We visited Negara Brunei Darussalam, which virtually sits on rich oil fields, on the weekend of May 1-3, 2008. We flew into Labuan from KL, then caught a boat to Brunei. A visit to the oil town of Seria was a major event.
We start our journey at Labuan’s modern International Ferry Terminal. There are several trips per day to Brunei, but it’s always best to check with the terminal for latest boat schedule before embarking on the 40km crossing. Boats have the habit of going offline at short notice.
Our boat for this trip is the Ming Hai, smallish but fast. Which is great as long as the water is not too choppy.
Interior of the lower deck of Ming Hai, and there are many Filipinos onboard …
… heading to Brunei on a visa run.
An hour or so later, as we enter the huge estuary sandwiched by the two parts of Brunei and the Limbang area of Sarawak, we see the Brunei navy fleet.
And at Muara proper, a note of welcome, well maybe not as grand as what they have at the airport.
We are picked up at the ferry terminal by Cikgu Bahar, an amiable chap, a former teacher of my missus but now working at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (read her story HERE
), and soon we passes through Bandar Seri Begawan. Note the mandatory prominent Jawi scripts.
In a quiet suburb at the southern side of the airport, stands Cikgu Bahar’s residence, our B&B for the next 2 days. 🙂
And here are our gracious hosts, Cikgu Bahar and Kak Wan. Thanks a million to the both of them for patiently putting up with us. 😀
In front of Cikgu Bahar’s house, a neighbour with fenceless compound, denoting land gifted by the Sultan to his loyal subject, which is common practice. So too royal sponsorship to perform the hajj in Mecca.
The grand highway leading into Bandar Seri Begawan.
It passes by the equally grand mosque, the new-ish Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah.
Now we head out of town, towards Tutong and the west.
This is the only interstate (or shall I say, intercountry) highway in Brunei, linking Muara at the eastern tip to Kuala Belait and the Malaysian border at the western end.
The main street of Tutong …
… where two Chinese kopitiams are still open for business. Note the Jawi scripts.
We decide to do brekky here.
And Cikgu Bahar introduces us to some local delicacies …
… made of glutinous rice. Heck, we Kelantanese are feeling at home already!
Tug-of-war seems to be a popular sport in this country. I guess it’s a harmless, contactless, wholesome activity for everybody.
Pristine Tutong River, great for fishing, I bet. One thing I admire about Brunei, they maintain their forests, rivers, mangroves and swamps well. Maybe when oil runs out, eco-tourism would become a major income-earner.
Soon we are back on the highway, which has now degraded into a congested 2-lane road. Maybe to discourage citizens from thronging the Malaysian border and blowing their cash?
Soon we arrive at Seria, ground zero for oil in Brunei.
And for this momentous event, they even constructed a major structure.
Path to the monument which is virtually at the beach. It’s the South China Sea on the other side of it.
Across the grassy field, I see more ‘donkeys’, as the locals call them, pumping $$$ out of the ground next to the beach, 24 by 7.
Inspecting the monument on a very hot day is tough work. Note the noon shadows.
Plaque commemorating the occasion.
And of course the normal justifications …
… but frankly I think they should have done better … hmmmm. 🙄
Anyway, a bit of history. Needless to say this is Shell country, and of course, you can only find Shell petrol stations in this country.
The first ever oil well in Brunei was located just there, right on the beach, now gone.
But look further afield, and you can see more wealth on the horizon. Brunei is cash-rich now, but the oil won’t last forever and they better have a plan for that eventuality.
Next to the monument, more donkeys hard at work. Makes me wonder, how lucky some people are, to have money coming out of the ground round the clock.
We head towards the town of Kuala Belait along this road, fringed with housing for the oil workers, mainly expatriates. Along the way, we glimpse more donkeys hard at work, behind the houses, in the swamps, in the bushes, among the trees, on the beach, virtually everywhere. Sheer God-given wealth!
Past Kuala Belait town, we come to a river …
… with an ominous sign.
Having reached the other end of Brunei, we turn back and return to Bandar Seri Begawan, only 100km from Kuala Belait.