Brunei: A Tour of National Treasures

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. 

DSC02169a

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.

DSC02307 IMG_1885a

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.

DSC02308a

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.

DSC02329 DSC02311

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.

DSC02312 DSC02317

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).

DSC02313 DSC02321

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.

DSC02324 DSC02325 DSC02328 DSC02332 DSC02336 DSC02337 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC02355 DSC02356 DSC02363 DSC02366

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.

DSC02371 DSC02375 DSC02376 DSC02378

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.

DSC02390 DSC02393 DSC02389

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.

DSC02385 DSC02388

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

DSC02426 DSC02437

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_1904

Check out the Bruneian bloggers’ website:

Rano Iskandar (@RanoAdidas) – RanoAdidas.com and LoveFoodHateWaste.org

Reeda Malik (@AnakBrunei) – AnakBrunei.org

Kamarul D Ajimain (@marul69) – geekinwhite.com

Maurina (@Maurina) – maurina.wordpress.com

Azhani (@EmmaGoodEgg) – emmagoodegg.com

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

Brunei Tourism Logo

For more information on Royal Brunei Airlines’ destinations, fares and promotions, please visit their website flyroyalbrunei.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/royalbruneiairlinessingapore

“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

 

Brunei: Mother Nature and Ulu Temburong National Park

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. 
DSC02261
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.
DSC02289
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.
IMG_9438
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.
IMG_4241 IMG_9384
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.
IMG_4253 IMG_4256 DSC02175 DSC021762013_05_27_9999_16 IMG_1390
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.
DSC02179 8494_10151671595445631_817830707_n IMG_9415 IMG_1393
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”.
IMG_4281 IMG_9417
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.
DSC02191 DSC02178
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.
2013_05_27_9999_51 DSC02187 P1010580 P1010585
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.
DSC02198
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.
2013_05_27_9999_80 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.
2013_05_27_9999_59 DSC02219 DSC02222 DSC02232
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.
DSC02253 DSC02257
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.
2013_05_27_9999_100 IMG_1518
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.
P1010599 P1010600
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.
P1010604 P1010618
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.
DSC02210 DSC02264
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.
IMG_9443 DSC02303
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.
DSC02214 DSC02239
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.
IMG_9444
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.
IMG_4439IMG_4450
DSC02283
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
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.
DSC02408
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.
IMG_4666 P1010703
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.
IMG_9461a
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.
P1010730 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC02401
This trip to rejuvenate our soul was made possible thanks to Royal Brunei Airlines and Brunei Tourism.
RBA_Logo_Pri_FC_CMYK_a
For more information on Royal Brunei Airlines
“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

Adopt Them Today!

Even before the animation, Shrek begins showing in theatres, making one of the support characters so popular that eventually Puss in Boots has his own spin-off movie.

I love cats and when I am not working or studying I often go down to the void deck to feed stray cats in our community. I feel a sense of peace watching them chew on their biscuits and observing their body language.

It was through volunteering with Cat Welfare Society that I got to love Lorriane and a few others. Though we have stopped our voluntary work due to time commitment, our love of felines never stops growing.

20120708-080924.jpg

20120708-080943.jpg

20120708-081008.jpg

20120708-081017.jpg

Next month August, Lorriane will be migrating to Australia to start a new life with her husband to be. Her cats, Jessie and Torttie, need a new home. Will you take them in?

As I’m still staying with my family, they are against me having pets at home. Lorriane and I will really appreciate if you can help spread the word and link us up with potential owners.

Meow! The cats have to find a new home by mid August. Please email Lorriane at chia_sweesien@hotmail.com or contact me directly.