Anxious. But not as excited as before when taking the train to our home airport. Perhaps I was so traumatised by the previous flights were I had experienced serious air turbulence. Or maybe I have been travelling too much since the last holidays where I travelled to four countries back to back within a time span of two months. Or maybe the switch to a healthy lifestyle had got me hook to gyming and dancing rather than travelling and setting foot to explore new territories.
I’ve got bitten by the travel bug since I was a freshmen in university and the “travel venom” which flows through my blood was an intense one. Thus, for some very odd reasons, I didn’t really felt that kick in me or that adrenaline rush when I know I will be jetsetting to an unexplored territory in Asia. But looking back, I’ve never regretted embarking on this trip because the travel genes inside of me have once again been activated. And all the sudden, I have this new dream of embarking on journeys to mystical and unfamiliar places where I would be awakened by the discovery of the place, and more importantly, of myself. With each subsequent travels accomplished, I find myself fathoming both the world and myself as an individual. With each journey, I felt spiritually refreshed. Likewise for this brunei trip, I felt I have just woken up from a beautiful dream.
Travelling with people whom I’ve never met before is nothing new for me and I have no qualms about it as long as I’ve tried my best to accomodate others without losing the essence of who I am as a person. Unlike the previous sponsored travel trips I had, this time I was travelling in a smaller group with 5 other comrades whom I’ve yet to know about.
At the airport, we were warmly greeted by Guat Wen, the Country Manager Singapore from Royal Brunei Airlines. Nothing is quite like it when we were escorted to Royal Brunei Airlines’ Premium Lounge for a hassle and fuss-free check. Once we checked-in our luggages, we went for breakfast over some ice-breaker sort of conversations where we introduced ourselves to each other.
Onboard the aircraft, I had this low-calorie inflight meal which I’ve requested prior to this flight. The switch to a healthy and semi-vegan lifestyle would meant that I have to forgo all the sweet and sinful treats and stick to nutritious food that feeds the body. I was delighted to find a slab of roasted salmon in my meal box along with steamed baby cabbages and baby potatoes along with the wedge of lemon. Squeezing some lemon juice over the salmon not only helps to whet the appetite but also adds a good dose of vitamin C to your meal. Along side with the meal box is a some fruits, a wholemeal bread and a box of apple salad tossed with olives and tomatoes.
After two hours of flight, we’ve finally reached this prosperous and placid ancient sultanate of the Borneo island. Before we left the aircraft, we took a quick photo moment with the air steward and stewardess who served us our warm meals during the flight.
Spotted the author of Deenise Glitz? I’m in my usual H&M pink top.
My impression of this country was formed when I vaguely remembered about a conversation with my Dad years ago about a particular hotel in Brunei which has gold-plated taps and toilet bowls. I had a couple of university mates who were Bruneians and they, too, told me about how small but rich Brunei is. Whatever that is, those are just my first impression of this country which has changed after discovering and learning more about its place and culture. So what’s unique about this country? Their love and care for the environment. The moment we step onto Brunei International Airport grounds, we were greeted with vast decorations and structures which were made using recycled materials such as wooden chopsticks and plastic bottles.
Muaz Roslan from Royal Brunei Airlines and Tom from Sunshine Borneo Tours were there to receive us.
It just felt really pleasant to have someone waiting for your arrival at the arrival hall with your name written on the placard or a sheet of paper. Their anticipation of our arrival with their huge smiles and warm handshakes has instantly made us felt really welcome to this part of the world.
After the warm greetings and exchange of namecards, all of us received a little welcome goodie bag from Royal Brunei Air and a 3G-sim card for our phones. That would meant that we bloggers can continue tweeting and instagraming while setting off for our adventure in Brunei! This was great news because with 3G-simcard, I could now instantly upload travel photos on social media platforms for the world to see.
The original card value was BND 10 ( or SGD 10) though it costs BND 30 to purchase a 3G sim card.But in addition to the 3G simcard, each of us was also given a 5-dollar top-up value card just in case our 3G-sim cards run out of value. But our total 3G-sim card value (of BND 15) actually last us for the whole trip.
Our adventure begins right here!
Tom, from Sunshine Borneo Tours, was our tour guide for this 4 day 3 nights trip and he accompanied us throughout this trip. Of all the tour guides that I’ve engaged with in my previous travels, Tom is probably one of the most professional and experienced tour guides I’ve met thusfar.Later, I also get to know that Tom is indeed one of the best tourguides around in Brunei.
When we board up the bus, they threw in another surprise when Tom started distributing welcome goodie bags with brochures,maps,magazines on Brunei and a Polo Tee. Each of us was also given a media pass with our names and personal details printed on it.
It took us about 15 minutes to travel from Brunei International Airport, in Bandar Seri Begawan 9 this capital of Brunei) to the city centre where our hotel is. We spent our first night at the Rizqun International Hotel.
Below is the contact and details of the hotel just in case you want to check this hotel out.
I like that the room was clean and everything in the room, from the furniture to the electrical appliances, looked rather new and were in their mint condition. My room was also equipped with hair dryer, LCD TV, DVD player, refrigerator, mini bar,electronic safe and paid wifi access. There is also a swimming pool here at this hotel. But, sadly, it does not have a gym.
