A Travellerspoint blog

Brunei

Charge more for life jackets, and life jackets we shall use.

Summer Vacation 2008 - More from Brunei

sunny 33 °C
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Our last day in Brunei. It was time to see the last few sites in BSB.

We woke up around our usual time and got ready. We also ate breakfast in our room. We learned from yesterday and bought our own food. At this point we headed back out into BSB. The first stop being the Coffee Bean for a morning pick me up.

Here are some shots from around BSB.

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This was in the intersection. There was a clock face on each side. Each clock displayed a different time. Not sure if the times were of significance, or if some of the sides were just busted.

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It's me.

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This is the sultan's polo field. Well, we think it's a polo field.

Then we went on the hunt for the “tourist information office”. We thought it was in the post office, but it turns out it moved. The security guard gave us a map to the new location which I somehow managed to throw out before we actually made it to the place. Needless to say, our nav skills were on and we found it. Word to other travelers: the tourist information office in BSB isn't really a tourist information office. It's a tour operator who also gives out free pamphlets. If you know this going in you're fine. If not, it could be a surprise.

The lady there wanted us to go on a monkey watching tour and a 4 hour boat tour. We made sure it was a 4 hour tour and not a “3 hour tour”. But we turned it down anyways. We figured we could organize our own tour later on. We politely excused ourselves and meandered on our way.

We went down to the waterfront to find a water taxi to take us on the tour of the water village. But there were a lot of guys there all yelling at us and I had to go to the bathroom. See the previous paragraph regarding the Coffee Bean. We went into the mall where we ate lunch yesterday and found a bathroom.

Court hadn't been feeling good most of the morning and at this point she realized she was out of medication from the last doctor and she wasn't feeling better. It was off to find another doctor. Luckily there was a clinic in the mall and they weren't busy. Court was in and out of there within 20 minutes with some new pills.

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The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is near the center of town. It is pretty big, but it is not the biggest in BSB.

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It is closed to non-Muslim visitors on Thursdays but we heard that it may be open on Fridays. We went to check this out. Luckily it was open to non-Muslim visitors on Fridays, but unluckily not at the time we were there (it opens for only a half-hour, 16:30-17:00, in the afternoon). We would have to come back later on. We did wander around the grounds for a bit. The mosque has a "lagoon” with a boat in it. The boat couldn't go anywhere and we couldn't go out on it either.

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At this point it was getting hot. We got some grub and went back to the hotel for Court to rest and to get out of the heat.

It turns out we both fell asleep. We got our stuff pulled together in time to go to the mosque. However on the way to the mosque we realized we didn't have enough money to pay for the ferry tomorrow and most of the shops closed at 5:00 pm; the same time visiting hours for the mosque finished. I quickly ran to the money change shop and exchanged enough money to get us through the next day. Then I ran over and met Court at the mosque.

You can hear the call to prayer from anywhere in town. We heard the call to prayer as we were walking around town around lunchtime. Everyone takes a break at prayertime, even the bus drivers.

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Before we went in the mosque we had to remove our shoes, which is the common practice. Then just as we entered there were two men there asking people to sign the guest book and giving everyone robes to wear as they looked around the mosque. Court was smart enough to bring a scarf to cover her head. The men at the mosque did say she looked very beautiful wearing the head scarf. I think they were very appreciative that she wore it.

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We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the mosque. But it was gorgeous. The carpet that was in the mosque was very intricate and beautiful. They inside of the dome was full of stained glass laid out in an exquisite pattern. And everything else was immaculate. I really enjoyed the ability to enter and look around the mosque. Afterwards we talked briefly to the men there and asked some simple questions about prayer time.

This is the mosque around sunset.

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Once we left the mosque we went back down to the waterfront to take a water taxi tour. We ran into one guy who eventually talked us into going on a ride with him. His big selling points were that he would go with us to tell us what we could see and that they life jackets for us to wear. We settled on the price and got in the boat. Then we asked for the life jackets. I think he was kind of surprised that we asked for them. Our theory was if he charged a premium because he had life jackets we were damn well going to use them.

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Over 20,000 people live in the water villages. There are approximately 14 separate water villages. There were a lot more but some have been destroyed by fires. When there is a fire the government gives the family money to rebuild their house on land. I think the government wants to reduce the water villages. In the villages there are lots and lots of schools, we saw a fire department and a police department. They also have power stations and pipes running fresh water out to the houses.

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We also took a quick swing near the sultan's palace. We couldn't get very close to it.

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It's not regularly open for visitors. The sultan does open his palace to meet the people once a year after Ramadan. This is usually sometime in October. One of our taxi drivers said he went in and it was absolutely amazing. The sultan's palace has over 1000 rooms. We also saw the sultan's son's palace, complete with over 100 rooms. It was also quite ridiculous.

At this point the boat driver tried to convince us to go see the proboscis monkeys. We asked if it was included in our agreed on price. It came as no big surprise that it was not. We decided not to go and they took us back to town.

Afterwards we started to make our way back towards our hotel for dinner. There was a night market across the street from our hotel. We strolled over to check it out and settled on some fried rice and fried noodles. All for the price of $2. It was a great meal to end the day.

Because of our early planned start for the next day we had to head back to the hotel to pack while obviously watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Except we had some poor New Zealander doing the commentary. It's like they picked some random guy and told him to make some comment about each country as they come out. But, they weren't very informative and they were usually kind of negative. “Oh, this is their 4th Olympics and they are still looking for their first medal.” It was still exciting to see the Canadian team; Court was looking to see if she could spot one of her schoolmates from Harvey. We were kind of disappointed that the Brunei team didn't register any athletes and aren't participating in the Olympics.

