Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Years Trip To Brunei


For this new years I had to leave the country for work permit reasons, as that's traditional practice for many foreign workers - return to their homeland for the holidays. Instead of going home, I decided to bring Joyette to the small but wealthy and strict country of Brunei!
 
This was our 3rd trip to Borneo Island in the past few years, of which is composed of 3 countries: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
 
Brunei is the 5th biggest economy (per capita) in the world thanx to the oil/natural gas industry. Locals live a high quality of life, are generally outgoing, a bit chubby and have good manners! There is an omnipotent Islamic presence, where this country was key in spreading Islam around South East Asia. It's also one of the few countries with the controversial sharia law.
 
There was some very classy areas, lots of gold colors and nice architecture. 
 
Walking down town in the heat of the day!

Inside the Sultan's museum which has so much history about this region - but camera's where forbidden. This pic I snapped in the lobby, which is the Sultan's gold chariot that is pulled/pushed by 20+ men during his coronation in 1968!

Interesting religious symbols downtown!

Where pork can be found ;)

Interesting clock system at a downtown intersection!


Joyette haggled the price and set the route for our boat ride through the biggest stilt village in the world, Kampong Ayer!


The Venice of Asia!

Our boat man!

Posing at the tip of the boat!


Exiting the channel and entering the village area!

Lots of place to dock boats!

Even at the hospital you can rock up in a boat!

There is restaurants, schools, mosques, stores all on stilts!

The pipes connecting with the narrow foot bridges!

Joyette entering the mangrove sections in style!


Getting up close with nature!

Caught taking a selfie with my GoPro!


Some of the river pathways are very well developed for various purposes!

Here is a group of rare Proboscis monkey's that are exclusive to this part of the world!

Wefie with a mosque in the background at sunset!

Candid shot I accidentally took with my GoPro on the auto timer!
 
 
A local boat man at sunset!


After dark the boats are still running regularly to transport people from downtown to their stilt homes!

A nice bright mosque at night!

From a better angle with the boat - arguably the nicest in the world!
 
The following day for new years we went to the 6 star restaurant of the Empire hotel and country club!

It was over the top with gold and beautiful designs that all looked expensive! 

Pretty much the longest pool I even seen in my life, at least 100m long!


Panoramic view!

Did my best to fit in and look wealthy ;)

We walked to the point for a moment before the year turns! Guess what's in Joyette's big bag.

Joyette looking glamorous!

Reelection shot!


We pooped a bottle of Champaign - locals are not allowed to drink alcohol and selling it is against the law, but foreigners are allowed to bring in X amount per day! (That's what's in the big bag :-)

Kids playing beach soccer!

We then went to our buffet dinner, which was the best I ever had!!! Top quality bites of a lot different of animals!

The placed looked even better light up at night!

Everything around was top notch quality!

This is the huge lobby area - ah!

Pictures of the Sultan and his wife are in most establishments!

Reflection shot before we turn the new year!

We left home early, there is no fireworks allowed in Brunei...

After a relaxed January 1st , the following day, we went on a boat tour of Ulu Temburong National park. The route in red is what we approximately did back-and-forth by boat!

These cool water buses are a very practical idea - maybe one day in Pasig River to help de-congest Manila?

We went at a solid speed through the twisty mangrove sections!

We crossed many bus boats like ours!

We eventually changed to a smaller boat, to go higher up in shallower waters.
It was an interesting experience, regularly hitting rocks under the wooden boat!

I was impressed with our young skipper who steered us very well!

We was fearless and barefoot!
Our tour guide was Pinoy and sobra madaldal ;)
It was some pretty serious efforts they put out at times over wet rocks!

They both regularly got out to pull the boat going up river!
 

Random locals chillin' on the side of the river!

Almost there!

A semi developed resort in the middle of the Borneo tropical forest!


We had to cross many different areas using various modes!

800+ steps going up!



100+ more feet up the scaffold!

It was definitely intimidating - I'm not usually scared of heights but this was pretty nerve wrecking!

There was a limit of people who could be on certain walkways at once, to limit the wobbling!

Joyette was pretty relaxed, her low center of gravity aka being short, allows her better balance than somebody tall ;)

Almost at the top.

From the summit!
 
We then checked out this little river bed.

It had a little pond with a "fish foot spa" that tickled your feet with bites and then a waterfall at the end!

Our tour guide had a patriotic tattoo - yabang Pinoy!

Joyette by the river, which we did not really swim in, because there's abundant crocodiles, snakes and wild fish in it - yikes!

We took a mandatory group pic after lunch with our Singaporean tour mates!


We soon got back on the boat and head down river.



There was mixed excitement during all the boat rides !

Going down the river was much more fun, faster and easier for them - we still nailed tones of rocks though!

Then the power bus boat ride back to Brunei main-land was nice and fast!

We crossed a police boat monitoring the boarders!

And then we re-entered the silt house area before docking and returning to our hotel!
All in all it was a nice experience, not for your typical traveler or family. We learned a lot and saw some fascinating aspects. The food was typical for this region. Shopping had a wide range in prices, most top brands and abundant electronics!