cab? I’ve read that there were limited number of taxis in Brunei just because it’s seldom used by locals, even buses and public transports are almost non-existent, but I wasn’t expecting that I really wouldn’t be able to find one near “The Mall”.
So, as I didn’t get that tourist Sim card ($10) from the airport, I was left with no working network. (So guys, please get that Sim card from the airport, it’ll come out handy in calling for transport) Solution was to ask people to help me call a cab and of course, they were willing to help. Humans are great.=)
I couldn’t wait for my second day. I booked this Ulu-Temburong National Park tour at $150 from the hotel reception.
Sep 11 2016
We were picked up by the tour van at about 7:15am. There were 2 more people from my accommodation, S and G. Both are working in Singapore and 9 more from other locations. The group got along quite well.
We went to the water taxi terminal to meet up with the guide, Lee and all the other tour participants. From our side, we could see the water village structures, houses and all. It was awesome to know that it was really a community. They’ve mosques, schools, restaurants constructed on stilts etc.
To start the tour, we took this boat which passed by the water village people’s abode. Then with just a few twists in turns, we were in a beautiful river sandwiched by jungly virgin-looking mangrove. It was beautiful.
We then, had to alight and change into a van to Sumbiling Eco Village. From there, we had our breakfast for a few minutes. We then changed into a smaller 5-seater open boat to the National Park. The journey was amazing by itself. I enjoyed it a lot.
We then stopped in a port and went straight to a mini-hike up to the hanging bridge. It’s just thousands of easy stair steps. Only 5 people could cross the bridge at one time. From the bridge, there were more stair steps to the jungle canopy walk.
Hanging Bridge Ulu-Temburong National Park
Going up through that steel ladder to the top of the canopy walk was thrilling though. It was shaking all through out but I had to keep in mind that the structures were ,according to the guide, being checked 3x a week by the authorities, so, fear not. View from atop was worth all the fear I’ve experienced while climbing.
After viewing, we started our descent. We then went to a mini-waterfalls where you could feed the fishes with your dead skin on your feet. Ticklish. Hehe We then headed back again to Sumbiling Eco Village and had out lunch there. I was starving.
I was seated in a table with people who were hardcore travellers. Listening to them talk about their journeys were inspiring…very very inspiring. It felt like I had to rush to experience everything as well. I was not only drooling because of physical hunger, but also because of experiential hunger. I have been having this not “living” enough kind of feeling recently…I am craving for more….more than I can describe by words! It’s burning inside me…
Anyway, after lunch, we jumped on a boat again to get back to the mainland. We were sent back to our hotel. G, S and myself decided to meet up for dinner at 8pm.
While waiting for 8pm, I decided to head out for a walk. I could really feel the difficulty of being car-less in Brunei. I had no idea how to safely cross from one place to another. It was a little bit frustrating because, I generally love to walk and I couldn’t do it because I was scared to jay-walk.
I went back to the hotel, a little bit dissapointed with myself.
At the time arranged, we met at the lobby and headed up for a walk. Three pax meaning, fear of crossing these streets were less than when I was thinking of doing it by myself. We passed by the glowing Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudin Mosque. It was pretty.
We walked along the riverside and almost all the establishments were closed except for that one restaurant by the river. We entered and I had Nasi Katok with coconut juice. Humble and truly Bruneian.
We went back to our hotel after that. Plan was to walk with G in the morning to witness the holiday festivities in Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. Apparently, the Sultan will be going there to partcipate in some ceremonies. I was tired. I slept fast.
12 Sept 2016
I woke up at 730am. I was still sleepy and therefore decided to chill a little bit more on the bed instead of going to the mosque with G.
I just decided to visit Brunei’s northern part where the seas were. I contacted the female taxi driver I hired the other day and asked her if she could bring me on a 4hour tour to those places by the sea and around the city center. At $80, she agreed.
First stop was again, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. It looked plain during the day. It looked prettier at night. I once again, walked along the riverside. Enjoying the wind kissing and dampening my face over and over again.
We, then headed our way to the northern part of Brunei. First stop was the Muara Beach. It was raining heavily while we were driving there. But with God’s grace it stopped when we arrived. Whilst the sun was still hiding from the clouds, the rain had stopped. So much better. Not much UV rays touching my already-ruined skin.
The beach was not crowded during that time. Most people were dressed like me, not up there for a swim. I went for a short walk by the shore. Then, headed back to the car.
Next stop was the famous Empire Hotel and Country Resort. It felt like it was a waste that I didn’t stay there for a night. But I knew that staying there solo wouldn’t be practical too. I would highly recommend that place for couples and for those groups who would want just to relax. It was serene and beautiful.
I was having this great conversation with the taxi driver. She was telling me about her children whom the government sent for free education in London and whe were now very successful. She brought me to the University where one of her sons was teaching (There were only 2 Unis and one could only teach after one has obtained his/her PhD). She brought me to see her house. In front parked 5-6 other cars. Apparently, they could keep one car per person and they could afford it. Brunei, oh Brunei…You are a Kingdom of Unexpected treasures indeed.
She spoke about her love-life too. She said that at 21, she just decided she wanted to marry someone from Brunei. She is Malaysian. So, after newly-knowing (just 2weeks) this guy she met while working in a mall, they decided to marry. And they are still, up to now, together.
Which brings me to another thought, what’s up with lonnnng engangement periods??? People like her and my parents just jumped into major things like this and they’re still together. Is there something wrong with our generation? The more resources and time and experiences that we are all having, the easier it is for us to just give up on relationships if we aren’t sure???
Anyway, I also learned that there were only about 40 taxis in Brunei, three were driven by females and she was the first female taxi driver. She said whe was in a front cover of a news paper. I was impressed. She didn’t finish school, marry after 2 weeks of bf-gf relationship with a guy, unsure of her life, yet with a practical and smart brain, she was able to have her own Kingdom in the form of her life, her successful and smart children and an intact family until now.
Her name is Amy Heng. You can contact her at +673-8811889 by Whatsapp or my normal network.
I loved listening and observing her actions. She is a mother and a fighter. I am super honored to have met her.
Our last stop was the Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. Pretty during the day and the night. During the day, the details on the exterior of the mosque was more apparent.
After the tour, she sent me back to my accommodation.
Last day in Brunei, tomorrow morning would be my journey back home….I enjoyed my trip a lot..Who says Brunei is boring? Uhmm..not to all.