"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Thursday, April 4, 2013

24 hours BSB


BSB is in one of the top ten richest countries in the world after Qatar, Luxembourg and Singapore. I had the opportunity to spend roughly 24 hours there & sadly it was not all gold and glitz, although this entry will be about it.

Boarded the early bus at 7am from Miri at Pujut Corner. I think it cost me RM40 for the 4 hour trip. Handed my passport to the conductor as the bus pulled out and he kindly filled up the immigration form for me as the bus journeyed on. 

Brunei is DRY!!!

As Brunei is an Islamic nation, they have very strict rules about alcohol. It's even stated on the bus ticket. I have read Thorn tree & TripAdvisor posts about how tourist try to bring in a tipple by transferring them into mineral bottles and thermoses. Hello... respect the culture of the country. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!

Anyway, after 1 1/2 hours or so in the bus, I got off at the Malaysian checkpoint, and next to the Brunei checkpoint. Painless 10 minutes procedure to get my passport stamp (Yay! Another ASEAN country to complete the list!). Half way thru, stopped at Kuala Belait, an oil town to pick up more passengers. Small beachside town with all the amenities and  an array of international eateries to choose from, thanks to the O&G industry. Quite a pleasant town for an expat. Saw lots of pretty Shell employee bungalows on the way.

This is their only mode of public transport - Public Bus

Arrived in BSB around 11am so started looking for a place to stay. Most of their hotels are rather pricey, thanks to a strong exchange rate (B$1 = RM2.50). Decided against staying at the YHA dorms (Upgraded myself from backpacker to flashpacker). Walked around and finally found an old hotel for B$65 at the far end of the town. Although it had a mini swimming pool, the bed was lumpy & the lift was dodgy. Thank God it was only for a night. I happened to only carry RM and Sing dollars at that time so paid them the equivalent in Sing Dollars, which was equal dollar for dollar.

This is how retro my hotel was.
Even had an old style juke box by the bar.

Set out to explore and get some lunch, as well as some Brunei dollars.

The Sultan is ever present

Was surprised at how empty the streets were, even at lunch time. If it was KL, freaking traffic jam, man! And this is in a country where almost everyone has cars cause fuel is so freaking cheap!

Hello! Anyone around?

First thing first... A visit to the Royal Regalia Museum. Heard there was an insane ammout of gold on display there and wasn't disappointed. Plus it was also a place of refuge in the searing midday heat!

Shoes had to be removed upon entering.
Bedroom slippers provided!

This place had the Royal Chariot, Royal Ceremonial Regalia and all the gifts given to the Sultan by Heads of State on display. There's even a interesting looking solid gold arm for the Sultan to rest his chin on during the crowning ceremony. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed at the exhibit halls, only in the rotunda. All in all, a pretty interesting place to spend an hour or more regaling in Brunei's past and ogling the opulence.

Ceremonial shield
(Notice I was wearing a cardi cause it was freaking cold in there?)

Ceremonial payungs

Royal Chariot
The Sultan gets paraded around the streets on this 

Most of the sights in Brunei are accessible by foot as the city is rather compact. Decided to walk about a bit when it wasn't so hot (but still pretty hot by my standards as I got a sunburn, despite a cap!).

Royal Regalia Museum

Royal Ceremonies Hall

Brunei National Library
They had a fantastic mosaic mural! 

Walked all they way to the river edge and was rewarded with the imposing Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin (SOAS) Mosque. Really, this place is pretty majestic and with clear blue skies as the backdrop, a photographer's dream.

The grounds are immaculate and such a pleasure to wander in. Pretty water features ie: fountains and ponds around, well tended lawns and well manicured shrubs. There's even a Royal Barge albeit a static, concrete one on display. So peaceful...

The Royal Barge

Most impressive for me was the area for cleansing/ 'wudud'. It had beautiful Roman columns with Islamic geometric patterns. The worshipers who were preparing to go into the mosque must be wondering why I was so awed with their 'wudud' area! Hahaha! Really hoped I could go in to see the amazing stained glass of the dome & run my hand thru the opulent Persian carpets (I know cause I sneaked a look). Even came appropriately dressed, jeans and a long sleeve cardigan covering my tank. Alas, it was not to be so as it was a Thursday and it was prayer day for them. So all I could do was camwhore a bit outside the grounds!

More next post on my trip to the Venice of the East!

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