A holiday is not always about urban shopping and eating. Sometimes we get out to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. In this travel series, Malcolm discovered that the beauty of Brunei lies in its unspoiled primary rainforest – the ultimate place to disconnect with technology and to reconnect back with life.
A holiday is not always about shopping. Unlike Singapore, Brunei is definitely not a shopping destination. 70% of Brunei is covered by primary rainforest and Ulu Temburong National Park covers 50,000 hectares of pristine rainforest and is home to one of the best biodiversity in the world.
Brunei is an excellent place to escape. Ulu Ulu National Park Resort, located within Ulu Temburong National Park, is the perfect place to recharge. Some termed it “technology cleansing”, while others coined it “digital detox”. To me it’s simply about ‘disconnecting to connect’. Being away with the disturbance of emails and SMS allows us to reconnect with our life, nature and self. Bring along your loved ones to this one of its kind resort and watch your relationship improves.
We checked out from Rizqun International Hotel after consuming a hearty breakfast buffet spread at the hotel’s cafe and hopped on our tour bus for a quick 5-10 minutes ride to the jetty.
The trip to Ulu Ulu Resort is an adventure in itself, as we need to go on three different modes of transport to get there. First, we boarded the speedboat at Kianggeh Jetty and proceed to Bangar town. During our water journey, we actually passed through Malaysia’s marine border. Thanks to an agreement signed between the two countries, we no longer need to disembark to get a stamp on our passport if we stay on the speedboat.
Upon arrival at Bangar town, we were all fascinated by the stray cats that roamed near the boat terminal. Only after several photo shoots of the community of cats, then we decided to get on our van for the land transfer.
En route, we made a pit stop at a local convenience shop to purchase a pair of rubber shoes, which our tour guide Tom fondly referred to as “Kampong Adidas” meaning “Adidas for the villagers”.
Brunei, like Singapore, is not a agricultural society. Along the way, we passed by houses of locals but no sight of paddy fields in the rural areas. The economy of Brunei is supported by the export of oil and natural gas, and because of this factor, the government of Brunei does not need to cut down the forest for additional resources.
Our van reached Batang Duri, where we got off and proceeded to put on life jacket to prepare us for the long boat, or temuai, up the rapids to the national park.
This is where my conversation with Mother Nature began. The calls of hornbills infused with the whisper from trees and chatter from the rapids formed the melody of the rainforest as the gentle rain acted as the conductor of this orchestrate.
I took a deep breathe and inhaled in the fresh, crisp air and exhaled out from the green lungs of Brunei’s thousand years old rainforest. It’s not that there’s nothing to do in Brunei, rather we chose to come here to do nothing. Many corporate organisations understand this theory and choose to conduct their team-building activities at Ulu Ulu Resort, as they can be free of disturbance from technology and distraction from work.
Upon our arrival, we were asked to sign the record book followed by welcome drinks with local snacks. Once we had regained energy, it was time for a tour of the resort and to select our choice of room to sleep in that night.
Our lunch that day consists of a simple but delicious buffet meal with a large plate of big, fresh and juicy prawns specially prepared for us. The prawns are so big, they looked like a close relative of crayfish.
We spent the next hour soaking in the scenery of the resort and self-entertained ourselves by taking photos of ourselves and pictures of others taking photos.
When we had felt less bloated from the delicious lunch earlier, it was time to ride up the rapids for tubing. Tom, our guide, gave us a safety briefing and what to take note of if we fell off the tube. The water is not extremely deep, most parts of the river is only waist-high but there are some parts that are deeper than two metres.
Guess what, I was the only one who fell off the tube, and it’s not just once, but TWICE! And I was holding onto my tube for support while the rest cruise leisurely down the river.
The second part of tubing was a trek to the “fish spa” waterfall. A refreshing change for urbanised creatures like us. I got nibbled by a small fish which caused me to scream, much to the amusement of my blogger friends. After which, it was time to head back to the resort for wash up and dinner.
Even though Brunei and Singapore are in the same time zone, dusk comes earlier as Brunei is on the other end of the time zone. Once the sky had turned into night, we made our way to the long boat. Once we were away from the lights of the resort, we were greeted by a sky full of stars.
Night activity that evening was a trek to the “fish spa” waterfall. During our night jungle walk, we were able to spot several different types of frogs, spiders and a couple of fireflies.
Morning call was at 4.30 am. After a simple meal of hot beverage and biscuits to fuel up, we were on our way for the Canopy Walk. We trekked in darkness. Even with our torchlight, we had to be mindful of the steps. The initial part of the journey was a short walk through the forest, while the remaining part of the journey was ascending the wooden steps.
This was a different kind of jungle survival. At the top of the hill, most of us were breathless but there was a final mission. We had to scale the scald-folding staircase to make it up the canopy top. Once we managed to ascend up the staircase to heaven, we were dazzled by the 360 degree view of Brunei’s green emerald.
Some other activities available at Ulu Ulu National Park Resort include kayaking and rafting. Packages start from B$290 per pax for 2D1N. Option of day tour package with canopy walk is also available at B$150 per pax. For more information, visit www.uluuluresort.com
Strangely, none of us experienced any “withdrawal symptoms” from technology and with so many activities to do, it was time well spent at the resort. Highly recommend all to try staying for at least one night at Ulu Ulu Resort, and allow yourself time to unwind and relax from the hectic Singaporean lifestyle. Grab a book to read or simply choose to do nothing and relax with nature.
Brunei’s natural beauty is not just restricted to its rainforest but its underwater holds many hidden treasure. The surrounding waters of this small country is home to over 20 wreck dive sites. Four of them are World War II shipwrecks, five are technical shipwrecks and eight of them are in shallow waters less than 20 metres deep, making Brunei a wreck diver’s haven.
That afternoon, we checked in at Poni Divers located at Serasa Sport Complext on Serasa Beach. Our experienced instructors gave us a briefing before we embarked the boat to Pelong Rock for snorkeling.
Pelong Rock is located only 20 minutes away from Muara Port by boat and has great reef diving. Even for snorkeling, every direction away from the rock offers a view of different coral systems.
This trip to rejuvenate our soul was made possible thanks to Royal Brunei Airlines and Brunei Tourism.
For more information on Royal Brunei Airlines
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