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Asia » Brunei » Bandar Seri Begawan
April 1st 2011
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 4.94088, 114.949

Not a great day, but not bad either. The morning was fine, then we kind of hit a rut.

After breakfast, we went to visit the Regalia Museum, home to … well, some of the Sultan's regalia. It is housed in a large building, that looks a bit like the kaiser's helmet from the outside. Leaving our shoes outside, we proceeded through the frosted glass doors (which make the building appear closed), to the main entrance hall, a large round space which is filled with one of the sultan's chariots. But more of that later.

We didn't linger in the main hall but, leaving our camera and bags behind, in a free locker, entered the main display area. Here, we saw photos of the sultan as a young man, an artist's rendering of the old palace (made of wood; much smaller), and much of the royal regalia, including: a replica of his throne, a replica of the couch he sat upon when he was married, either the real royal scepter or a facsimile, a figure of a wild cat, made of gold, and a golden arm and hand, used to support the chin of the sultan when he is crowned (this arm appears on the flag of Brunei). Of the royal crown and tiara, we saw only photographs.

Much of the display area housed gifts from visiting heads of state, or gifts received when the sultan went to visit other heads of state. They varied a great deal in quality and impressiveness: from a print of a watercolour to a replica, in silver, of the Fort of Bahrain. In fact, replicas of buildings were quite common, usually rendered in metal of some sort. We were told that these represent only a small share of all of his gifts; many more are housed at the palace.

Downstairs, the main exhibit is the sultan's massive chariot, used on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee (in 1992). Reminiscent of what Xerxes rides in the move 300, it requires 48 men to push and pull. (Fortunately, it actually sits on wheels, so it is pushed/pulled, not carried.) The display is nicely done: mannequins wearing uniforms are lined up in parade formation before and aft of the chariot. Around the wall of the hall, are life-size cardboard cut outs of people watching the parade.

After seeing the chariot, we then passed through an atrium with a small-scale replica of the entrance to the palace, to look into a case with a small-scale model of the throne room in the palace. Around the walls of the room are photos of the Sultan on the occasion of his Jubilee and replicas of the cloths he and his wives wore for the celebration. (The wives' clothes are made of cloth of gold, studded with diamonds.)

The last hallway presents gifts he received from his people – usually portraits of the sultan himself. One is a cloth print of a photograph, completed with digital date imprint. I'm not sure why I found that amusing, but I did.

Next, we took a boat tour of the water village. I enjoyed this – the village is very old but only recently (like 20 years ago, maybe) received a water supply. (We were told that the sewage system dumps water directly back into the river, which is then pulled away on the tide. I'm pretty sure this does not include human waste, but only gray water.) We got off the boat to walk around the village a bit, then had tea at a house set up to receive vast numbers of tourists … not as many of the sultan, but at least 40 at a time.

From the river, we wandered through the market. It was very similar to markets in Malaysia; not surprising, as most goods are imported from Malaysia. (And they were selling Malaysian flags, we noticed.) Pets were also for sale – at least, I assume the mice were not being sold for food; not as sure about two very hot and miserable looking bunnies for sale. They might be meant for a cooking pot.

Lunch. Corn-crab soup and kung pao chicken with tea. At a restaurant along the river, which was nice, especially as we were inside where it was quiet and cool.

By this time, it was 1pm, and we had three hours before we had to be at the airport. So, we went to the Mall in the busy section of town, out by the airport. We had not been here before, and it was bustling – the parking lot was full and cars circled everywhere, looking for a space. The Mall was full, too. We were, of course, not the least interested in shopping, so we opted to see a movie, especially as it was being shown in English, with Malay and Chinese subtitles. A good way to spend a couple of hours on a hot, humid, weekend afternoon.

Got our bags and went to the airport. It took a long time to check on, but we were through immigration control by 5pm, an hour before boarding. Not much to see or do inside the terminal: a few gift shops, a restaurant. I sat and caught up on my journal (what I'm doing right now) while Paul did email on the blackberry.

Flight was a little delayed; raining when we departed. Arriving in Singapore, we went straight to hotel (after easy I&C), then to bed, as we know we have an early morning tomorrow.


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