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Published: September 18th 2017
The plane to Brunie from Manila was not even half full. Just goes to show how few Filipinos go there. We arrived late at night and were hoping to be able to walk to our hotel. The immigration officer asked for return tickets which I didn’t have since we were taking the ferry to Malaysia with no prior reservation. I showed him my ticket for Manila from Kota Kinabalu and I was relieved that that was enough. We walked out of the airport only to go back after aimlessly wandering because there was no walkway for pedestrians. We had no choice but to take the expensive taxi. We paid about $16 for a ten minute ride. Strange that we didn’t find any ATM there. Good thing we brought US dollars. Our room was too expensive for its very basic amenities. $30 per night was the cheapest we could find. I was told nothing is cheap in Brunie. So we didn’t plan to stay long.
The next day we took the bus to the city centre. Bandar Seri Begawan was very clean. The mosques were impressive. There was ample display of gold. But somehow it felt dead, or just extremely laid
back. There were very few people on the streets. We went to explore the water village, which was interesting but there wasn’t enough to do there. There were lots of Filipinos working in BSB. I imagined the quality of life to be really good. It was clean, the roads were wide and had very little traffic, they looked like they all made enough money. People were so laid back that when we went to the money exchange, the attendant was over an hour late in opening but still did not look like she was in a hurry when five people were already in queue before she opened.
One thing that surprised me was their canals. They had big canals, as big as those in the States. But theirs had stainless steel railing! All over the city! That is so expensive, and unnecessary. That gave me a good idea how rich the country is. There wasn’t enough to do, or anything we were interested in doing so we decided to leave for Malaysia that afternoon. The houses only got bigger as we left the city. Some of those mansions actually looked like malls or hotels. At times it seemed like
the locals had a contest on who had the most number of luxury cars parked in their garage.
I didn't see a single kid playing outside. There was a Filipino factory worker on the bus that my friend talked to. He said kids didn't play outside there. I didn't see a single playground for kids either. Childhood must be so sad there. I don't think I got to talk to any locals. It seemed like all the store attendants were migrant workers, much like in other oil rich countries in the Middle East. Everyone spoke good English so traveling was not difficult at all. Perhaps the only challenge was the lack of public transportation.
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