We arrived in Brunei, a small country on the island of Borneo, at 9:30am....where Leslie, from Sumbiling Eco Village, was waiting for us...with a name sign! Yup...we had our own name sign!...even though he was looking for a Mr. Brian and a Mr. Jason...lol. We hopped into the van and were on our way to the jungle!...well, not exactly. WHACK! What the heck was that? We go flying forward in the back of the van....did we hit something? Nope...Leslie forgot to put the parking ticket into the machine, so the toll gate poll came smashing down on the top of the van
! Welcome to Brunei...a beautiful country...but Sumbiling Eco Village...a disaster waiting to happen!!
We arrived at 9:30am, however, Leslie advised that we could not head to the resort until 2pm, so he would drop us off at a mall...because that's what everyone wants to do on vacation...see as many malls in Asia as possible! (Sarcastically stated). He toured us around town, which is really small, and showed us the main highlights. It was nice. The city is very clean and well kept. Then he dropped us off at the mall, we walked over to a coffee shop, a market, a mosque, and a Dairy Queen!! Yay! Apricot Chocolate blizzard...so good. At 2pm, he picked us up, drove us a block to the jetty, and we hopped on a local ferry, heading to Temburong. Just as we went to sit down, this enormous spider, about half the size of my hand, pink, with a thick, slimy body, dropped down...right over top of Jay's head. I may have let out a little "squeak"...because everyone looked our way...lol...silly city folk! haha. Needless to say, we switched seats.
The boat ride was of National Geographic quality! Stunning brown river water, guarded on both sides with thick, lush, green mangrove trees...the river twisted through the mangroves...just like you'd see in National Geographic...Phenomanol...and beyond word description. We saw, what looked like two crocodiles...but weren't 100% sure...until we asked later...and were told that there are crocodiles there and they are spotted occasionally! Wow...that's all I can use to describe this 40 minute boat ride! Another 20 minutes by road, a 5 minute walk through the jungle, and we arrived! Sumbiling Eco Village...with NOTHING "Eco" about it! They use plastic wrap on food, had some plastic utensils, used wood that shouldn't be used to build houses (bugs eat right through it), and even brought a t.v
. out one night...unbelievable. We had already paid for 4 nights at this place....NOT cheap....and were looking forward to our adventure. Clue two of a "not so good" place....we were the only ones there! No other guests were booked in or expected to arrive. They "upgraded" our accommodation to the building, from a tent...we should have stayed in the tent! The room was covered in ants, spiders, and other unknown creepy crawlies...and it just wasn't clean. We wanted a "rustic" jungle experience...but things can be rustic and still well built and cleaned every once in awhile! They left lumber pieces and scraps under the structures, so it didn't take long for the jungle rats to start sneaking around our room...banging on the roof and running along the scrap wood...they also infested the kitchen while we were there...it was a daily occurrence to chase the rats away.
The first night was rainy, so we just settled in for an early night, huddling together on one of the two twin beds...my reasoning: so Jay could fend off the rats, Jay's reasoning: to use me as spider bait before they reached him!...haha. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed something sitting in the middle of the floor...but quickly realized it was just a frog....a frog the size of my hand!! He seemed harmless, so I just rolled over and went back to sleep...haha. It was still raining in the morning...the room is on a slight hill, just on the river bank. They used large stones as the pathway down from the room to the jetty and to the lodge area...however, the stones were nicely polished, covered in Algae, and dangerously slippery when wet! We slipped more than once, trying to make it to the bathroom...lol. Accommodation aside, the place was a disaster! There are no comfortable areas to sit...not even to read a book or write in the journal. They have hammocks outside by the river...which do no good in the rain
. Also, the "guide", Rudi...who was extremely friendly and nice...brought his laptop out...so while we were enjoying our "jungle experience" at the Eco Village, Rudi was playing non-stop series of "The Big Bang Theory" on his laptop! Nothing like a true jungle experience with the background noise of television! Sure glad we paid all that money to listen to a t.v.! Anyway, I guess you get the point...the accommodation is not recommended by us in any way what-so-ever. There are better places to stay in the area...for a lot less! Although, Lonely Planet may say some good things about Sumbiling...since Rudi admitted to us that he gave the Lonely Planet writer special treatment...just to be sure his write up was good...because once in Lonely Planet...sales will soar! Unbelievable. I can't believe that Lonely Planet would allow their writers to inform the hotels, etc, that they are travel writers for the guidebooks! That doesn't really allow for the true feel of the place to shine through.
