The next day we continued with our Bandar Seri Begawan look-around.
The Empire Hotel and Country Club with its Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course is so posh, the bestest in Brunei, that any local would recommend you to drop by just to gawk at its opulence and splendour, never mind that you cannot even afford a room or a meal there. So we oblige.
Perfectly-laid tables and chairs in the main restaurant. Do they measure the distance from each chair to the table?
And beyond it, amidst the giant marble pillars, a concourse.
Manicured lawn, and this is a true 5-star hotel if you ever see one.
Facing the South China Sea, guests are pampered in every manner.
Outdoor activities aplenty.
Very luxurious, no wonder we see a lot of foreigners willing to pay for the privilege.
And the lobby … is this a palace? Anyway the whole place is just a tad too tacky for a bloke like me, so gimme Cikgu Bahar’s mansion anytime!
Down the road from this lap of luxury, is the campus of the University. In stark contrast, it is a rather dreary place, and the only thing worth showing is the Chancellory Building.
The nearby township of Gadong looks like a small boomtown, definitely more hip than downtown Bandar Seri Begawan. The weekend crowd builds up. Brunei has a funny weekend system - Friday and Sunday with a working Saturday in the middle. If you want to take Saturday off for a long weekend, then both Friday and Sunday get deducted from your annual leave too!
Also in the Gadong area, stands the Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque, built 1992 to commemorate the silver jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s reign, the 29th Sultan.
The ornate main entrance to the mosque.
Glistening golden dome.
The minarets with the intricate decorations. Bruneians tend to love such decorations, even on their costumes.
An obligatory gawk at the official residence of the Sultan. I find the aerial wires a bit irritating. This spot must be pretty at night, though.
Downtown Bandar Seri Begawan. I told you Gadong was hippier.
At one of the busier junctions in town, the famous water village is to the right, and to the left, …
… the majestic Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque beckons through the modern Yayasan Complex mall. Arguably the most photogenic mosque in Southeast Asia, if not Asia-Pacific.
Completed in 1958 and named after the 28th Sultan, father of the current Sultan.
The golden dome, topping 52m, can be seen for miles around.
In the lagoon in front of the mosque, lies the replica of a 16th century royal barge, previously used for royal functions.
Nearby, a must-see for visitors, the water village. Rainbow a bonus, of course.
Not to worry, accidents are rare I’m told, but if these two collide I expect dismembered bodies.
Water taxis jostle to land passengers. No lifevests?
A water village must have a water school, or maybe a floating school. Imagine the school buses boats and parents’ watercraft packing the place. I also spot a floating petrol station somewhere (Shell, what else), but failing light and rain deter my attempt to make a decent pic.
Alas, end of our wholesome Brunei weekend, and we are back at the Serasa Ferry Terminal in Muara for the return journey to Labuan. We are getting the twin-hull Seri Anna for this leg.
Spacious indeed, and should be comfy too.
The back of the boat is a great place to spend the ride.
Saying good-bye to Brunei.
That’s the main port for this country.
If you have a chance to do the Labuan-Brunei ferry, park yourself here for spectacular views, weather permitting.
Out in the open sea, the mountains of Sabah can be seen on the horizon.
Upper deck for first-class.
And behind the captain’s cabin, a Piracy SOP. I am expecting ‘STANDBY WITH MACHINE-GUNS AND GET READY TO BLAST THOSE BASTARDS TO HELL!’, not something as uninspiring as this! Giving the savages a shower?
Ah well, no pirates for us, and soon we arrive Labuan. The water has been choppy and the bigger boat helps a lot.
Yes, Labuan’s very own water village, Kg Patau-Patau.
Still, it is a busy waterway, but at least no daredevil water-cabs!
Our terminal in full view.
Deckhands securing the boat.
Back on Malaysian soil. It has been an interesting weekend in Brunei.
> THE END
Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Cikgu Bahar and Kak Wan for hosting us at their abode, and for taking us to the interesting spots, during our Brunei sojourn. We are eternally grateful for the excellent hospitality extended. Thanks again!