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Published: March 29th 2018
BUS STOP IN BRUNEI'S STILT VILLAGE
School children await the boat that will take them to school. The river provides a good means of transport for everyone.
The large island of Borneo is home to two very diverse countries. While Brunei is one of the wealthiest in the world and one of the most religiously conservative, Sabah as part of the Federation of Malaysia, is a secular country with a much lower GNP than its rich neighbor. The Sultan of Brunei rules his tiny kingdom quite strictly and has recently enacted Sharia Law. Elaborate mosques and glistening palaces abound and the roads and other infrastructure are first rate.
We arrived at the port of Maura and took the shuttle into Bandar Seri Begawan the main city of Brunei. We always like to hire a boat and tour the stilt villages that line the river. Suzanne, Rose Anne and Bernadette joined us on the boat ride. The stilt life is one that we totally understand. Having a home on the water is a very satisfying lifestyle especially in a warm region where you can take advantage of cooling breezes and you are away from the traffic and hubbub of urban life. There are schools and grocery stores, fire houses and boat repair shops all located in the water villages. Water taxis take the kids to and from school
SUZANNE, BERNADETTE, ROSEANNE, SUSAN
Our driver gave us a grand tour of the Muara delta.
and shuttle workers to the mainland. Our boat driver took us up the river to give us some good views of the newest royal palaces and also to check out the Proboscis monkeys that populate the countryside. While mostly swinging amongst the treetops we spied a few monkeys down by the water’s edge taking a cooling dip in the river. On the way back to town we came upon young girls dressed in their school uniforms looking like miniature nuns in the veils and robe-like dresses. We all went to a local food court to try out some of the house specialties and everyone was happy with their selections, some of which were quite spicy. The young women working there were very curious about us and were very accommodating. BSB, as Bandar Seri Begawan is called, is a remarkably quiet place with minimal nightlife and theaters. A Brunei man told us that on weekends there is a steady stream of cars crossing the border to Sabah where the dress code is much more relaxed as are the rules on alcohol use.
Kota Kinabalu is the main city of Sabah and the next stop on our itinerary. This is a
city in transition. The ancient trading port is now coming into the 21st century and they are rehabilitating their shoreline and building mega-malls. We’re not sure what the main attraction is of these malls because many of the stores are high end designer types that carry very expensive products far beyond the pocketbooks of most Malaysians. It must be the food courts, the ear splitting music and tennis shoe shops that attract the teens. We have been enjoying the balmy weather of Borneo and decided to explore the city of Kota Kinabalu on foot. Walking provides a ground eye view of a city and more chance encounters with locals. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia and it towers over one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. The park around the base of the mountain contains very unique flora and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There is strong pressure both domestically and internationally to protect this natural wonder.
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