Abode of Peace Pt III: Brunei

Abode of Peace [13 – 14 August 2011]

Pt I: Prologue
Pt II: Outbound (SIN – KUL – BWN)
Pt III: Brunei
Pt IV: Inbound (BWN – SIN – KUL)
Pt V: Epilogue

Stepping outside the airport both of us could feel that the weather in Brunei wasn’t as humid as Singapore’s.

Following the instruction from our guidebook (what else but Lonely Planet), we took a right after exiting the arrival terminals and attempted to find a bus stop.

There wasn’t any bus stop in sight but a nice Bruneian man told us in English that we could flag any of the purple public buses passing by.

Sure enough a little while later a Bus 36 (adorned with Filipino flags on the windscreen) came and off we hopped on it.

Inside the bus

A little known fact outside the region is that Bruneian dollar is pegged to Singapore dollar at par; Singapore dollar is accepted as customary tender in Brunei and vice versa.

Thus we were able to pay our B$1 bus fare using a S$2 note and the driver accepted without any fuss.

Towards BSB

It didn’t take the most direct route to the capital. Instead it went through several residential estates and passed by quite a few buildings.

Ministry of Culture and ....

One of the palaces?

Terrace Hotel - Where we ended up staying

Closer to town we were stuck in a rather heavy traffic. No idea why though.

Chung Hwa Middle School in the background - its most famous alumni is probably Taiwan-based artiste Wu Chun

The bus reached its terminal after almost 30 minutes since leaving the airport and we decided to take a look at the K.H. Soon Resthouse located a few blocks away.

However we struggled a while with our map-reading and orientation of the small town.

The brown building and the Arabic script reminded me of Syria

Somehow we managed to stumble on the guesthouse and went in to enquire about the rates. We were told by the receptionist that double with attached toilet is B$45 and the one without is B$40.

We did take a look at the rooms but couldn’t make a decision. We told the receptionist that we would like to shop around first and decided to check out Terrace Hotel, the one which we passed by earlier on the bus.

It was a few minutes walk up the road that we came from and seemed kinda quiet.

Its receptionist quoted us the price of B$80 and offered us the key to a double room at level 2. We went to check it out and decided that it was probably worth the extra money for just one night.

Beds

TV & Table

Bathtub

View from our balcony

Back at the lobby I asked the receptionist whether it was the best price that he could offer; in the end we agreed that we did not need breakfast since S was fasting and settled on B$75. The receptionist also gave us the password to the free WiFi which worked exceptionally well throughout the stay.

After freshening up, we decided to take a walk around BSB before the sun set.

Portraits of the Sultan and his consort at the hotel lobby

Slightly down the road from our hotel were food stalls selling food to those who would be breaking fast soon.

Food stalls

We decided to explore a bit more and promised to check out the stalls later.

More scenes of BSB:

Some state building

One of the ministries

There's a Jalan Sultan in Singapore too

He's everywhere

Funky-looking clock in the middle of the road

Nice frame for Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Citibank in Jawi - Cool

Soon we reached Kampung Ayer, probably BSB’s most famous landmark.

Obelisk

Plaque

Across the river was Kampung Ayer.

Funny to see the giant advertisement board in the middle of the village

The boatman in the above picture offered us a tour of the water village for B$20.

With the memories of sea-sickness in P. Dayang still fresh in my mind, I didn’t want to go near the flimsy boat (although S fancied a ride around the village).

In the end I was happy just taking pictures from the shore.

Safer on land

After lingering there for a while, we turned back inland and walked through Yayasan Complex (shopping mall in downtown BSB).

The mosque from another angle

Dinner time beckoned and we stumbled upon Ayamku, which we found out later was featured on Lonely Planet.

“Brunei’s answer to KFC, this is one of the cheapest places in town to get a meal. You can get a big piece of fried chicken, some rice and a drink for about B$3. And the chicken is surprisingly good. One note: this may be purely coincidental, but many of the diners here seemed remarkably plump for Southeast Asians.”

ROFL!

There was a set meal for two at B$10 which looked like this:

5 pieces of chicken, two portions of rice, salad, chili and cakes and two bottles of Pepsi

Chicken

I remembered to take photos of our food because S had to wait for the time to break fast.

The chicken looked dry on the outside but to our surprise they were actually quite juicy. The chili sauce was not bad as well.

So over dinner we were discussing about our big plan of bringing the franchise to Singapore. Lonely Planet did get it spot with this recommendation.

After dinner we retraced our way towards our hotel.

BSB at 8pm looked kinda like 3am in Tampines.

Which was empty.

Perhaps it was due to Ramadan and many were still in the mosques for sermon.

The food stalls that we passed by earlier were closed by the time we passed by them again. However we discovered that there was a small Hari Raya bazaar nearby.

At there S bought not one but two baju kurung for his new nephew and neither fit. The nephew will need to wait a couple of years to wear them because his uncle couldn’t judge the size.

Although our guidebook indicated that there was a hawker opposite our hotel, we missed it completely on our way out.

Hawker centre

Its light attracted us on our way back and we were debating whether to eat ambuyat, Brunei’s national dish at one of the stalls.

In the end we didn’t as we were too full and went back to our hotel to wash up.

We did go down again later for some drinks.

S got the diluted milo

More people around now

The next morning we did make full use of our hotel stay and slept in till almost 12 noon.

After checking out, we decided to check out the Royal Regalia Museum which was around 5-10 minutes walk away.

View of the building from the side

To our surprise there were actually tour groups (from China) visiting the museum. Besides us there were quite a number of other tourists as well.

Visitors were requested to leave their shoes at the doors and had to deposit their bags, phones and cameras into the lockers.

However we were allowed to take photographs of the lobby area (where there were some exhibits).

Royal chariot

Ceremonial shields

There were quite a number of exhibits inside the museum and we took quite some time to browse through all of them. There are some interesting items (for eg gifts given by Lee Hsien Loong to Sultan Bolkiah) and we did learn a bit of Bruneian history. However I wasn’t sure if I would pay to enter if they charge admission fees.

After leaving the museum, I went to get some food from Jollibee, a Filipino fast-food chain, while S went to Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque for prayers. Effective time management indeed.

Rather empty (because of Ramadan?)

My cup of coke

Beef steak with rice - only remembered to take a picture halfway through the meal

I had to wait for a while before S returned from his prayers. It was by then time to return to the airport.

We were quite lucky to find that the bus to the airport was leaving soon when we arrived at the bus terminal.

Similarity between Singapore and Brunei: Bus 36 links the airport with the city centre

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