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Published: October 27th 2017
I arrived in Bandar Seri Bagwan the capital city of the Sultanate of Brunei Darusalam a little after 5pm after a very comfortable eight hour fight, Royal Brunei airlines are very generous with leg room and the flight was only about half full which left meant I had an empty seat next to me. After a minor mix up with my visa I was through customs and boarding a van to the hotel, it was so nice to have free airport pick up and have them actually turn up.
The journey to the hotel did not take long the city is compact so I was soon settling into my very comfortable room which has all the modern conveniences, I had asked reception to try and get me on a trip out to Temburong National Park for the following morning, however a minimum of two persons is required. An hour later reception called tell me it had been arranged and offered to drop me at the HSBC atm in the city so off I went, it was not far away so I walk back through the dark quiet streets getting lost briefly along the way.
I rose at 6am heading
down stairs for my excellent free breakfast the hotel does everything right a short time later the van from the tour agency arrived with one young Chinese girl aboard the driver studied in Adelaide and was very excited about the Crows making the grand final. The city is compact so it didn't take long to get to the Temburong Jetty where we met up with two Koreans and two Japanese before boarding what could only be described as a water bus which zoomed off do the river passing under a very impressive Islamic themed bridge, the journey was interesting as the river-man crossed some rather large lakes or bays and then would shoot up a narrow tributary that wasn't visible till the last minute, after 45 minutes we arrived at the small town of Bangar.
Here were met by our new guide Fiona who showed us to a van which we piled into for the 30 minute journey to the companies jungle lodge. The country side was neat and green with the occasion traditional longhouse visible from the road, the lodge itself was perched on the bank of the river and was a pleasant place to have a cup
From the river
Bandar Seri Bagwan
of tea before boarding our longboat and setting off into the dense tropical forest. The journey down river was a little bit exciting as the little boat was powered through a number of small rapids with a wall of green passing by on each side of us, after about 45 minutes we reached the park headquarters. There is bridge here across the river but it is out of order so we crossed the confluence of the conjoining rivers and climbed up the bank and slogged up what appears to be the original muddy slippery trail to the other side of the out of commission bridge. From here it was a long walk up many many steps to a high point where large towers had been erected with a treetop walk built between them.
I was a bit knackered after the walk up so I took a few minutes to get by breathing under control before beginning the climb up, the views across the forest were incredible although sun above the canopy was quite intense. After a time I began my decent from the tower and decided to just keep going, going own is always worse than going up because
slipping is much more likely, as I was walking quietly by myself I spotted a large squirrel leaping between the trees. Eventually we arrived back on the bank and re-boarded the boats for the trip back up river, stopping about half way to board inflatable kayaks and rafts. When I said I was experienced in kayaks I wasn't thinking about rapids, I had gone through tiny rapids in a real kayak once in Laos but these were bigger and the boat was inflatable, all I can say is I am thankful I didn't take my camera, passport etc with me.
I think the first rapid must have been the worst I was nearly through when the boat went over and I was thrown in the water, on the other side the water was initially deep so it wasn't so as I fought to climb back in but soon the water swallowed and I was bumping of rocks, it was a struggle to force the boat towards one of the longboats waiting down river, finally I grabbed onto the longboat and the boatmen pushed me and the boat to shore crushing my leg in the process. I was exhausted the
climb up the hill the flip in the water the huge Adrenalin rush and the fight with the river left my legs wobbly and my arms week I had to struggle just to stand up. I climbed in to the longboat that was enough for me for one day. A short time later we arrived at arrived back at the lodge I was feeling a bit ill, they put on a big lunch, baby bamboo shoots, fish in ginger, soy chicken and potatoes, rice and river yabbies, but I wasn't overly hungry so I consumed a couple of Carslberg's instead.
Soon we began the journey back to Bandar Seri Bagwan by now I was feeling quite sleepy having a brief nap on the river bus before disembarking back in the capital, I was tempted to visit the night market later that night but getting around is difficult as there are only about 40 taxis in the whole city and it was raining heavily.
I went down to breakfast at 9am to find the Korean couple here it seems there was a problem with their flight last night and they had to check in here, they leave later tonight
after my flight so we went to reception to arrange a later check out.
I checked out and walked into town, between midday and 2pm everything but the mosques are shut, it was kind of weird walking through a city with no people still at least I was able to take photos with out anyone getting in the way. I visit the Chinese temple, the Syuriah courts, the Royal regalia building and the Taman Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien (a sort of royal sports field) all closed and deserted before arriving at the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque which was very much open.
It being the middle of the day I was beginning to roast so I headed down to the water front to look at the stilt village Kampong Ayer hoping for breeze and some shade. It seems not everybody stops work during that time as a friendly boatman saw me and zoomed over, I was happy to climb aboard spending the next hour or so zooming up and down the Sungai Brunei where I had a an excellent guided tour seeing everything from the Sultan's palace to very pissed off crocodile. The Kampong was particularly interesting
with its fire stations, schools and mosques, a few of the houses were quite old, most years however a few burn down one year twenty did.
I clambered out of the boat accidentally leaving my Zanzibar cap behind and made my way back towards the hotel the weather is changing and the first drops fell as I reached the hotel, they have a courteousy van that runs people around town so I asked to be taken to the very impressive Jame' Asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque which unfortunately was overflowing with people attending a funeral. I took some photos then headed on to the Sultan's Palace which you cant enter but I took some pictures through the fence. After that it was back to the hotel I had a few hours wait before after that before heading to the airport for my flight to Melbourne.
This flight was full but still quite comfortable and I arrived at my destination around 5am catching a cab to the hotel Tim booked in the city centre, on arrival I work him up and chatted for a while before crashing out for a few hours of much needed sleep. Around 1130am I ventured
out in search of socks it is cold here and I had left my wet socks behind in Brunei, I then walked to the MCG for my first ever AFL Grand Final, it was a good day even though we lost. After the match I walked back to the hotel and passed out, my flight to Adelaide leaves at 8am.
It was good to be home even if it was for just a week I enjoyed catching up with my dogs, wife, family and friends and doing a bit of work around the house before enduring a 26 hour nightmare journey back home to Dubai.
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