Friday, November 07, 2014

What's there to do in Brunei?

HELLO GUYS! So as you might already know from my earlier blog post , I went to Brunei with Marilyn. And contrary to all you people who tol...

HELLO GUYS!

So as you might already know from my earlier blog post, I went to Brunei with Marilyn. And contrary to all you people who told us that it would be boring, IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME. We loved it very much. So in case you're planning a trip to Brunei, here's what you can do when you get there...

#1 Go for a Fish Spa.

So if you try doing some research about things to do in Brunei, you'd probably come across this place called the "Ulu Temburong National Park". True to it's name, the park is really ulu. To get to there, you have to take a 20 minute car ride to the jetty, a 45 minute speed boat ride to some ulu place, another car ride to another place, and another 45 minute trip by long boat to this kampong hut resort in the middle of the river.

But more about that in another post. So anyway, many travel sites will probably tell you about the long trek up what is creatively known as the "800 steps". No prizes for guessing what that's about. And there's also a canopy walk. Pretty impressive, but you know, big whoop.
The highlight was hidden at this waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. To get there, we had to take yet another boat ride to a clearing, and wade through a very long and meandering stream with ankle to knee deep water.
And then you come to this clearing with a not-very big waterfall which our guide told us to pose with in a very specific spot.
And we were a bit confused because while we were standing there, we felt this mildly annoying biting sensation at our feet. Then we looked down, and this is what we saw.
Like WOW. Fish spa fish!! At a waterfall in Brunei! We were just expecting to take a photo with some unimpressive waterfall and leave. To say that we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. So we found a log, settled down, and watched the fish chew off our dead skin.
And that's how Marilyn and I experienced our first fish spa - not at Kenko or Qian Hu, but at a waterfall in the middle of an ulu national park in Brunei.

Digession:
Nessie and I have been planning to go for a fish spa since last year. However, both of us are professional procrastinators and tend to get distracted by more pressing issues. Like putting on nose packs. Or acting scary with our face masks. Or practising our winking.

#2 Hunt down some Alcohol.

So Brunei is governed under the concept of MIB. I know what you're thinking, and would like to clarify that MIB refers to "Melayu Islam Beraja", and not these dudes right here.
(Via Theiapolis).

If you Google for places to drink in Brunei, you'd come across many articles saying that you can only do so in your hotel room. Then you will also find some articles on some underground bars where you can drink. And smoke. 
So from these accounts we knew that there was this place called "The Lounge" which served alcohol. But we didn't know where. And we didn't know how to get there. But we made friends with some locals and managed to get our drink on our first night in Brunei. Check it out man.
The speakeasy we went to wasn't "The Lounge" which has since closed down. This was called...I don't even know its name. But like "The Lounge", it's located in a hotel. And all the blinds are drawn. It looks like something out of a Hong Kong movie. You know, when he hero enters the restaurant and gets led to this smokey shady backroom with like, rich Chinese men sitting around? This was exactly it.
Yes, I know it's empty. But you know, it was a room full of Hong Kong mafia boss lookalikes. I wasn't going to take a photo with all of them around you know. And of course, when we first entered the room everyone stared at the two colourfully dressed Chinese girls. For a long time. I think 2 minutes. We just stood there at the entrance. As we did not know what to do. Except to look at the people staring at us. It was awkward.
(Via Distractify).

#3 Wear Bedroom Slippers in Public.

So here's a picture of Brunei's Royal Regalia Museum. And it's worth a visit, not because it's particularly interesting (it's not), but because it makes you realise how cosmopolitan and progressive Singapore is.
(Via AsiaOne).

You aren't allowed any photos in the museum apart from the lobby, but here's a low down of what you will see: three floors of lined with gifts that people have given the Sultan over the years. What this means is that when you walk through the museum, you will feel like you have been trapped inside an extremely large trophy case.

Yes, exactly like that. Execpt that apart from gold cups you also have crystal figurines, ornamental guns, jade sculptures and shiny models of cities. Like trophy cups, they have very little detail on them. All of the paraphenelia are labelled as such:
"Gift from Mr Hello from Country of Greetings on 25 December 1986"
This can get very boring after a while. But I was excited to discover that I'm very Singaporean in terms of gift selection. All the gifts that I were drawn towards were presented to the Sultan by PM Lee Hsien Loong or Former PM Goh Chok Tong. SINGAPORE, #REPRESENT.
(Via USA Today).

Anyway, I thought that this was the most interesting part of the museum were the shoe racks at the entrance of the museum.
They're lined with bedroom slippers. Before entering the museum, you're supposed to remove you shoes in exchange for some fashionable white kicks. Like what Marilyn is doing below.
Look how in vogue we are with these bedroom slippers from random hotels! Plodding around royal memorabilia in unwanted hotel slippers, life doesn't get more liberating than this.

