The boat from Labuan to Brunei was easy. Getting to the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan (or BSB as the locals call it) from the port, not so easy. We and several others waited for a bus which never came…At least not until we had started to walk to the next town over. But hey, 45 minutes late for the bus is nothing, right?
Brunei completely surprised us. It was, quite simply, a wonderful place with kind people and out of this world scenery and places. We based ourselves in BSB and really only saw the surrounds, but it was enough to get us hooked. The huge Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque was simply stunning, and we ended up walking around its grounds every night, several times with insanely good street food and massive drinks in our hands.
On our second day we hired a guy to take us for a blat into the jungle on his speedboat. Technically it was to see the proboscis monkeys, which we managed to see, but hurtling down the rivers and heading through the mangroves was amazing. Even if the sight of a huge crocodile basking in the sun made us sit slightly away from the sides of the boat!
Our driver lived in Kampong Ayer, which is a floating village in the river across from the CBD of BSB. It’s the main reason why the rivers are a seething mass of boat-taxis (which I christened “baxis”) during rush hour. On our way back he had to pick up his kids from school…It was quite surreal to pull up to a jetty, have his daughters jump in, and then whizz under all of the houses and raised walks around the village to drop them at the other side.
The following day we returned to Kampong Ayer to properly check it out. Before the trip we had expected it to be quite touristy. But it wasn’t at all. There were new buildings from the 1990’s, some from the 1970’s, and some from a lot longer before that, with a fair proportion of them uninhabitable and being claimed by the river.
What a place. We’re so glad that we made the effort to go. And perhaps this enjoyment was heightened by the lack of “let’s get pissed! Woo!” wank-knuckles who avoid Brunei due to the scarcity of alcohol. The number of blogs that we have read with that view is mind boggling. If you can’t face not drinking for a few days in order to experience a new country/culture, then I feel sorry for you.
Anyway…Next stop, Miri.