Tomorrow's an early start and a day of travel back to Malaysia.

Posted by agc_cwm 19:01 Archived in Brunei Comments (0)

Obey the hand that shhushes you.

Summer Vacation 2008 - BSB, the Sultan and Doctors

overcast 33 °C
View Summer vacation 2008 - The return to Malaysia on agc_cwm's travel map.

Welcome to Brunei. Who goes to Brunei? As it turns out, we do.

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We woke us this morning and went for breakfast. We weren't sure if breakfast was included in our room or not. But we went out anyways. After we finished breakfast we learned that it wasn't included in our room. Which is fine because it wasn't worth the price we paid and we can skip it for the next few days.

We looked at the map that we had and decided we'd make our way into the main area of BSB (Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei) . Our hotel was a little out of the way. We thought it was going to take longer to walk downtown, but it took about 10 minutes. Then in another 3 minutes we were back out of downtown, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First we had to stop and exchange some money. We checked out the HSBC but their fees were ridiculous. We found a little money exchange who gave us a much better rate. Then we started to wander.

There isn't a whole lot in “downtown” BSB. We saw a few coffee shops, some jewelery stores and other stores. BSB is relatively small city in SE Asia terms, there are about 230,00 people, so a little smaller than Halifax. Needless to say, it didn't take us long to walk around the downtown area.

Once we finished downtown it was getting hot. We decided to go to the Royal Regalia Museum. We wanted to see how the Sultan lives. But, this museum wasn't about how he lives. It was about the ceremony around his coronation and his silver jubilee. All I can say is WOW! I'm not sure if the stuff in the museum was really really cool or a total waste of money. The jury is still out. We couldn't take pictures in the museum. This is me outside the museum.

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There were rooms and rooms displaying gifts that the Sultan received from dignitaries and heads of states. Some of them were absolutely crazy. There were lots of ceremonial daggers and swords. Tea sets, mother of pearl inlays from Vietnam, a table top replica of Ankor Wat from Cambodia, a gold desk set from the Saudia government. It just went on and on.

Then we found the room displaying everything from his Silver jublee in 1992. He had this huge chariot / parade float that was pushed by at least 100 people who were all dressed in ceremonial robes complete with sword and spear. The chairs that he had at his dinner had gold on them. It just kept going. If only I was the richest or one of the richest men in the world. Then I could do this too. Plus, the museum was free. We did decide it was better that he had this museum instead of having everything tucked away in his garage or garages.

We left the museum a little bit before we finished because it was close to lunch time. We headed back down to a mall to check out the food court. I got fried rice with chicken (Nasi Goreng) and Court got a noodle dish with chicken (Mee Goreng). They were both great. They had a TV showing some dramas or something in the food court. I did see an excellent “wear a motorcycle helmet” ad. They showed this guy on a bike weaving in and out of traffic then they showed a car backing out of a driveway. There was a quick cut back to the guy on the bike with a worried face, then a cut back to the front tire of the bike hitting the car. Then they cut to a watermelon being thrown and smashing open on the cement. Then it faded out and I assume it said wear a helmet. But, I couldn't read it.

There was a good supermarket in this mall. We decided to head there to get breakfast food for tomorrow. I was helping Court shop until I had to run off. Let me put it this way, if I was in Mexico, Montezuma would be getting his revenge. I had to quickly find a bathroom and then it was back to shopping. Brunei is a very Islamic country, who of course don't eat pork and eat Halal food. We were wandering around for a while and found in the back corner completely tucked away and blocked off by the rice, the pork. Or at least the canned meat, e.g. Spam. It was pretty funny that it was hidden from everyone. We also found a great selection of prunes and sausage.

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We also found some durians in their shells. They are extremely spiky and sharp.

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We purchased our food and made our way back to our hotel to get out of the heat and relax. I had a quick nap and woke up feeling worse, Delhi Belly and a bit of fever. I decided to hit a doctor. We've been to a doctor in four other countries so we should keep increasing that number! A worker from our hotel drove us out to the mall to a clinic. We passed this Mosque along the way.

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The clinic was kind of hard to find. We eventually found it and got dropped off at 5:01. The clinic closed at 5:00. But, don't worry it opened again at 7:00. They closed for a couple hours for prayer time. This was fine for us. We had time to go get some dinner. A nice pizza from Pizza Hut! We hoped some “normal” food may help my stomach. I think it kind of did.

We finished dinner around 6:00 and still had lots o f time to kill. We wandered around and decided to do what the Brunei people normally do. We went to the Arcade. We played a Jungle Cruise game where you get attacked by crazy mutated animals and have to shoot them all. There were no pinball games for Court to play. She was kind of disappointed by this.

The clinic opened again at 7:00 and we decided that we'd go over early and line up before everyone else got there. This was a great idea. The doors opened at 7:00 and by 7:15 the waiting room was full. There was a large family (or families) waiting as well. They had three little girls (~10, ~5 ,~1) with them. When they first came in one of the mothers shushed the 5 year old. Then for the next 10 minutes she went around shushing everyone. We didn't want to get in trouble with the little girl so we kept nice and quiet. I got in to see the doctor, got my meds and we were out of there by 8:00.

We took the 01 bus back to our hotel. We realized that it doesn't really have a route it just kid of drives were the people on the bus want to go. It didn't really matter, we got back to our hotel. Tomorrow we have plans to go check out the Sultan's palace and a couple large Mosques. It should be very interesting.

Posted by agc_cwm 22:40 Archived in Brunei Comments (0)

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