In part one and part two of his travel adventures, Malcolm unearthed the hidden treasures deep with the rainforest of Borneo and the seas of Brunei. In this travel article, he journeyed back to Bandar Seri Begawan to discover the other national treasures resting between the two giant mosques of gold.
Having spent a longer time at Ulu Temburong National Park soaking in the morning fresh air at the Canopy Walk, we had to rush through the rest of our itinerary that day. Day 3 breakfast was a special experience as we had our meal packed into bento boxes and ate it on the go while traveling on the long boat back to Bangar town.
Once we reached the speedboat terminal at Bangar town, everyone were excited to get connected with technology and were rushing to post their pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share with our readers, friends and followers. Seems that you can take bloggers to Ulu Ulu Resort without wifi but you cannot take the habit off from us! I was guilty as charged too.
Next on the itinerary was the tour of the Water Village. Commonly nicknamed “Venice of the East” by both the local and international communities, Kampong Ayer is actually not a village but a town of 40 sub villages interconnected within this water community. Kampong Ayer is home to over 30,000 Bruneians. From the outside, they look like kelongs or houses built on stilts, commonly found in Malaysia as homes of fishermen. But take a closer look and almost every house in Kampong Ayer was reinforced by concrete pillars and not wooden stilts.
For the locals, traveling across the river was a daily affair. Prices for the water taxi or small speedboat start from B$1.00. Our first stop was to visit the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery which gave us a detailed introduction about the history and culture of the Water Village. I also heard that Brunei is applying for Kampong Ayer to be listed as a UNESCO Heritage site, I sincerely hope this will bring up the profile for the Venice of the East.
Next to Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery are the newer houses on water. These residents were re-homed due to a big fire. The newer houses lack the unique characteristic and remind me of our public housing built by Housing Development Board (HDB) in Singapore. But these houses certainly look like resorts and I really don’t mind owning one. By the way, owners of these new houses own title deed, meaning to say, they don’t just own the house but also the land underneath it too (unlike the older water houses, the owners can only claim ownership of the house and not the land underneath).
One disappointment was that I didn’t get to see any proboscis monkeys, which hang out further down the river from the water villages. However, we did get to go inside one of the residents’ house to have a peek at what daily living there looked like. The host we visited own a house with three bedrooms and converted one room into a wedding studio for visitors to take photos. We also had tea with some local snacks before moving back to main land.
After visiting the Water Village, we crossed the river and drove to the Royal Regalia Museum. Opened in 1992, it houses a huge display of the ceremonial items associated to the Royal family. These royal regalia had been passed down from generation to generation. Inside the museum, there are replicas of the royal throne, robes, crowns and gifts to the Sultan displayed as a tribute to the life and times of the monarchy.
Lunch was at Tarindak d’Seni located at level 2 of Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Centre (Jalan Residency, Bandar Seri Begawan) opposite the Water Village. It was here that we got to finally try the much talked about national dish of Brunei – Ambuyat, a dish made from the interior trunk of sago palm. It is a starchy bland substance commonly eaten using Chandas (chopsticks or bamboo fork) and with special local dips. This dish was invented in World War II when food choice was limited.
To be honest, I prefer Singapore’s national dish Chili Crab and national cocktail Singapore Sling for sure. Speaking of drinking, no alcohol is sold in Brunei but you can bring your own booze from Changi Airport duty free shops before your arrival to the Sultanate.
That afternoon, we also got ourselves wet as we went snorkeling at Pelong Rocks (mentioned in my previous post). We checked-in to The Empire Hotel & Country Club to freshen up before the much anticipated dinner meeting with the Brunei bloggers at Azhani’s residence.
It was a pleasure to meet up with passionate individuals who have a love for online sharing and writing. Did I mention that the barbecue dinner was specially prepared by Azhani’s husband? Azhani is the senior corporate communications officer for Royal Brunei Airlines and she blogs occasionally these days due to heavy workload.
Check out the Bruneian bloggers’ website:
We are thankful to Royal Brunei Airlines and Brunei Tourism for the travel arrangement and hospitality, and to Omy.sg for organising this trip. For more information about Brunei, visit Brunei Tourism website at: www.bruneitourism.travel
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