Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brunei

From Kuching I took a short flight to Kota Kinabalu which is in the Malay providence of Sabah. Sabah is like Sarawak with some sort of autonomy so had to go through immigration and go another stamp in my passport. I spent one night in Kota Kinabalu and the following morning caught a boat to the island of Palau Labuan and from there a boat onto Brunei. I believe that Brunei is the richest nation in Southeast Asia but if not it is only second to Singapore. The immigration and customs process seemed simple enough and I caught a bus from the dock into the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan.

Once I found a room I rushed off to see the Omar Ali Saifuddirn Mosque. It turned out I had misunderstood the guide book and thought the Mosque was only open till 5 but as it turned out it was closed all day on Thursday and then open from 4 to 5 on Friday so I did not end up getting to go inside the mosque and only could enjoy it from the outside. This is a picture of the Mosque from later in the evening.



After seeing the outside of the mosque I walked down to where all of the water taxis wait for people. The guidebook suggest doing a tour with one of the taxis but one of the disadvantages of traveling alone is I just feel that doing some of these type of things is not worth it for one person. It was still interesting watching all the boats come and go. Bandar Seri Begawan has all of these neighborhoods built on stilts above the water and they are called Kampung Ayer. Most of these were on the other side of the water but I found a walkway leading to one neighborhood and wonder around for a while. Here is a picture of a water taxis coming from the Kampung Ayer.



The one thing I found really unusual about Bandar Seri Begawan was that all the signs where in Arabic. Even though this is a very Muslim country I did not expect the Arabic everywhere and even though it was the middle of Ramadan I did not find it hard to get food during the day.

I visited the Royal Regalia Museum the following day and it was mainly full of gifts given to the Sultan of Brunei received from different places. The problem with this is they only labeled the stuff as where it came from and at times I wanted to know what the item was. I did enjoy going around in the building and seeing the different stuff given to the world’s richest monarch.

I only spent the one night in Brunei and caught a boat back to Palau Labuan in Malaysia. I got to Palau Labuan about 1PM and the only boat going to Kota Kinabalu is at 12 so I ended up spending one night on the island. The island is a duty free place and had the cheapest beer of anywhere I have been to in Malaysia so I just spent my time here enjoying the cheap beer.

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