Published: May 28th 2011May 28th 2011
Not really a 13-hour trekathon but definitely a 13-hour day today!! We are both aching, Mac more than me as he has cold which he says he got from me, can't believe either of us would ever get a cold in this heat!
Anyway, today we began with breakfast by the pool, very pleasant, met a Kiwi couple from near Hamilton. We then travelled by bus (walked to the bus station first only to get on the right bus and see it pass our hotel......!) and visited the Jame Ásr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque (or JAHB mosque) in Gadong, about 3 kms away. I had to put on a full length black gown even though I'd ensured I wore long sleeves and 3/4 trousers; this made me even hotter but it's fair enough and par for the course when entering a mosque. The interior was beautiful - cooling white marble, crystal chandaliers, sweeping staircases; the exterior was also stunning, especially the mosaiced minarets. This mosque is the largest in Brunei and was built in 1992 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the current sultan's reign. My photos won't do it justice I'm sure, and there's only exterior shots as photography inside
On the way back to the city we had a brief look at the Mall in Gadong, where we spied Arabic food but we weren't hungry - of course when we tried to find similar later in the city we couldn't. so we will go back there to eat. Gadong is THE place to shop and eat for the locals.
We tried to find the tourist office and an art gallery mentioned in the Lonely Planet but couldn't, despite asking around. We met a couple of Scots on the riverfront who gave us some good info; we took a water taxi across the river to see the Kampong Ayer info cente and gallery and later found out it doubled as the tourist office. There was no electric there for some reason so the guide gave us both a fan to try to cool down! The observation tower provided some good views of the water village and the trip cost us just B$1 each way across the river, same price as most bus trips around town. Of course the river crossing took less than a minute though!
On the way back to the hotel we stopped
off at the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque to see the interior and get more photos, same process as earlier. This mosque is named after the father of the current sultan and has carpets from Belgium, Italian brown marble and stained glass windows from England. Definitely worth a look.
Back at the hotel for a brief break, I had a swim in the pool then we set off again to get a water taxi for an hour's boat trip around Kampong Ayer, up the river to get a glimpse (not much more) of the Istana Nurul Iman (royal residence) and into the mangroves. We negotiated a bargain fair of B$20 for both of us, quite a bargain. The boatman took us to the Shell petrol station on Kampong Ayer - see photos, not like any other petrol station I've ever seen! It's for the boats to refuel, the petrol attendant lowers a bucket for payment once refuelled. There's also a police station, fire station, schools, mosques, etc in the water villages - all built on stilts, amazing to see.
Off the boat we bumped into Peter and Gill, one of the Aussie couples we'd met during the culture village
trip at Kota Kinabalu. Small world. We wandered through the newly set up food stalls near the waterfront with them and bought some interesting snacks, later we watched the fireworks and saw the sultan officially open the waterfront (well that's what we think was happening)! So we almost crawled back to the hotel around 9.30pm, it's been a long day alright! But a good one, very impresseed so far!
There are more photos below