Sin Kew Hin Department Store
The window view from my hotel room.
The Bruneians travelled mainly by cars instead of bicycles or buses. Unlike other urban cities, Brunei does not have a train transport network system. The only form of public transport here in Brunei is buses, taxis or water taxis. The public buses usually operate from 6.30am to 6.00pm which makes it difficult for tourists to roam the city in the night. Rented cars or taxis could be a better option if you’re travelling here on your own.
After freshening ourselves up, we had some time to explore the shops and malls located in the vicinity of our hotel before we met Tom for dinner and city night tour. One of the most established malls in Brunei which also happened to be called “The Mall” is actually just right beside The Rizqun International hotel.
Geared up and all ready to explore the new sights and sounds of this city.
You would be surprise to hear that there is only one McDonalds in Brunei Darrussalam. The Bruneians love their KFCs better.
For dinner, we had a sumptous steamboat seafood dinner at Port View where we get to enjoy a paranomic view of Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s iconic water village. About a stone throwaway from this restaurant is this well-known Japanese restaurant called Kaizen Sushi which was highly recommended by Tom. That would be another dining option for you to try in Brunei.
That’s a huge heap of seafood meat and vegetables.
For the soup base, we had clear herbal soup and spicy tom yum soup. Since the ingredients used were all fresh, the soup based was made sweeter aftering tossing all the seafood meat and vegetables into it.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque (aka SOAS mosque) Built in 1958
Right after dinner, we toured around Brunei in the dark. I believe that there is a different feel to Brunei when you are exploring the city by night. The streets was largely quiet except for a few passer-bys and cars passing by. All the Bruneians seemed to have retreated back to their homes where they spent some good quality time with their family members or friends. Even with the stillness in the city during the night, the city was still awakened with the soft glow and lighting emitted from the mosques and other commercial buildings.
The view of the SOAS mosque from a distance was simply stunning. This royal islamic mosque is located in Bandar Seri Begawan, which is the capital of Brunei. The reflection of golden domes and marble minarets were casts on the clear waters of the Brunei River at Kampong Ayer that particular night. Tom said that it’s usually quite difficult to capture such a beautiful sight so I would guess that we were really lucky to enjoy such a spectacular view.
With the exterior of the mosque looking so grand and pompous, I really wonder what the interior of the mosque would look like. I am imagining that there could be intricately-designed colourful tiling on the ceilings and walls of the mosque within. The architecture of this royal islamic mosque is something that I’ve yet to discover and learn about. I guess that would mean that I need to be back here again in Brunei to take beautiful photos of SOAS mosque.
Opening hours: Sun – Wed, from 8 am to 5.30pm except prayer times.Closed on Thu and Fri.Free Admission.
Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (aka JAME mosque) Built in 1994
Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is another lavish-looking mosque with glittering domes that were made with pure gold. A visit to the muslim mosque is a must especially when you are touring here in Brunei. The tour de force of its architectural beauty will leave you in awe.
Opening hours: Sun – Wed from 8 am to 12noon, 2pm to 3pm and 5 pm to 6 pm. Admission: Free
Fitness Zone Health Club
A trip to Brunei should also include a visit to famous Brunei-born Taiwanese singer, Wu Chun’s gym called Fitness Zone Health Club especially if you are a big fan of this gorgeous-looking superstar in Taiwan. Wu Chun belongs to the small Chinese community living here in Brunei. The Chinese made up 10 percent of Brunei’s total population.
Tom mentioned that one might have a close encounters with the fitness enthusiasts,Wu Chun if you spot his personal car in the car parking lots near his gym.
A city tour around Brunei would not be complete without a visit to the night market at Gadong shopping area where you are able to try some of their local delicacies like Nasi Katok (a small packet of rice with chilli and some meat) or Selurut ( a sweet-savoury green coloured pudding made with rice flour,coconut milk and eggs.) You might some of the food familiar like the different assortments of malay kuihs ( or bite-sized cakes) which are traditionally eaten by both Malays and Chinese here in Singapore.
You could actually skip dinner if you want to have a taste of these Bruneian local delights which were prepared in the Bruneian way. However, you might have to stand while eating as there are seating areas.
That particular night at the market was rather quiet. Tom explained that at this time of the month, most Bruneians would be spending their time at home til the payday comes and the markets and shops are Gadong area would be bustling with liveliness once again.
I noticed that the Bruneians here love to display their food in a prim and proper manner. Everything has to be arranged nicely on the plate . To keep food free from dust, they would use a cling wrap to cover cooked food. They must be quite particular about hygiene here, aren’t they?
As with their muslim counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Bruneians love their food to be spicy. I can’t resist spicy food as well.
Most Bruneians here can speak English and Bahasa Melayu ( Malay ) well enough to converse. The Bruneians are educated in both English and Melayu. With the language barrier, it makes travelling to Brunei much easier.
Get creative with these mini steam cakes!
As you can see, colours play a huge role in part of the Bruneians way of life.
Our Brunei-By-Night tour ended on a sweet note.
Anticipate more adventure to come in the next post!