Sunday, May 11, 2014


5-9 May 2014

This was my second time to Brunei, 7 years later after the first time -a transit on a Royal Brunei flight. Nothing much changed, I felt like I was being transported back to the 80s when I arrived at the airport. To be fair though, the airport is under renovation for modernisation, but the arrival hall has not been upgraded yet. We arrived almost midnight so we were being transported swiftly to our hotel -Radisson by Afiq from our Brunei office. 

Royal Brunei
Shared in flight entertainment. Travel doa was recited before taking off

In flight Nasi minyak

Radisson room

Bandar Sri Begawan (BSB) is a laidback city. Nobody seemed to be in a rush. When we walked, we were given the right of way while the cars patiently waited. I didn't see any motorcycles either, perhaps because cars are cheap! A fresh graduate at our office, Najib (just 1 month working) was driving a VW Polo, which cost about BND30K (about RM78K). For Malaysians, imagine you're earning in RM and the VW Polo costs you only RM30K!

There's no tall building either. Our Brunei office seemed to be the highest building in BSB. Even our hotel is only 6 floors high. BSB city centre is small, we even walked from office back to the hotel on the last day, although we were offered to be sent back.

Radisson hotel
view from office

Our Brunei host was truly gracious and generous. They brought us to eat Japanese, Indian and seafood restaurants for dinner. We were always full and food were always available, alhamdulillah. On the first night we were brought to the Excapade Sushi Bandar, near our office after the boys played futsal. They dropped me and a colleague, Garry at Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah mall to find some souvenirs. Nothing much here (less interesting for me), so we left not long after purchasing some fridge magnets. Since we still had time, we walked to the Waterfront just across the road from Yayasan and took some pictures of Kampung Ayer there. We didn't hop on the boat ride though. After that, we still had time, so we decided to walk to the office and ask the guard there where the Sports complex was.

Yayasan Mall
Kg Ayer
jetty to Kg Ayer

We reached our office after about 10 minutes of walking (BSB really is a small city). Turned out the sports complex was another 5 minutes of walking from the office in the dark alley between the buildings. We wouldn't dare to do this in Malaysia! BSB and Brunei is a safe city; our fresh graduate colleague who was chaperoning us just parked his newly acquired VW Polo at that dark alley! The sports complex iss located in a building at the 8th floor. It has a futsal court, squash courts, separate gymnasium and swimming pool by gender. The swimming pool usage charge is BND5 per person with unlimited time. We then walked for sushi from there.

Futsal court


On the second night, we were joined by another team from KL for dinner at Haleem's Authentic Indian Cuisine at Citi Square. The food was nice, just unfortunate that the palak paneer there tasted a bit bitter. The more senior team from KL then left back to the hotel while the youths continued our adventure to Times City Square (same management as Berjaya Times Square in KL) just next door. There's a hotel here – Times Hotel and a Cinema – Times Cineplex. I asked Aziz, another Brunei freshie how it'd be like with Hudud being implemented in Brunei. He said he heard talks that the cinema will be separated by gender and also by family. Husband and wife would have to carry their marriage card around (this practice is the same in Malaysia). We then had a round of Jollibee (a fast food chain that is not available in Malaysia) sundae. 

Times Cineplex


We then bade farewell to Najib and Aziz as the shops were closing at 10pm (except for the cinema and bowling alley). I then asked Afiq who were supposed to bring us back to the hotel if he could bring us around to see the Istana. He willingly obliged. We were brought around to the Istana Nurul Iman (not opened for public except during Eid) and Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. The mosque was really beautiful with the lights and gold dome. The Istana was heavily guarded so we had to ask for permission to take some pictures at the gates. Permission was granted. 

Masjid Jame'

Istana Nurul Iman

On the way back to the hotel, Afiq told us there are illegal car races around the streets in BSB. We passed by a few groups of cars gathered around, perhaps waiting for the coast to be clear from police patrols.

Next morning was an early rise for me. I decided to check out Tamu Kianggeh, (market) nearby to the hotel and within walking distance. The tamu opens at 6am (it was already bright). Reached there after about 10 minutes of walking. Vegetables, fresh seafood such as prawns and clams (freshly transported in by sampan), dried fish, traditional kuihs (bahulu, bakar, cincin etc) and breakfast dishes (selurut, lupis i.e. ketupat pulat with kuah kacang or glutinuous rice packed in woven palm leaves with sweet nut gravy) are sold here. Ambuyat (according to wikipedia: a dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm) is also sold here, but I didn't buy it as I wasn't sure how to eat it.

Sg Kianggeh
Welcome to Tamu Kianggeh
some of the produce were brought in by sampan

kuih for breakfast
selurut (on the left)
ambuyat raw

After finishing work that day, as we walked back to the hotel, we passed by the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and took some pictures there. For dinner, we had seafood at Seaworld Neptune restaurant. Just after we left the restaurant, it rained heavily, the first after a few days of hot spell. I noticed that in Brunei there's a different speed limit for dry and rain conditions.

Sultan Omar Ali mosque
Neptune seafood

Our flight back to KL was at 9am, so we had to check out early at 7am. We reached the airport within 15 minutes. Still early, we thought and went straight into the queue. (We didn't check in online and needed to deposit our bags). Chaos soon ensued as we were told that the system was down (the airport was in the midst of renovation), so the check in process had to be done manually (written down). Luckily we arrived earlier before the queue became long, so we had time to go through the immigration check and wait a bit at the boarding hall. Our flight was just slightly delayed to about 15 minutes taking off, but arrived in KLIA as per schedule.

The visit to Brunei wouldn't be as enjoyable had it not been due to the hospitality extended by our Bruneian host. Thank you very much Brunei for the wonderful experience!



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