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JIPP's WORLD

…….The World Without Boundaries

Brunei

Written By: jipp - Apr• 14•12

So, I jotted down another country in the list of my travel trips by visiting Brunei last week. Of course the idea of coming to Brunei had first come when I heard about the upcoming Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon so I just decided it was probably the right time for me to come to Brunei and leave my marks there. Besides, it was one of only four more countries in South East Asia that I had yet to go apart from Laos, Myanmar and Dili.

Language

My first worry about traveling to Brunei had been the probability of a language barrier. Although it is located very much in the vicinity of Sabah, I was quite worried that they’d be a little bit of problem talking to Bruneian people who I knew had their own language.

Apparently, my worries were fast to go down the drain the moment I landed in Brunei and had my first conversation with the immigration officers who spoke perfectly in Malay. Then I’d come to find out that they actually speak Malay, the very Malay that we speak here in Malaysia and it is the language that they use on local radios and televisions and even airport announcements.

Of course they have their own ‘slang’ which is more like their ‘bahasa pasar’ but they only use it to communicate among themselves.

Accommodations

So, all the things that I’d heard about Brunei were true then. It is quite expensive to be traveling in at least by SEA standards and it’s quite difficult to move around because everybody seems to have their own car. There’s no doubt that transportation is a thing of concerns here in Brunei.

Accommodation is quite stiff – I don’t think I can let that go unmentioned. I was actually taken aback by the limited number of (budget) hotels in Brunei but then what do you expect from a country that doesn’t really need tourists to keep the economy going?

Thinking that we might encounter some problem catching a taxi at 5 in the morning, we decided to stay at a hotel apartment (BND75 per room per night) nearby the Sultan Hassanah Bolkiah Stadium so that we could just walk our way to the starting line (of SCBHM). And we were so glad we stayed there. We had come to find out that taxis are so hard to get in Bandar Seri Begawan especially after 8pm, or even if you get one, it would drill a big hole in your pocket.

Transportation

My first shock came quite too soon in Brunei when we had to take a taxi to the hotel from the airport since buses seemed to take like forever to turn up.

It was a fixed rate of BND20 (MYR50) to go to the hotel which was located just a spit’s throw away from the airport. In fact, I could see the airport tower very clearly from the window of the hotel room like the whole of it!

The story with taxis in Brunei didn’t quite end there. Imagine how we spent all the time in the world strolling around in the ever relaxing BSB and smelling every food that we bumped into since we couldn’t afford to buy most of them anyway (kidding) only to find out that we had been deserted by all the buses that we saw here and there earlier.

And to make things worse, there was no taxi around – not a single one – that we had to get help from somebody behind the info desk at one of the shopping malls there.

“You’ll be lucky if you can get a taxi anytime after 8pm here” she said. Being as nice and helpful as most Bruneians are, she ventured dialing all the taxi contact numbers that she had. Quite every time she dialed a number, she’d look at us and shake her head in despair.

She must have contacted quite a few numbers until her face finally lit up and her lips broke into a smile before saying “You guys are lucky. There’s this taxi driver willing to drive you back to the hotel”, then almost with some bitterness in her voice, she continued, “20 dollars”. She must be aware how expensive that was for us poor Malaysians.

Thinking that it might be our last chance to go back to the hotel without sacrificing our much-needed energy by walking our way to the hotel instead, we agreed to that price so there goes our RM50 for a less than 10-minute ride.

That was only 5 KM away so we actually tossed away RM 10 for every kilometer. Quite ironically, it was exactly the first 5Kms of our 21-run the next day. If only we didn’t need to save our energy, we would be more than happy to jog our way back to the hotel NO PROBLEM.

The Attractions

Brunei might have the reputation as the land of nothingness especially now that Jerudong Park is way past its glorious days. But for me, I wouldn’t say Brunei lacks all the attractions that other SEA countries might have to offer.

Tourists wouldn’t come to Brunei if it had nothing for attraction. For me, Brunei has to be looked upon from the perspective of a traveler only then you’ll see its beauty. Of course just like in most other countries, you have to dig a little deeper to see its inner attractions.

Some people would travel all the way to the other end corner of the country to see its rainforest but coming from Malaysia myself, I didn’t quite see the need of doing it especially when we only had like two days to cover everything in Bandar Seri Begawan alone.

Bandar Seri Begawan for me has its own things. The relaxation that you’ll get by just strolling lazily around the city is part of its beauty and charms.

Food

I would say food in Brunei is affordable if you don’t really stay there for too long. Of course if you’re from a country where currency value is smaller against BND then you’d feel the expensiveness of the food. I mean, you can still get a dish of Nasi Ayam for BND 3.00 but converting it into RMs (if you’re from Malaysia like me) would definitely make it look quite expensive (MYR7.50).

One thing you gotta know about Brunei is the fact that it has a VERY limited number of restaurants. I think the people of Brunei prefer to cook their own meals at home so restaurants are not really their cup of tea.

If you’re a budget traveler who needs a proper meal then you should allocate at least BND5-BND6 for a meal in your budgeting. If you’re a cash-strapped tourist then of course the limit is in you or rather your pocket. LOL.

