April 1st, 2016
After finishing up work at 6:30pm I went home to quickly shower and eat. Kristen drove me to the train station. Besides the crowd of people at the HSR, due to the long weekend, I got to the airport with no problems. My overnight flight was fine, but only resulted in me getting two hours of sleep.
April 2nd, 2016
I had trouble figuring out how to transfer into a different terminal in the Kuala Lumpur Airport without a pre-printed boarding pass. They didn’t print me off a second one in Taipei, so I went to a help desk in KL. This is where I found out that my flight had been changed. Instead of leaving on a 9:03am flight I was now leaving on a 1:30pm flight for Brunei. I stood for awhile wondering if I should be pissed or not. I walked away and immediately started Google searching for things to do by the KL airport. I wanted to go and see The Twin Towers in KL city, but just to get there was a 2-hour drive and I wasn’t in the mood for a 4-hour round trip drive. It would have been me just getting into the car, getting out to take a picture, and then getting back in. Wasn’t worth it. Thus began six hours of airport time. I Face-timed my friend, Josman, from college who is from Malaysia. Then I napped, ate food, and walked around.
On my flight to Brunei I sat next to a larger woman. I felt really bad because she had to squeeze over just so I could kind of sit in my seat. The second hour of the flight we ended up chatting. She was returning from a trip to Japan and gave me all these suggestions of things to see in Brunei. I forgot how common the Malay language is in the area. Every place I mentioned I had been to she asked if they spoke Malay, haha. I’m so glad I spoke to her. She was a great source of information and a really nice woman.
I couldn’t have been more excited when I finally landed in Brunei. I had taken almost a whole day to get there. My hotel driver was there to pick me up. I felt so fancy having my name on a sign. I hadn’t really realized how small Brunei was. The drive from the airport to the hotel was at the MOST, 20 minutes. I was greeted at the hotel, given a map, and I immediately signed up for a shuttle to The Mall. Bandar area is sort of walkable, but most people drive here. It made sense. The humidity alone was more than enough for me to get a ride. I walked around The Mall, and then went outside and walked around the night market nearby. The whole market was food and everything was so good and cheap. Later, the shuttle back to the hotel made 3 stops so that we could take nighttime pictures with the two famous mosques and the outer gates of the sultans palace. All three looked spectacular lit up at night. It took me forever to get there, but I was really enjoying Brunei.
April 3rd, 2016
Right away at 9:00am I was on a shuttle to the Jame ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. It is the largest mosque in Brunei. I was directed to put on a black robe before entering the interior of the mosque. I couldn’t go all the way into the prayer area, but I was able to walk around the rest of the area. I wondered why I had to wear black. Was it because I was a woman that wasn’t muslim? I couldn’t really find anyone to answer my questions so I was just guessing. I wasn’t able to take pictures inside the mosque. I couldn’t take pictures inside most of the government buildings, museums, or mosques. I understood why, but at the end of my trip I just had a lot of pictures of food and only the exteriors of buildings. After I looked at the mosque I walked to Amir Asif Restaurant. Brunei is not a walkable country, so figuring out how to maneuver around so I could find a sidewalk was a bit more difficult than I imagined. At the restaurant I ordered ‘ambuyat’. It is the Brunei delicacy. It is a tapioca rice flour mixture that you dip in sauce. The set comes with side dishes like fried fish, beef, and vegetables. I had forgotten that I was going to be eating an early lunch, so at breakfast I had eaten a lot of food. By lunch time I wasn’t super hungry, but I wasn’t going to pass up this eating experience. The ambuyat was…interesting. At first, I really liked it, but as I kept eating it I started to like it less and less. I felt really bad too because the meal only comes in a set for two. I said I would pay for the set, but just please make less food. The waitress did not listen to that request. I tried my hardest to eat a dinner for two people, but failed epically.
