Bandar Seri Begawan
Having booked our shuttle bus to Brunei through the youth hostel the day before, we thought we were in for the usual terrifying and uncomfortable bone shaking 4 hour ride to our next destination. When the door bell rang 5 minutes early and a sweet smiling suited and booted chauffeur greeted us at the door we thought we were also in for a dramatic fare increase. Having our bags carried to a leather upholstered air conditioned private jeep we looked at each other with dread saying the pickup name ‘Daniel’ repeatedly to ensure we hadn’t bummed onto some flash packers private ride. Thankfully, there was no scam and yes it was our ride, bloody nora we weren’t just going to visit the Sultan, we were travelling like one too!
First stop en route to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan was the petrol station just over the border, that’s when we realised just why we were travelling in style, at less than 20p a litre every bugger drives around like royalty.
And we thought Gibraltar was cheap!
Brunei is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, being the fifth richest nation in the world it is also a very strict Muslim country with devout beliefs – a thoroughly ideal destination for two cohabiting, food loving, beer guzzling backpackers to visit during Ramadan. Encountering no problems at border control and having had time for breakfast in Malaysia, our sudden content state turned to one of sheer terror when Danny mustered up the courage to whisper that there were 2 tinnies of undrunk contraband nestling in the bottom of his rucsack – trying our hardest to push the images of a very sharp guillotine from our minds, the remainder of the journey was somewhat nerve racking.
Upon arrival we were dropped off at the local sports complex where we were told the only youth hostel in town was based. Wondering aimlessly through the sports hall and past the swimming pool, the no pushing/running /heavy petting signs were replaced by no bare ankles or forearms so we knew we were in for an interesting conversation at the check in desk. Well, we need not have worried. There wasn’t a need for the false wedding rings or unnecessary ‘pork pies’ about our different surnames, we were promptly given two separate keys to two separate buildings and Danny’s only worry for the night now would be sleeping fully dressed and ensuring he didn’t return from his midnight pee to spoon a friendly Muslim looking for some company.
And the first stop after dropping our bags off during Ramadan…………. looking for some grub, we were starving! Wandering along the back roads it was pretty clear something on toward was going on. This place was as lively as the stands at Oakwell on match day, there wasn’t a soul to be seen. Looking for some food was going to be extremely interesting but thankfully where there’s a will there’s a Chinese fella so all was not lost. Two overpriced chicken and rices later we shuffled out of the underground food outlet and into the bright lights ensuring there were no traces of any sauce troubling Dannys chops.
Frank Worthington enjoying his black market coffee
With bulging bellies, it was time to see what Brunei had to offer the avid traveller. Although mega mega rich, the capital is pretty much a scene of complete contrast. On one side is the stunning Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque with its pure gold roof and polished marble exterior, on the otherside is a entire village built on wooden stilts with corrugated iron roofs and the odd polished door knob. Flagging down a willing boat driver, we took a tour through the village where it had its own police station, fire station and schools.
Showing off their shiny roofs
Might just be one day but its one more country on the list
A bit risky popping round the neighbours for a coffee
Home to 25,000 villages
The water villages answer to Heartbeat – A police station on stilts
Ducking down for the low bridges
After our interesting boat ride we walked through the town to the national museum. Reading up on it before we got there it houses all the gifts to the state from all the kings and queens of the world. We were especially interested in the thoughtfully chosen and ironic gift presented from good old Queen Elizabeth, what else can you buy a Muslim multi billionaire leader who has everything? His very own beer mug! Whether encrusted with diamonds or not, that is one cracking gift for ‘one to drink ones beer from’. Unfortunately, although we read up on its contents we didnt read up on the opening times so it was shut.
Rush hour in Brunei
The only landmark in town
How the rest of Brunei live
Taking advantage of his Earnshaws discount card
Prince and the paupers
The only landmark in town from a different angle
Having circled the mosque about 20 times, we were trotting back to our ‘his and hers’ own buildings when we stumbled upon a huge traffic jam and folks hurriedly racing about a car park armed with dozens of steaming plastic bags. Thinking there was a sale on at Bradford market, we headed in their direction to be greeted by rows and rows of freshly cooked goodies and unidentifiable tooth rotting luminous drinks. Finally, realising it was a Ramadan feast, we strolled up and down eyeing up all the snap and trying to choose what to shovel down come the moonlit skies. Take about torture for these poor fellas. The street smelt amazing but there was absolutely no sampling or taking advantage of a sneaky sip. The poor kids were sat on the curb staring up at the blindingly hot sun, armed with their bright blue ice cold slush puppies awaiting for a cloud of darkness. Unsure whether someone actually rings a bell or something, we piled Dannys arms high with the snap and ran back to our digs to gorge on this fine feast under a blanket of sin. We did actually try to wait until it was dark but Claire didn’t fancy a cold chicken kebab and warm watered down Milo and continually insisted she heard some kind of bell ringing somewhere.
Surely sniffing food is also a sin?
Choices choices Danny
Why adding oil to a hot pan is not advised
Should get that stomach curdling for tomorrows bus trip
I’m sure walking about in a Tiger Beer t-shirt all day is definitely a sin
Surely its dark in one Muslim country already……………..
After feasting on the takeaway and then waiting outside for hours whilst Danny had his meeting with his new muslim pal Mustafa Crap, it was finally dark so we wobbled into town hoping to find some action and some people. Unfortunately, because of the 3am starts the people of Brunei arent really ones for a ‘night on the tarn’ so having circled the mosque yet again, we left the ghost town and hit the sack.
I’m sure he can afford the lecky bill……..bet he keeps the immersion on all night too!
The only people on the streets after 6pm
Does that mean if you don’t throw it over your shoulder there’s no jail time?
So, with a great nights kip away from each other, we were up with the larks to get the ferry to Kota Kinabalu and continue on our Borneo adventure. Brunei was great for a day but I think any longer and we would have probably either died of boredom or been kidnapped by the Muslim police and subjected to some unthinkable acts of torture as punishment for our non compliant behaviour.
Our route on this post:
|1||Sungai Tujuh, Brunei||July 13, 2013|
|2||Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei||July 13, 2013|
|3||Muara, Brunei||July 14, 2013|