Happy Birthday Sultan!

Trip Start Feb 07, 2004
Trip End Dec 15, 2005

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Flag of Brunei  ,
Friday, July 15, 2005

We (now includes another pom, Emma) opted for the 2 hr private taxi direct to Brunei instead of the 4 1/2 hr 3 buses and a ferry ordeal from Miri in Malaysia to Bandar Seri Begawen (BSB) the capital of Brunei. The Drive-thru customs & immigration was all very smooth & orderly, except while I was getting my visa the taxi went through customs without declaring my alcoholic contraband...

"Happy Birthday" posters and billboards were EVERYWHERE for the Sultan's 59th b'day. I've never been in a place that appeared so crazed over a single person (outside of a rock concert). BSB is a tiny, very clean, orderly and slightly boring riverside city. We dropped our shoes and donned a gown to visit the mosque, strolled the modern shopping plazas, took a quick spin on the river and had cake & latte' on the waterfront.

Jerudong Amusement Park (alleged to be largest in the world) was given to the people of Brunei as a gift from the Sultan 11 years ago. It is big and very quiet - no ques, and we could even simply stay on a ride to go around again, such as the roller coaster... unfortunately we got rained out, but stopped by one of the Sultan's palaces for a night photo. This pad is amazing even from the road!

On the 15th we awoke to cannons & helicopters saluting the Sultan's birthday. We caught the end of the parade - have never seen so many Mercs & Jags streaming by at one time. Our initial information was that the palace was going to be open to the public on the day after his birthday (complete with food and a commemorative box of biscuits!). So, naturally, I planned to stay around. However, we later learned that the general public weren't permitted in, let alone rif-raf like ourselves. So with a 2 finger happy birthday salute, Jon & I headed for the bus station (Emma had left earlier).

Never follow a pom! Especially when he finds a stooped, 70+ year old man, squinting through inch-thick glasses from his one good eye, to drive you (on his bus) the 45 minutes to the ferry terminal. Even after allowing for the eccentric driving and the delay for the Sultan's convoy of vehicles blocking traffic, I thought 1 hours for this trip was getting a bit much. So I asked the driver when we would be arriving at the ferry terminal, he didn't hear me, but another passenger did and told us we were going the wrong way - we were heading south back to Miri! As we were practically back at the Malaysian border, we continued on, changed buses, took the ferry, another bus to Miri, a taxi to the airport and then a plane back over Brunei to Kota Kinabalu in the northen Malaysian state of Sabah - check the map!
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