Bandar Seri Begaw, Brunei

Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
Trip End Aug 31, 2007

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Sunday, September 3, 2006

Brunei is not a major tourist spot. This was obvious before I arrived because there were less than twenty people on my flight. And that's about as many people were at the airport when I arrived.

Brunei is a Muslim state and no alcohol is allowed. The locals know this will drive most westerns to drink so we're allowed to bring in a couple of bottles or two six packs as long as we declare them. The customs inspector obviously didn't believe that I could go two days without a drink as I was asked eight times if I had any alcohol and that I did realise that I had to declare it. The rest of the inspection was easy:
> What's in your bag?
> Some clothes and er... that's about it.
> Ok, carry on.

BTW: For anybody arriving here please note: the ATM is in the departure section not in arrivals. I guess so that everybody can stock up on Brunei dollars before they leave the country.

Then next stop was getting the bus to town. Actually, then next step was finding the bus. If you check out the photo you can see that the bus station (just 300 metres from the airport) looks more like one of those ghost towns you see in westerns. After a bit of investigation I discovered that there were definitely NO bus timetables anywhere. After waiting for ten minutes I decided the only way to make a bus appear was to leave. Once again this trick did not let me down and a bus appeared 250 metres down the road. It then started to turn around. Luckily the road was narrow and it needed to do a ten point turn. I got after nine.

After Singapore, where an inch on the map equals one mile, Bandar Seri Begaw is a small village. Everything in the centre is within a kilometer. So I was able to cover most of the town on foot. The rest was done by boat. Now, there are about a dozen places that claim to be the Vience of the East but Bandar Seri Begaw is unique in that it claims to be the first with the title. If gondolas had twin speed Yamaha engines then it's probably right. These boats are necessary since about 30,000 people live on the river in water villages. These are basically wooden houses on stilts.

I'm returning to Brunei in a month to get my flight to Thailand. So I'm going to leave exploring the interior until then. Next stop will be Malaysia tomorrow.
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