Many mosques to see and a village on the sea!
Trip Start Sep 09, 2007
33Trip End Ongoing
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It's just a shame this beautiful moment was ruined by one of the boat staff chucking a couple of plastic bags full of rubbish off the back of the boat once we've left the Marine National Park area...
We took the bus into the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (or BSB for the sake of airports and lazy blog-writers) which gave us a chance to catch our first glimpses of Brunei, and we weren't disappointed: absolutely stunning buildings and architecture, both modern and traditional lined the roads whilst grand mansions and stately homes sat side by side with beaten-up, rusty shacks surrounded by scrap metal. The people seemed friendly and there was a very relaxed feel about the place - not at all what we'd expected after hearing stories of the strict and deeply-Muslim way of life that is supposedly forced upon the people by the Sultan.
Having arrived in BSB we checked into a cheap (well, cheap by Brunei standards!) room and the four of us immediately set out on our whirlwind, see-as-much-as-we-can-in-just-under-24-hours trip!
First port of call was Kampung Ayer, reputed to be the world's largest water village with over 30,000 people living in stilted houses on the Brunei River estuary. We hired out a boat taxi with our trusty guide Sopi, who assured us his licence was clean... BOOM BOOM! The village is a fantastic place - very quaint and basic but also home to an unbelievably developed and advanced infrastructure: there are whole communities set up on these floating wooden buildings, from police and fire stations to schools, shops, restaurants, mosques and even a football stadium, with a complete network of paths and walkways linking them all together.
From here we headed to the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (trying saying that after a few too many rums!) which is one of the grandest and most expensive mosques in the world,
We fuelled ourselves up with some yummy 1 dollar food at the night market before continuing the 'blitz' with one last stop that night at Istana Nural Iman, the palace over which we'd earlier seen the sun setting, which just so happens to be the largest residential palace in the world with 1,788 rooms (I've just realised this blog is starting to go a bit statistics-crazy, sorry!). The grounds around the palace were immense and we had a wander around whilst the Sultan sat inside with his feet up enjoying a chicken pie and chips and a re-run of Eastenders... at least that's what we'd like to believe. Again, the sky wanted to take centre stage and followed up the golden sunset with a lightning storm above the dome of the palace, illuminating the entire sky and the palace below. Hopefully it didn't affect the Sultan's TV signal...
Q. Who is the richest piece of dried fruit in the world?