Brunei in 31 hours ... yes this is a holiday !
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Brunei Darussalam..."not to be confused with being a country in the Middle East or the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam"...that was the first thing I read when I opened up the Tourist Magazine on the plane. I guess people can get confused...Brunei is very famous for its oil, gas, gold and mosques. The country has approx. 380,000 people and spans just under 6,000 sq km. This small but very rich nation is in Asia, right next to Malaysia, sharing the same island with Indonesia, and lies next to the South China Sea. The country is run by the Sultan of Brunei and the rest of the Royal Family. They are very rich, and the one thing they do, is that they do look after their people! The Royal Family gives money to the locals and supports most of the medical and government things - the country is also Tax Free and petrol costs at most $0.
I spent a total of 31 hours in Brunei...and I can understand why people either dont come here for a holiday or just transit, because there really isnt much to do here. Coming off the plane i quickly made my way through to immigration (thinking there would be plenty of people to line up) but when I got there, I could count all of us on one hand. So no worries, we got our visa on arrival ...not on a computer system, it was all hand written with carbon copies - everything was done manually.
We were picked up by private car which I had arranged through the hotel, and luckily I did, not a taxi was in site (actually I didnt even spot a taxi on the entire trip!). After a quick 10 minute drive we arrived safely at our hotel - The Risqun International. the newest 5-star hotel with its own shopping complex attached to it. Its located in the Gadong district which is "the" place to go for shopping and eating...apparently. The lobby was very large and just amazing, there was a huge chandelier and marble everywhere. Checking in was slow but we did eventually get up to our room - very large and quite comfy, aircon very chilled - I loved it.
As we arrived in the evening we quickly went downstairs to the shopping mall.
The next morning we woke up, ate brekkie in the hotel's restaurant (if it wasnt included in the room rate I certainly wouldn't have paid for it), and then went to the lobby and waited to be picked up for our 4-hour City Tour. Our guide arrived, I didnt catch his name, so I referred to him as Bill. The tour was just the 3 of us and Bill. He drove us around to all the sites - The Royal Palace (which is the largest lived-in palace in the world with approx.
Seeing as we skipped most of the things on the tour, we had some spare time, so Bill asked if we wanted to have a look at The Empire Hotel & Country Club - a massive 7-star resort located on the cost, around 20 minutes away from the city centre.
The Night Market was pretty busy, all the locals selling their own home made foods, vegetable, clothes. Everyone stared at us - seeing as we were the only "foreigners" walking around. We bought a few bits and pieces, and for the first time in my life, ate - what I found out to be - chicken bum. It was actually very tasty - as long as you didnt think about what was actually in your mouth. After an hour or so we left, back for the hotel, to pack up and rest before we left for our flight leaving at 1am.
When I think about it, we were pretty lucky with the weather.
So we arrived at the airport, now to give you an idea, there were a total of 10 check-in counters or so, and then at the boarding gates, there was a total of 8 gates. Going through the airport was a breeze, no problems at all. As we were waiting, I asked my mum, "Are these the same seats that were here 15 years ago when we transited?"...."Yes!" she replied. This airport is in need of a desperate refurbishment! Maybe someone needs to tell the Sultan of Brunei...
As we boarded the plane, I was happy to see the plane was again half full, so i had 3 seats to myself. After eating a quick snack, I made my "bed" and stretched out.
* Brunei is an awesome small city to go to if you are on a transit. So don't be afraid to stop there for a night or two
* Be sure to pre-organise transfers and try to stay in the main shopping areas - taxis are hard to find and are expensive!
* Go on a city tour, and if you have more time, go to the jungle aswell.
* Change your money when you get there - plenty of money changers around just gotta look for them
* Eat the local foods - dont worry they're safe!