At 11:00am, my shuttle picked me up and I spent an hour calling different tour offices trying to find a tour for the national park. One office happened to have a hotline and picked up, on a Sunday! I requested the tour and she said she would get back to me. Feeling a little defeated I went out again. I walked to the Royal Regalia Museum and saw a bunch of pictures of the Sultan and his regalia from his coronation. It was intense and amazing to see the extent of promenade Brunei gave their king/sultan. I bought some tourist stuff at the gift shop and then walked over to the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It was located by the river front. Again, I went inside the mosque in a black robe. I was able to stand in the prayer area, but only on a particular brown carpet area. The rest of the room was dedicated for people who were there to pray and worship. I then proceeded to the boat outside of the mosque that gives you a view of the mosque and some of the water village located nearby.
Wanting to get out of the heat and have access to wifi I went to Coffee Bean, ordered a drink and hung out. I eventually got in contact with the tour office and she had great news for me. She had found a tour and could meet with me later to finalize the details and collect the tour payment. I was so excited that I had actually gotten into a tour, last minute, and for a good price (90USD).
I walked over to the day market by the river. All the stands offered different fruit and vegetable varieties. I was about to find a boat to drive me around the water village when one waved me down and gave me the exact price I had hoped for. I think I was on a lucky streak! My boat driver made the loop around the water village. It was huge! I had been to floating villages in Vietnam and Cambodia, but those villages had nothing on this one. These villages were established with a police station, mosques, schools, and different apartments and houses. I think I even spotted a few restaurants in the villages. The villages went on for miles too. The driver also showed me the bridge that was being built to connect one island portion of Brunei to another. We drove around for an hour and then went back to the Bandar port.
I spent a couple hours walking around the Yayasan Complex. I bought a few things, had some Dairy Queen ice cream and then went back to my hotel.
At 7:00pm I met the tour schedule director, paid for it, and then went to dinner at a famous sushi restaurant in Bandar, Kaisen Sushi. I was pretty lazy and had a shuttle take me to the restaurant. The restaurant had so many choices on the menu. I was overwhelmed by the mass amounts of food I could order but settled for some tuna sushi and KL maki with ice cream tempura for dessert. With a very full stomach I walked along the waterfront back to my hotel.
April 4th, 2016
I had to be ready for my pick-up at 7:30am. It was a very early morning and I was trying to eat breakfast and drink coffee as quickly as possible. I was picked up and met the Chinese couple, Kiki and Lemon, that would be on the tour with me. We were taken to the boat jetty port and put on a boat that would take us to Temburong District. It was a 45-minute boat ride that I actually enjoyed! I am usually not a fan of boats and get really apprehensive when I’m on them. In Temburong, we got picked up and had a 20-minute drive into the national park. We met our tour guide and boat driver there. We had a long boat ride that took us further into the park. The water was low because it hadn’t rained much in March so at one point we couldn’t get past a corner. I seriously thought we were going to have to get out and push the boat upstream. After a few tries we made it past the corner and continued down the river.
Once we registered in the national park registry we proceeded up the trail to the canopy walk. It was hot, humid, and all stairs. I was drenched in sweat within five minutes. I felt super awesome because I was in better shape than my tour guide who does the walk almost every day. The couple on our tour actually stopped at one point and didn’t think they would go the rest of the way. The guide and I proceeded up the mountain until finally we reached the canopy. I went up the metal structure by myself and oh my gosh was that a test of my recent “cure” for my fear of heights. At the top the structure it gets really shaky and even has a level to tell a person if they are moving too much! I took several pictures at the top and then went down to the second level right away. I made it to all five points of the canopy walk before having to go back down.
At the bottom the couple showed up, so we waited as Lemon went up into the canopy. Then we walked all the way down to the beginning of the trail. It took far less time to go down. Ha! Our next stop was the waterfall. We changed into flip-flops. As we were walking along the stream I was just thinking about how I should buy a new pair of Reef sandals when my one sandal broke! The irony! I was kind of bummed, but I had had those flip-flops for over 4 years so I got my moneys worth. When we reached the waterfall Kiki started laughing because the waterfall was so small. I think the guide was a little offended, but as she had informed us earlier the lack of rain had made the waterfall stream really low. The pool of the waterfall was full of spa fish that bite the dead skin off of your feet. I had done this before and knew what I was getting myself into. It took all my might to stand still while the fish went to town on my feet. These were not the small baby fish that I had seen in fish spas. They were over 3 inches long!
