Exploring the city
Bandar Seri Begawan Travel Blog› entry 165 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip:
After an exhausting ordeal getting into Brunei and the lack of an alarm clock, i awoke around 11am and quickly got ready for my only full day in the country. After heading to a food court for some lunch, i caught a local bus out to the Empire Hotel at Jerudong, about a 1 hour journey. It had been built by Prince Jefri at the staggering cost of $USD 1.1 BILLION!!! and was part of the reason why the Sultan tried his brother for wasting public money. Unsurprising really. I felt a bit out of place walking around in my t-shirt and boardies as some of the guests paid up to $22,000 for a single night! I ventured through the lobby, some of the dining areas and into the back gardens where i was greeted by enormous swimming pools and an 18 hole golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus.
The day was already flying by, so i decided to go and check out Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the daylight. I walked around the circumference and discovered it had a very pretty lagoon, which mirrored the mosque and boat it housed beautifully. The boat reminded me of Cixi's Marble one in Beijings Summer Palace. I also coincided my visit with the time that i could go into the mosque, which was very beautiful, but unfortunately i couldn't take pictures. There were old Korans and the decor had held out well since it was built in 1958, for a monstrous $5,000,000. I walked over Teman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Safuddien field to get back to my hotel, just as it began to rain.
Thankfully the rain stopped after a short period, but it was already 5pm when i made a move for Istrana Nurul Iman, the Sultans Palace. The lady in my hotel told me to take the more frequent and cheaper bus to the palace, rather than the water taxi. What she forgot to explain is that you get no view of the palace from the main gates on the road! The guard told me to go back to town and take a water taxi :( Back in Bandar Seri Begawan i headed for the jetty, but the water taxis were trying to rip me off and i decided that i'd wasted enough time and effort and took a picture from a long long distance away and settled for that.
It was now dark and i decided that i would head back to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, to check out the reflections in the lagoon at night.
Back on another bus and heading to Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, i pulled out my pages of Brunei Lonely Planet that i had ripped out of the book when leaving Julia at the port. I was surprised to read that there is a jail sentence accompanied by a huge fine for homosexuality in the country and it made me think of the bloke at the mosque and how hard everyday life must be for him.
My thoughts were interrupted 20 minutes into the bus journey as the towering Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque came into view, with gold glistening in the horizon. The bus dropped me off and i entered the grounds for a closer look. I was trying to get the 'perfect picture' but found frustration at every turn as there always seemed to be trees obstructing the shot. It then began to drizzle so i headed back towards the bus stop and some shelter.
The rain subsided however and with 30 minutes to spare i decided to head outside the grounds to get a shot from distance. Around 10 minutes out, the heavens literally opened and the streets became flooded within seconds. Every inch of me became saturated as i rushed to put my valuables into my day pack, then the bag into a plastic bag. For some reason i decided that i would walk to a huge mall to get the bus rather than infront of the mosque, but i lost my bearings and ended up walking another 30 minutes, missing the last bus and the rain was still pounding down. I eventually managed to grab a taxi and the second it had dropped me home the rain completely stopped. I joked with myself whether it was Gods way of punishing me for paying too much interest in Mosques, then an image appeared at the window and spoke to me.
The following morning i was up at 7.30am to start my journey to Miri to meet Julia. An hour wait for a bus was followed by a 6 hour journey, passing through the border and getting to see a small oil field, which contributes to giving Brunei its wealth. It was the end of an interesting action packed couple of days in Brunei Darussalam.