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Published: June 21st 2017
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'I can't believe I'm going to Brunei... Brunei of all places' I repeated to Steve for the millionth time, he must be sick of hearing that by now but I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever... ever be here! Brunei... I had myself so syced up that just before touch down I felt completely overwhelmed as the tears run down my cheeks, honestly what was going on as I quickly got myself together!
On arrival Steve and I got through Immigration with me once again trying to save the few blank pages left on my passport, and they kindly squeezed a stamp in another near full page. We got through Customs who seemed more interested if we were carrying cigarettes or alcohol, Brunei is a completely dry country, there's no alcohol whatsoever sold here but we know that and weren't carrying anything. We manage to find an ATM on arrival as we don't have any local currency and notice that everything is very clean and pristine, there's nothing really out of place and definitely no dirt around here in fact even the banknotes are spotless!
Outside the airport we catch a local bus which is going down
to Bandar Seri Begawan which is the main city and I end up sitting in the front seat chatting away to the driver who gives us loads of tips of where to go and what to see while we're here. They are extremely friendly people and the English is very clear which makes our stay easy. Our bus driver even tells us a good place to stay and in fact is the cheapest around, and shows us places to visit with a local market going on just nearby the bus station he advises us to quickly get checked in because it's nearly time for mosque and everything shuts down for a couple of hours.
I straight away enjoy the vibe of Brunei and after check in we hit the market which was fantastic, so colorful and vibrant with friendly stall holders who don't mind me trying some foods I've never seen before! All sorts of prawns, shrimps, fish... chicken, every vegetable you could imagine as well as fruits, stalls with baskets and clothes, handbags and shoes, it really has it all and was extremely enjoyable. It's right by the river so we're also offered all sorts of tours and trips but
that's for another day and all in all, a great start to our visit. We have a wander round the city and I'm delighted when we came across one of the most impressive building I've ever seen!
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque stands majestically in a huge space surrounded by water and I'm completely blown away!!! It's named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei and is understandably the main tourist attraction... what a find, I wasn't expecting that so soon! Many men are all making their way to mosque as it's noon on Friday, and although we keep our distance I have to stand and just watch for a while to take it all in. I've taken so many pictures however they're all on my phone as I've no camera at the minute so probably aren't the best quality but still do it justice!
The whole city just seems to shut down at noon on Friday's to the extent one of the main shopping mall areas we have literally all to ourselves, there's no one at all out on the streets for a good couple of hours which once again is a first for me, I've never seen a city go so
While I'm here I want to visit the impressive 6 Star Empire Hotel and we arrange to go by local bus the following day, unfortunately the bus overheated and broke down for an hour or so before we got moving again. Everyone waited outside as inside was far too hot with a few of the locals all chatting to us to see where we're from and more importantly where we're going. On arrival at the hotel we're shown through to reception and are free to wander as we please, it's an impressive entrance and in fact the whole place just screams of money... the mall's shops, the dining areas are all full, the gardens, waterfalls and pools to play in, it's an impressive place.
Steve and I end up sitting out by the pool and I actually fall asleep on one of the massive loungers for an hour or so, ha ha, nice place to wake up. They're a couple of girls out swimming in their burkini's which I've seen a few times now, and a number of people in canoes. We visited the mall and picked up a few things and enjoyed the bit of history provided by an
impressive mural near the front entrance. 'The mural illustrates Sultan Bolkiah's (1485 - 1524) lavish reception to the first Europeans to visit Brunei in 1521. The remnants to Ferdinand Magellan's fleet sailed into Brunei Bay on the homeward leg of the historic first circumnavigation of the world'... impressive!
The river boat cruise which we eventually decided was actually a very informative tour provided by one of the men from the local floating village. He took us to see other mosque and museums on the river then cruised around the floating village at sunset. The floating village has a fire station (boats), mosques, convenience stores in fact everything you would need and is all linked by walkways and jetty's to catch a lift at. Our Capt. has a family of 11 children and 4 of them join us on one part of our trip, he lets me drive the boat briefly and has great chat and conversation with us. It's the most impressive sunset and because there's rain on the horizon the sky takes on an almost dark feel yet with the red sun seeping through...
I enjoyed Brunei and the people we met, most nights we hung out in a local
cafe which had internet and caught up before watching a movie with whoever was in. I'm so pleased I came but from here it's time for Steve and I to go our own ways with my next trip being onward to Kota Kinabalu, whereas Steve's off to Cambodia after a brief stop south.
Brunei has been well worth the visit even if only to see the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque... now that was cool!
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