We went back to the boat and went to the Back 2 Nature campsite. We were fed lunch and then prepared to go back to the port.
We said goodbye to our guides, drove to the jetty port, and then took the boat back to Bandar. Back at my hotel I took a much needed shower and sat in the air conditioning for awhile. Needing some coffee I went to a shop and read my book. Later on I took a shuttle to The Mall. I had a waffle burger for dinner and then did some last minute shopping. Since I was taking the 9:00pm shuttle back to the hotel we did a round of stops at the attractions that were lit up at night. I didn’t mind doing them again. It was like having one last goodbye to Brunei.
April 5th, 2016
I got up super early so that I could take a shuttle to the airport at 7:00am. On my flight to KL I was seated next to an American woman. At first I was super annoyed with her because she roughly moved around my bag which had my camera in it. Later my attitude for her vastly turned around. Near the end of the flight she asked me if I liked my book. I was reading ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’. I said that I did and she said that she had read it, really liked it, and that the book she just finished reading had a similar theme. She said she really appreciated other people with good taste in books and gave me the book she had just finished reading. I don’t think she understood how big of a deal this was to me. I explained to her how expensive English books were in Taiwan and she said that it was the same in Brunei. She lived in Brunei and we talked a bit about the country and a little bit about Taiwan. When we parted ways in the airport she said that it was really nice to meet a fellow American and I thanked her again. Before I could say anything she was off in a fast paced walk to get out of the airport. It was such a cool book nerd moment!
After this encounter I had an hour of fun in the KL airport. I knew I needed to be in Terminal 2 for my Air Asia flight, but didn’t think I was in the correct terminal and none of the signs were helping me. I asked an information desk. The woman said that I needed to get onto the airport shuttle and go through immigration to get to Terminal 2. I did that, but I ended up on the outside of Terminal 1! I asked another information desk worker and he directed me to the airline offices. I went up and down the levels of the terminal before a taxi driver actually told me that I needed to pay 2 Ringget to get to Terminal 2 through the express train. The KL airport should hire him! It took almost an hour to get it figured out but I was finally in the correct terminal. Later, my friend Josman made the comment that I should have called and asked him because he would have been better help. Sadly, I have to agree with him. I settled down with some coffee and was instantly a happier person, ha. I then ate lunch/dinner at Johnny Rockets. It is an American burger joint based on the west coast and Alex had just told me about it. I was always down for another burger so I ate one.
I had killed enough time that I could go through check-in and go into the terminal. I had literally gone through immigration earlier for nothing! I had another Malaysian stamp in my passport for noooo reason. I still can’t stop shaking my head at that. I wasted away the next couple of hours by reading, drinking more coffee, and video chatting with a friend from college, Puddy. At 5:05pm I could board my flight for Taipei. I was so ready to get out of the KL airport.
I landed in Taiwan fairly late and took the bus to Taichung, and then a cab home to Fengyuan. I was home by 1:30am and in bed by 2:00am. I went to work in the morning and worked a full day with no problem.
Despite being in the airport for such a long time, I had a great time in Brunei. Everyone was so nice. The country was nice. My hotel room was huge and a great get away from the daily hustle and bustle of work and chores. It was cool to be in a muslim country where alcohol and drugs are prohibited and muslim laws are in place and still have a great time. Often the media portrays Islam as bad and restricting of peoples rights. I didn’t feel like that was occurring in Brunei at all. Women were working everywhere. The dress was pretty conservative, but it wasn’t restricting. Overall, a cool country that I never thought I would get to experience, but got to.