Back on a positive note...lol. The first day was spent hanging around since it was still raining. We played with a blow dart gun...which was pretty neat....while Rudi used his machete to slice up random tree leaves in the area...just because he could! (again...an awesome "Eco" village..sarcasm). As we were relaxing by the jetty, we heard this loud buzzing noise...sounded like a bee, but magnified 10 times louder
! We found the source of the noise...burrowing it's way into the wood of the jetty! It had a hole about an inch and a half in diameter and almost two inches deep! This creature was black, about two inches long, with wings...no clue what it is. We decided to ask Rudi and let him know that it is eating through the structures...we found another 6 or 7 in the bathroom too. He had no idea what it was and was poking it with a stick. Finally it flew off. It stopped raining late afternoon, so the villagers came to take us on the night walk. We decided to ask the locals about the big, noisy, flying bugs we found....Ricky didn't know the English name for them, however, kindly advised us that their sting is fatal!!! The villagers don't even go near them, or kill them (due to superstitions). This bug is one of the scariest in the jungle and has killed a water buffalo and two Singapore military men!! But for some reason, Rudi thinks it's okay to let them infest the bathroom and eat away the structures!! Jay and I were terrified to use the washroom, and showered together in the OUTSIDE showers...haha...instead of risking our lives in the bathroom...and saving our neck muscles from ducking constantly as they flew by...haha. We went back to our room to change before heading out on our night walk. I was standing next to the bed, when suddenly, this BIG, SOFT, SQUISHY thing attacked my leg!! It jumped right onto my leg, felt like it flattened against it, and disappeared! I screamed of course...because in my mind, a half rat, half snake attacked me from under the bed!!....haha...Jay started to laugh as I almost went flying through the wall....it was just Fred, our friendly, supersized frog from the night before
. He had jumped out at my leg from under the bed, bounced off, and was hiding in the corner! I felt so bad for him. He was okay though..came back to visit again later...squished himself under the crack in the door to get in...rather amazing to see! The night was neat...and scary...since our "guide", Rudi, didn't really know anything about the jungle. The villagers were very knowledgeable; however, any questions we asked...an answer was unknown. So, we're walking along, looking at glowing mushrooms...super neat!...giant poisonous spiders, and lizards. Soloman stopped to show us a lizard, so we stopped to look at it.....BAD IDEA! What the...?!?!?! OUCH! My foot started to burn...it hurt so much. I didn't know what had bit me or what to do about it...just that I could hardly feel my foot anymore because of the bites and the pain! I flashed the light on my foot, and it was covered in ants...FIRE ANTS!. So, Jay and I are trying to get them all off...I'm asking if I should take off my shoe...no one knows what to do....so I take off my shoe anyway to make sure they are all gone. I'm sure glad it was only fire ants, and not a poisonous snake or something...since our "guides" were no help. We continued on the trek...without stopping...haha. We arrived in the village to view the traditional longhouses....oh....really? The traditional longhouses are built with lumber and wallboard and have mac tac floors?? The place was falling apart. We went in the longhouse (which had music blaring...must have been from one of those "traditional" stereo systems) and was furnished with sofas....I'm sure they were "traditional" sofas though
. Out comes some residents....drunk. So our experience with the traditional longhouses in the village involved having drinks of homemade rice wine (which was pretty good!), and sitting around awkwardly while the local guy got his looks in and kept saying how I look like Brittney Spears....so...when do we leave??...lol. While in the longhouse...late at night...there are kids, maybe 5 years old, running around. I asked some questions about life in the village....here's what Rudi told me: The mother of the children is a drunk and the children often don't get food, so the neighbors try to feed them and watch out for them. Most of them don't go to school. So...here we are...staying at an "Eco Village" that is partnered with the local village...to improve their way of life and give them jobs, etc. But...is our money helping? The house is poorly built and not maintained, the kids don't have food or go to school, and the locals are drunk off of homemade moonshine! I might add...the cocks used for the cock fights were well kept, tied up, and looked rather healthy. So...are we helping the village? Or supporting all the bad habits? Is the money being used for a better way of life? Or is it being spent on cock fighting instead? They were sure to point out the half built home that is being built from the Welfare Money. Unbelievable! It was disappointing to see. The villagers are extremely friendly and knowledgeable...very nice people and interesting to talk to....but what does the Eco Village really do for them??? Where are the profits going?? It wasn't impressive.
Our second night proved to be interesting...with the attack of the giant frog, the feast of the fire ants, and the "traditional" longhouse visit. How many more nights are we staying here???? haha.
5 minutes to boarding...What??!!...ugh. We should be on the Amazing Race...we're AWESOME at catching last minute flights, getting to the wrong gates at boarding time, and struggling to find the right one just before departure! We would make interesting contestants...haha. And this was all at 6:30am...so we had caught the 3:30am bus from the city to the airport, checked in, and were there...eating breakfast...and trying to find a hotel on the internet...no excuses.