We actually spent some BND 50 for our very last meal in Brunei. Converting it into RMs now, I can’t believe that we actually tossed away some RM125 for that one single lunch alone! That is so not-me! Urghhh! 😀

The People

Brunei for sure has some of the nicest people that anyone could ever meet. They are so friendly and helpful and so easy to deal with. It’s not only they way they talk which is so polite and even humorous at times but there really is something about them that can make you let your guards down a little and still feel safe about it unlike in most other countries in SEA where your alert system is always on the high red.

I actually went to one of the shopping malls in the downtown BSB to look for an MP3 player since I could not imagine myself running the whole 21KM without any music playing in my ears. Then I was surprised when I found out that the MP3 Player was much cheaper than the one that I had previously bought (and lost) in Malaysia.

I was so sure that it was the same model and brand so just when I was about to jump in excitement, the sales lady was fast to tell me that it was not an original item. I mean, where else can you find a sales lady who is honest enough to tell you that the item they are selling is not ori and hence the cheap price?

The fact that we were offered a free ride at least twice is quite evident to the fact that they are so nice and helpful and most importantly AWARE that transportation is difficult in BSB. I could see some hope of improvement there. Heh.Another thing worth mentioning here is the fact that I only heard a car honk ONCE all throughout my stay in Brunei. Can you imagine? ONCE! They don’t honk at people at all! That is so reflective to the fact that they are so blessed with high tolerance and patience.

Brunei – The Country of Opportunity

The only people that you can’t probably talk to in Malay are the immigrants from the Philippines whose presence is quite redundant in Brunei.

But then, unlike in Sabah where most of them sneak in illegally and cause troubles, the Filipinos here a very much needed by the Brunei to keep the economy going. I think the wealth that they are siphoning from the underground has spoiled the Bruneian people a little. They don’t really want to or rather see the need of doing hard labor and all. That is where the immigrants including those from Malaysia come in to fill the void.

As the taxi driver told us “Cars here are cheap and so is petrol and gas. We don’t really need the money. We don’t even need to pay taxes”, he said when he asked why there were no taxis when it was only 9pm in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Looking at how well-off and comfortable the lives of Bruneian people are, it makes me wonder how BETTER OFF we would have been in Sabah if we didn’t join Malaysia in the first place. The people of Brunei seem to be getting all the perks that the people of an oil and gas producing country should be getting.

I actually winced when I thought of all the bad and terribly-maintained and rough roads to all the villages in Sabah which are lucky enough to have at least something that we can call an access road when they are so many of them which are still inaccessible.

Then it made me wince when I thought of all the visitors from the other side of the seas who are now threatening to take over the host seats and kick out us the original hosts as if we now belong to the past and they the present.

Then I thought of all the people in Sabah who had to leave their families back home and went to Brunei (and even Peninsular) to work and hopefully earn good money.

Then I thought, joining Malaysia might have been the biggest mistake after all.

I am just saying.

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8 Comments

  1. Custard says:

    Hope you enjoyed your stay in Brunei!! Actually there are a lot of restaurants in Brunei, just that they are scattered all over the place. Have you tried our local dish called “Nasi Katok” which costs as cheap as BND1 at some places? others may be up to BND5. But nevertheless I hope you’ve enjoyed the stay, and also the SCB marathon. Hoping to see more Malaysian tourists coming to visit Brunei! ^^

    • jipp says:

      Hi Custard. Thanks for visiting. Yeah, I was told about Nasi Katok before I went there. Too bad I didn’t get a chance to taste one. I’d save it for another visit then. I really enjoyed my stay in Brunei. It’s beautiful, green and the people are amazing. I believe there were still a lot of charms and beauty that we didn’t get to see because of time limitation but of course there’s always another time. I definitely wanna go back there. 🙂

  2. Julie Lim says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience in Brunei. It’s one of the 4 countries in SEA I’ve yet to visit. The other 3 are East Timor, Myanmar and The Philippines.

  3. syafiqaz says:

    Hello. May I know what’s the name of the hotel that you checked in at? Cause I will be going to Brunei in 2 weeks time. Thank u very much!

    • jipp says:

      Hi Syafiqaz. I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment/message sooner that I should have. I have just returned from East Java. We stayed at D’Anggerek. It’s very much near to Sultan Hassanah Bolkiah Stadium and quite near to the airport too. It’s actually an apartment so you know how comfortable it is. Enjoy your trip to Brunei. 🙂

  4. Sky says:

    I read and heard about Land of Nothingness of Brunei but still I’m fascinate to visit this very rich neighbour of ours. We plan to visit end of November.

    Thanks for giving a heads up, accommodation was really bloody expensive upon checking right now. I just wish we had a friend there to avoid a hefty hotel expense.

    I certainly agree! Sabah would be much better off if they’re independent.

    • jipp says:

      Thanks bro. I’m not sure whether we can still say that they are rich especially since the crude oil prices have been swirling down for quite some time now. Its dependency on oil exports makes it one of the countries that suffers most now. In hindsight they might be more welcoming to tourists than ever now. A visit – at least once – is still very much recommended. Enjoy your trip in Brunei 🙂

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