Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Borneo

January 21
We woke up way too early and took a taxi to the airport. This was our first AirAsia flight so we were kind of nervous about how it would play out. It was actually smooth. We were expecting a Ryan Air experience because the ticket was so cheap but it was a legit airline. We were off to Brunei! This is a little country on the worlds third largest island, Borneo. Borneo consists of half of Malaysia, part of Indonesia, and the entire small country of Brunei. Brunei is a really wealthy country that got rich off of oil. The people there are pretty well off and their entire population has health care and an education. There is a Sultan who is in charge and he lives in a palace. Originally, his palace was this multibillion dollar mansion that was built on the shore of the country but after it was built, it cost way too much money, so it was transformed into the world’s most expensive hotel, being described as 6-stars due to its luxury and expensive decorations. For example, there are lamps in the lobby that are half of a million dollars each. Now the sultan lives in the capital in a reasonable palace. We landed in this country and were hoping we didn’t need a visa in advance. Usually, since we are from the USA, we can get most visas on arrival at Southeast Asian countries. Sure enough, we got through customs without any problems. We took a very expensive ten minute taxi to our hotel, that was on the outskirts of the main city, Bandar Seri Begawan, known as BSB. We checked in, dropped our stuff off, and asked the front desk how to get to the city center. They said a $30 taxi or a 10 minute walk. We were like wtf, we will walk. They said to just follow the road outside the hotel. We started walking, but near our hotel was a huge mosque that was impressive. We walked closer and took pictures. We then took off our shoes and walked around it, passing a bunch of tour groups. We figured this was a touristy city because we saw two groups of about ten people in each at this mosque. However, that was the last time we saw tourists in the country for our entire stay. We then took a ‘shortcut’ to the city center, and ended up walking for about an hour on a legit highway. Locals were starring at us, like “what the hell?” Yeah, we are tourists and we are dumb. We get it. After walking down the highway and through mud, we finally got to the city center. There were three things to do in this city. There is a really cool mosque with a boat in the city center, a cool water village, and that’s it. I guess it’s two things. Locals would say food is the third, but it was the same food as Malaysia for the most part, so it was nothing new. They do have this cool dish here though. I couldn’t find any but wanted to try it. It is a clear paste that comes on a bowl and is sticky. You eat it by spinning chopsticks around. It looked different but we had no luck. We first took pictures of the neat mosque. It was very clean and had a pond in front of it. There was a walkway leading out to a cement boat in the middle of the pond that we walked out on. It was very different and looked cool. We then grabbed a bite to eat and then went to the waterfront. We rented out a taxi boat for an hour for $10 and he took us around the water village. This is the biggest water village on stilts in the world. And it isn’t just poor people. There are very modern looking homes that have multiple stories, electricity, satellite tv, modern plumbing and anything else you can think of. There are also many schools, a post office, a gas station for the taxi boats, and mosques. It has everything a normal town has. It’s crazy. While our driver was taking us around, he picked up his younger cousin and her friends from school. We dropped each of them off at their pier near where their houses were. It was cool to see. They all had modern smart phones and were texting a lot. After our boat ride, we walked around a mall and bought some fruit. We are craving fruit and vegetables because all we eat is chicken and rice here. We then walked for about an hour back to our hotel, but on a sidewalk this time. We feel fat so we went to our hotel’s gym. There was a legit three story gym next to our hotel that was free for guests. We went and it was all locals. They had everything from a boxing ring, to cycling, to rock climbing. We lifted weights, then did abs. We tried the rock wall, which was pretty neat because it was a moving rock wall that rotated as you climbed so you never got more than five feet above the ground. You can adjust the speed to give yourself a challenge. We then ran a mile or so on an incline to get ready for our hike up Mount Kinabalu in a couple of days. We also did stairs for a while. After being exhausted, we took a dip in the pool. We showered and took a taxi to the town. It was only $10 now to go there and back. It made no sense. We walked around and took some night pictures. The whole city was completely dead by 9:00 pm. The only thing open was one section of four street food stands, so we had some meat on a stick. We then took a taxi back to our hotel and went to bed early to catch the ferry to Kota Kinabalu in the morning.

mikepsilve'sBrunei  album on Photobucket