Mukim Rambai, Tutong, Brunei
Lake Merimbun Tutong Reviews
Diamond in Trough Dec 21, 2013
Tasek Merimbun, Tutong – Diamond in a Trough.
The idea to come to this place came out of nowhere. It was the first week of a month long school holiday here in Brunei and I was running out of ideas on where else to take my bored nieces and nephews. Then I thought of taking them picnicking. My youngest nephew who was only six doesn’t like to travel. If you plan a journey that includes him in it, you need to pass in answering three questions – Is the destination boring? How long will it take us to get there? And when will we come home? However, a few days prior to the Tasek Merimbun idea, I took him and his brother and sister to the school where I work. I needed to pick up something and they were bored at home. I work some 25 minutes away from home and since we live in the countryside, the journey to my school itself was quite scenic. So on the way home, I made a short excursion, a road trip to the very end of the road and to my surprise, he loved it! I was very much pumped up when he asked me where else I would take him. So I bought them all the most expensive ice cream the nearby grocery store could offer – A Magnum. It was while we were eating the ice cream in my little car that the idea to go to Tasek Merimbun or Merimbun Lake transcended.
What I planned to be just a small group tour became an entourage consisting of my parents, my aunt, my sisters and their spouses and of course my five little nieces and nephews. We went in a convoy of three cars. Since my brother-in-law was the only one who had been to the lake, he led the way.
Tasek Merimbun is located in Tutong district, which is the next district after Brunei, where the main capital is. To get there, we had to go pass Lamunin, which is about 45 minutes away from where we live, cruising inland pass a long stretch of two-way meandering road. The drive itself was very scenic. I knew that Brunei boasts itself the title “The Greenheart of Borneo” with the country still has about 80% of its land covered in thick rainforest, but driving through the tall trees peppered with landscapes of green paddy fields as far as the eye can see and the rustic looking country houses gives the name a whole new meaning. The road that took us to Merimbun was in good condition; meaning to say it was asphalted all the way with occasional bumps and potholes here and there as we went further from civilization. We kept going passed Lamunin and entered a hilly winding road in a village called Rambai where Tasek Merimbun is located. The last bit of the road, which was suppose to take us to the lake, was inundated from the rain that morning. Lucky for us the water was not that deep and we were able to wade our cars through it. One of my nephews was very excited when we did this. I was too. I could see that the sky was slowly brewing rain again in the sky so I took a mental note not to stay at the lake for too long afraid if the water at the flooded road would get too deep that it cut us off from the main road.
The first view of the lake took my breath away. Suddenly all the excitement from the driving was paused like someone just pressed the mute button on the remote and my mind went silent and slipped quietly into serenity – and I am not exaggerating this. If there is any yogi out there looking for a quiet place to do his yoga this would be the best place.
Tasek Merimbun or Merimbun Lake is the largest lake in Brunei. I must admit I don’t know much about this place except that it is just that – a big lake. But seeing the place myself made me realize just how much I have underrated my own country. The beauty of the place is comparable to the lakes I had seen in Bali. The surface of water spread out like a large mirror with small ripples occurring every now and then from the light breeze blowing from the west. Across were trees, green and tall surrounding the lake like old friends. And right at the entrance, there was a wooden bridge that went all the way to the middle of the lake where a small island lies quietly, waiting for unexpected visitors like me. I could see a hut on the island and there were two men fishing on it. Rumors have it that the placid lake is infested with crocodiles, and my eyes, while busy marveling at the beauty of the lake couldn’t help but looked out any shape that might resemble the reptilian. I thought I saw one although it could be just a rotting log floating.
There was a footpath around the lake supposedly for visitors to stroll on only when we tried to walk it, part of the footpath was deeply covered in water – the rain must’ve raise the water in the lake. So we decided to turn back and start unpacking the picnic basket and have our lunch there. There was a small wooden building that looked like a small assembly hall with no walls. One thing about being in the middle of the rainforest is that it can get really humid there, but lucky for us, the fans on the ceiling of the assembly hall were still working so the heat was bearable. Lunch went very swiftly as everyone was already very hungry from the long trip and from the heat.
Naturally, after lunch some of us wanted to use the toilet. There was a public toilet just behind the assembly hall. It looked quite decent and new from the outside. My dad was the first one to go but he came out as soon as he got in – The toilet bowl was blocked with a tin can! So the panic began, as he was not the only one who needed to go. My sister suggested for us to leave right away and sadly enough she was right. We started packing the food and were making our way out. However, before leaving the place we made a final stop to have a look at the wooden bridge. My brother-in-law, my nephew and I went first. At the entry of the bridge was a small wharf and there moored an old white fiberglass boat. It looked like it hasn’t been used for a long time and was already half-filled with water. I could also see a hut with a tin roof and there were some lifejackets hanging covered in dust and next to it was a sign bearing the price charged for a river cruise: $5 per person. The scene reminded me of some horror story about an abandoned place in the middle of nowhere haunted by some sort of a monster. I inspected the wooden bridge to see if it was safe enough to walk on, the wooden planks that made out the bridge were new but you could feel that the bridge itself was crying out for some humane love and care. A few metres connected to the bridge stood a small house with a counter right on the porch supposedly for visitors to sign up their names and wait for the river cruise boat. Some parts of the porch were also covered in a few centimetres of water from the lake and the house I noticed was tilting slightly to the right. It was a very sad sight indeed.
I treaded carefully along the flooded porch to get a connecting wooden bridge that led to the island where the two men were. But since I was not very sure of the strength of the bridge, I didn’t dare to take the risk and turned back instead.
Along my way back to the car, my mind began to wonder. I wondered why nothing has been done to promote this place for tourism. Surely a company can always start up a business that takes visitors from the city to the lake. I mean the trip alone would probably take about an hour or so by van and the journey itself would be quite an experience. They should also let the locals in that area to sell some food or handicrafts as souvenirs, I mean I would love a keychain or a fridge magnet that could remind me of that place. This place has a lot of potential yet there it is; lying there quietly, alone, underrated like a diamond in a trough.
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