#4 Visit Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

So if you read my previous post, you'd know that I was extremely excited to visit all the happening night spots in Brunei. And after lots of research, we found two places which were listed on Lonely Planet under "Entertainment and Nightlife".
We asked the locals if this was legit. And they said yes. What they do in Brunei for fun, is to go out to drink tea and coffee. As drinking in public is not allowed. And fun stuff like karaoke is banned because it promotes social ills (we learnt from our new friend Eric that the Bruneian government's pet phrase is "social ills". Kind of like how we are with the "new normal" and "whole of government"). Anyhow, we didn't go to De Royalle Café because no one we asked had heard of it. But we did go to Coffee Bean. We like, hung out with coffee and took selfies like a happening bunch.
We also noticed that it wasn't so happening without alcohol. So I borrowed a pen from some dude studying in the table behind us and drew pictures of alcohol onto my cup.
It was fun. But I would like to add that two Starbucks outlets have since opened in Brunei, and one of them is a drive through, I am a bit upset that we didn't manage to go there because of our shoddily done research. Please remember to go to a Starbucks and take some photos for me if you ever happen to be in Brunei.

#5 Climb some Toilet Walls.

So on our last night in Brunei, Ma and I decided to stay in The Empire Hotel & Country Club. It's a really swanky place so the service was impeccable. We were treated like queens by the counter staff. That was the highlight for Ma at least. For me, the most exciting part was opening the complimentary mini bar and finding out that they had Pepsi, and Coke Light. DUDE.
I mean like, usually it's Coke and Coke Light, Pepsi and Pepsi Light, or just Coke and Pepsi. BUT THIS PLACE, it has Pepsi and Coke Light? Brilliant.
(Via Buzzfeed).

Anyway, after checking out our wonderful room...

Ma and I went to check out the bathroom and WOW. It was gorgeous.
(Via News).

Okay I know it doesn't look so great here, but trust me. It's a very good bathroom. So much so that it's number 5 on Lonely Planet's recently published list of Best Bathrooms in the World. So we were wandering around the bathroom (yup, that's right. it's big enough to wander around), when I looked at the partition separating the toilet from the shower stall and wondered aloud...
Jac, "Eh Ma, do you think they clean the ledges up there?" 
Ma, "I don't know. You check la." 
Jac, "Ok, I check."

Oh eventually I checked the ledge, and it was clean. Empire Hotel staff did not disappoint.

#6 Walk around a Fake Ghost Town.

Brunei's really serious on the whole Muslim thing, so all shops and restaurants and what not are closed on Fridays from 12 - 2 pm. You know, so that the Muslims can go for their Friday prayers. Our new friend Eric explained that in the civil service, the working week consists of Monday to Thursday, and Saturday. Which kinda sucks as your weekend is broken up into two.
(Via Love Painter).

So what happens on Fridays for two hours starting from noon is that everything looks dead.
During this time, your driver has to go and pray, leaving you with nothing to do since no shops are open either. If this happens, I suggest you take it in your stride, and take some photos of yourself munching on some chips in the middle of a seemingly deserted town.
You can also work on your jump shots while you're at it.
It's okay, no one will be around to laugh at you if you fail.

#7 Have a Picnic in your Hotel Room.

There's this good night market in the Gadong area of Brunei which sells your typical night market fare. Like satay, kebab and peanut pancake.
And at the end of the pasar malam there was this stall barbecuing their fish. And we bough a whole mackerel for $3! And in Singapore a can of mackerel can cost $5. And you have to open the can. Which can be troublesome, especially when you are waiting for your fingernails to dry, or if you know, are lazy in general.
We also got one huge peanut pancake, like the whole thing instead of just one slice, for $1.50! Madness.
And Ma got 4 of these popias. Which I refused to eat because I hate the taste of banana. But she says it's very good and recommends it to all going to Brunei!
I got a kebab instead.
And then we headed back to the hotel and had a picnic on the floor!
It was a very successful picnic, especially since we had vodka and Coke Light to go with it. I don't know, but doing something borderline illegal gives me the kicks.
Okay and that's all for my list of things to do in Brunei. I mean, there are more things that I could list, but you know, we didn't do anything too frivolous there so I didn't include them. However, if you're looking to go to Brunei, do also check out the oil field in Seria, and the world's largest water village aka Brunei's Kampong Ayer, where 10% of the population lives.
Okay! Hope you found that useful or at least mildly entertaining. Anyway I'm going to leave you with this song, "In The Ayer". Because you know, "Kampong Ayer".



OKAY ENOUGH. Sleep.
❤ Jac.

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5 comments

  1. Brunei seems fascinating! Shall definitely consider visiting there at least once, it was never on my list of places to go but now it is hehe :D

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  2. Great tips, I like the idea of a fish spa!

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    Replies
    1. yeah you really should go! it was awesome :)

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  3. Looks like you had a great time and really made the most of Brunei, lol.

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha I really did! I think I read your post on the secret bar in Brunei before I went!

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