Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of Brunei and a bit of Labuan

This cute ornaments greeted us upon our arrival at the hotel

I spent the whole weekend including cuti Hari Wesak visiting my husband in Bandar Seri Begawan and a quick getaway to Labuan. Hence, some quick summary and tips in case you/me will need it soon.

Day 1
As soon as I arrived, we went to the hotel in Bandar (as the locals used to call it in short) for a quick clean-up and travelled via car to Kuala Belait(KB), to fulfill the invitation to attend Malaysians gathering and tadabbur Al Quran there. At first I was quite reluctant, but hubby insisted because he felt the importance to extend the networking to the fellow Malaysians in Brunei as he'll be staying here for quite some time.

The journey of 94 km to KB took about 1 and half hours (termasuk sesat dan simpang kecik)..Eventually when we arrived, they were half way through the tazkirah. We received a warm welcome from them and we chatted the whole night. They loved the fact that real PETRONAS people finally join them the way most of them are Shell workers and O&G related contractors/consultants. We parted around 10.30pm and went back to Bandar.

Day 2
Our plan today is to drive straight to Muara and take a ferry to Labuan just for one objective - borong coklat! I heard it is far cheaper compared to Langkawi.Also the fact that I never step a foot to Labuan makes me very curious although everybody tried to convince me that I'll regret my trip there.Tapi takpelah, since I am already in Brunei and it's located very near to Labuan, then why not? Apparently the Bruneians also love to go to Labuan(on trip day) on public holiday just to enjoy the beaches and restock their chocolates :) The ferry trip took just about 1 hour (about 52 km-so solat jama' qasar is not allowed!).

We went straight to the shops,the only mall then makan.Since the weather is extremely hot, we went to the nearest hotel for some the end kami terus pinjam toilet dan solat di sana, haha. Kemudian, we went back to the pekan for a last minute shopping of chocolates and kain batik jawa, then we waited to board the ferry at 4pm. The weather, however was not on our side as we faced a rough sea on the journey back to Muara..alot of people even puked on the boat! It took almost 2 hours for us to reach the jetty.

Some random fact that I note in my short trip to Labuan :

1. The pekan is very small, and the only mall was located opposite of Grand Dorsett. If only you could categorize it as mall, that is. However,there is one supermarket 'Parkson Ria' in there if you wish to buy some necessities.

2. To buy chocolates, you really need to compare the prices at few shops before you buy coz the prices might vary. Among the cheapest were at the mall (ground floor, near the taxi stand) where you can get alot of freebies (normally chocolates that are near expiry).The ones in the jetty are not bad too. Just try to avoid buying at the bigger and more established shops e.g. the airport :)

3. The shops operated half day on Sunday. So grab your things fast coz last minute shopping sometimes is not the greatest idea :)

4. Some recommended food place around town including Malindo(nasi campur) and Mawilla(for a scrumptious sotong tepung and black pepper crab).. I didn't get to enjoy Anjung Ketam (macam lah I makan ketam kan, I mean to enjoy other barbecued seafood delicacies there) and its alike though coz it opens only at night :(

5. The taxi charges were unbelievable. No metres were used, they just use their instict. For a journey about 4km they charged RM10 in average. So bring extra money or rent a car instead.
6.I secretly believe this island has potential to grow. If only it has the same chance like Langkawi.

Day 3 and Day 4
Not much on these days coz hubby is working. I just had a walk around the mall connected to my hotel and stayed in the room, enjoying the unlimited internet access-hence the post :)! At night, hubby drove me around Brunei for a sight seeing around town – including Kampung Air, Istana Nurul Iman, the magnificent gold domed mosques, up until near the boarder of Limbang! On Day 4, I was scheduled to go back to KL via the morning flight and leaving him.. :(

OK lets skip that part, just to share some guide and facts about Brunei :

1. This is a wealthy country and the ruler practically own everything. You will spend some time gawking at how beautiful is the mosques (especially the one with real gold domes) and how enormous are the palaces and even the massive royal car garage!

2. The locals pun boleh tahan hebatnya. You will see huge houses of the locals with average 5 or more cars in each compound. In short, they are living an easy and wealthy life.

3. Since the currency is high, you will find alot of things as costly. First to be noticed is the hotel rates and house rental rates. An average hotel will cost about 200 Brunei dollars per night. If you look for a nice and cozy hotel (but surely not cheap either:), The Rizqun (wah nama macam kat arab!) in Gadong area is highly recommended:) It has majestic interior and connected to a mall,and eateries are everywhere around this area.

The Gadong Pasar Malam is just a walking distance from The Rizqun..and it opens daily!

4. Food is never an issue here. If you crave for cheap and hawker style food, just go to the daily night market (near the Rizqun,also in Gadong area) that starts from 6pm onwards. Some of the must try local favourites are Nasi Katok, Nasi Pusu, Pais Ikan/Daging/Udang, roasted chicken and many more with average price of just 1 Dollar each! The tastes are heavenly good and great for your pocket too.

This cute little nasi bungkus cost 50cents (about RM1.20) each..but of course you wont be full by just eating one kan.

5. The favourite fast food here is Jollybee. However KFC, Mc Donalds, Pizza Hut and Coffee Bean is around too (just to name a few).

6. The locals looked alot like our own Sarawakians. You may recognize them by the way the ladies wear their tudung..its like, hurm have you seen the Brunei's Queen wearing tudung? Macam tu lah fesyen diorang. Darjah kebesaran dan 'Haji' is very important to be addressed too, hence pay special attention if you need to communicate with one.

7. Kuala Belait is among the famous town in Brunei because of the oil and gas industry-although it is a very small and quiet town. It is also very near to Miri -bear in mind that the border closed at 9pm, hence plan your journey well.

Likes : alot of tasty food, peaceful and wealthy country, alot of Islamic signage e.g. Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah,Allahuakbar on the roadside, no traffic jam. I met Malaysians who are so comfortable living here and taknak balik Malaysia.

Dislikes : High cost of living, not much modernisation, too slow-paced jadi kurang kena dengan jiwa saya haha

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