57: Brunei > Bandar Seri Begawan

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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.

A quick stop at Empire Hotel, poshest hotel in Brunei

Perfectly-laid tables and chairs in the main restaurant. Do they measure the distance from each chair to the table?

Dining tables

And beyond it, amidst the giant marble pillars, a concourse.

A concourse down below

Manicured lawn, and this is a true 5-star hotel if you ever see one.

Manicured lawn

Facing the South China Sea, guests are pampered in every manner.

The pool faces the sea

Outdoor activities aplenty.

Parasailing

Very luxurious, no wonder we see a lot of foreigners willing to pay for the privilege.

Main hotel block

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!

Lobby of hotel

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 University's Chancellory

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!

Nearby Gadong, lively township

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.

View of Jame' 'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah from main road

The ornate main entrance to the mosque.

Main entrance

Glistening golden dome.

Glistening dome

The minarets with the intricate decorations. Bruneians tend to love such decorations, even on their costumes.

Minarets

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.

Istana Nurul Iman, official residence of the Sultan

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.

Rainbow over Kg Ayer

Not to worry, accidents are rare I’m told, but if these two collide I expect dismembered bodies.

Accidents rarely happen

Water taxis jostle to land passengers. No lifevests? ❗

Commuter boats

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.

Floating school

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.

Back at Muara for return trip to Labuan

Spacious indeed, and should be comfy too.

Big twin-hull boat, the Seri Anna

The back of the boat is a great place to spend the ride.

Lotsa space back here

Saying good-bye to Brunei.

View at the stern is fantastic

That’s the main port for this country.

Aina enjoying the ride

If you have a chance to do the Labuan-Brunei ferry, park yourself here for spectacular views, weather permitting.

Just splendid!

Out in the open sea, the mountains of Sabah can be seen on the horizon.

Kid alone?

Upper deck for first-class.

Upstairs first-class cabin

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?

Piracy SOP

Ah well, no pirates for us, and soon we arrive Labuan. The water has been choppy and the bigger boat helps a lot.

Approaching Labuan

Yes, Labuan’s very own water village, Kg Patau-Patau.

Labuan's own water village - Kg Patau-Patau

Still, it is a busy waterway, but at least no daredevil water-cabs!

Busy waterway

Our terminal in full view.

Our terminal

Deckhands securing the boat.

Deckhands securing boat

Back on Malaysian soil. It has been an interesting weekend in Brunei.

Back in Labuan

> 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!

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