Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (part 2)

Only had a few hours sleep dahil sa mga walang katapusang chikahan with my hosts who also were my childhood friends and school mates at the same elementary school I went to. Its really nice to meet up with people you've grown up with.

I have a really packed itinerary for the day. I want to visit all the sights around BSB within the day if possible coz I want to relax on my birth day tomorrow. :-)

First off is to check in at the Traders Inn Hotel (not a part of the Shangri-la chain) which is quite a distance from the BSB center although the good thing is it is on the bus route so its very easy to move around. It is also the cheapest hotel I can find (just above the hostels and guesthouses). The rooms are also quite comfortable enough and free wifi 24/7.
I took a bus from my hotel and went back to Yayasan shopping complex to have a look-see and also to have breakfast. The country is not heavily-visited by tourists hence the only souvenir stall I saw in my entire stay was in a small kiosk in this shopping complex. Since its in the middle of a working week, the mall is eerily quiet with only a few mall-goers around.
Went to a chinese restaurant.....

Right at the back of the shopping complex is the beautiful Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque that we visited last night. The night view might have been romantic but the day view of the mosque comes equally close, still stunningly beautiful.

I went inside the mosque, and unlike in other countries, the mosque attendants here are quite pleasant and welcoming to non-Moslems. They made me wear the black abaya dress before I go in. I have nothing against wearing it because its their religious traditions and since I want to look inside then I have to respect their requirements. But yeah, it really is stifling hot in the dress!

It might be smaller than the sprawling Jame' Asr mosque but it doesn't lack from perfection in all angles, day or night. Located in the intersection of Jalan Stoney, its whiteness shines like a beacon.

 I went looking for the Chinese temple I previously saw when we passed by on our way to my friend's apartment. I was really interested to know how a Islamic state like Brunei can have a Chinese temple located near the busy downtown area. It only shows how tolerant the Bruneian government and society had been with religious affiliations of other members of their immigrant and expat society (I think they even have a Catholic congregation here though I'm not sure if it comes with a church). Sadly, if we refer to recent news, the Sultan is probably under pressure from its Islamic brother-States who favor extremism and is now leaning on having a more restrictive State practicing Sharia law. Well, I sincerely hope it will get reversed, otherwise the smiling and courteous Bruneians that I've met will be replaced by a stoic and frightened population.

The temple interior is very simple. Incense sticks were still burning with smoke wafting around, indicating that it is indeed a very active temple used by the immigrant Chinese society here in Brunei.

Armed with the maps from my LP guide book, I walked around for the places on my sightseeing list punctuated by coffee stops in between.

The best place for me to learn more about Brunei's history is to visit at least one of its museums, I went to the Royal Regalia Museum. Home to a very interesting display of royal memorabilia, primarily traditional costumes and items used during the royal procession.

 There are also several rooms displaying all the presents given to the Sultan during his reign, lots of gold and silver in those rooms na parang treasury. There are also displays of all the medals and honors given to him by different countries and other royal houses.

 But the most anticipated part of my itinerary is the water cruise around Kampung Ayer. Considered to be the largest stilt settlement in the world with more than 20,000 Bruneians and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, Kampung Ayer has schools (grade school and secondary), hospital, police station, and mosques.

I took a boat near this mini-park next to Yayasan complex, you can just flag a passing boat and literally jump in!

I have a very informative and generous water taxi driver (he charged me only 20BND for the entire trip!).....who acted as my tour guide/photographer and even invited me to their house (we actually stopped and he pointed it out to me though I did not get down from the boat coz I had to jump in again hahahaha). He even took me to the pier attached to the royal palace, I was still hoping to get a glimpse of Sultan Bolkiah! hahahaha

Enjoy my photos of Kampung Ayer....
Oh di ba, stilt house nga pero all rooms are airconditioned!
Sabi ng boatman, eto daw yung jetty ng royal palace...parang di naman kagandahan hahaha
Most of the houses we passed by have their own motorboats...
Look how colorful the houses are....
This is a school daw...sobrang laki
And their fire station.....oh di ba, prepared sila kahit napapalibutan ng tubig
Nakikipag-karerahan yata....feeling nya race car driver sya!
Oh well, we went everywhere.....as in sumuot hanggang saan hahaha
 But hey, all the residents here in Kampung Ayer probably has at least a car or two for each family.....evidence is the parking lot for K.A. residents that is full of brand new cars!

Oh well, with diesel priced at 0.20 US$ it is really cheaper to drive your own car than use a taxi!

I need to go back to my hotel and freshen up for another dinner date with my hosts and their Pinoy friends. I went to the bus station (there is only 1 here in downtown area I think) and there's only a few people around. It was eerily quiet for a bus terminal. Bus fare is only 1BND and its a fixed rate for BSB area.

 We went for some grilled seafood in "turo-turo" Brunei version together with some Thai dishes. I was happy because of the spicy food but alas some of my hosts were not hahaha.....nakaka usok sa tenga ang anghang kasi!