We decided to go to Brunei for one-day trip while staying in our beach holiday in Malaysian Sabah (Kota Kinabalu). Initially, we booked the flight with Malaysia Airlines (2013), however the airline informed us about cancellation of the return flight and offered us arrival in Brunei at 10 AM and the return flight at 10:30 AM :-). As it was clearly not sufficient to leave the airport, we cancelled the reservation and we went for the refund which was not the easy process. Anyway, we ended in booking Royal Air Brunei flight from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan, which made us even more excited. We hoped that the airline from one of the reachest countries in the world will offer high-level entertainment and the food service going beyond our imagination :-). Stupid us.
The flight took some 40 minutes, so clearly there was not enough time to offer any service :-). Royal Air Brunei is not different from any other flag carrier worldwide.
After having landed, we entered the airport’s terminal which was similar to Warsaw airport in the beginning of 1980s :-). After having left the arrival zone we approached the tourist information counter (I admit that we did not put too much effort to plan the trip well in advance), hoping that we’ll get all hints there. At the end of the day it was to be one of the reachest countries in the world which should provide high-quality service to the visitors. The tour assistant had to be found somewhere under the counter and she was able to say “good morning” in English only. After short while we gave up any attempt to communicate and we decided to spend a day in the country on our own. We still were excited while following the principle “small is beautiful”.
Getting to Bandar Seri Begawan
After having left the tourist counter we approached the bus and the taxi stand. We were ambitious enough to wait for the bus in order to explore the country’s landscape on a lower speed. Making some local friendships was an additional driver.
However, at the stop we learned that the bus service is not very regular and the bus drivers do not arrive at the airport if there are no passengers to drop. Given the frequency of flights departing from Bandar Seri Begawan, we realized that our chance to catch the bus is not very high and we decided to walk to the taxi stand.
The situation was not much better there as we learned that there are only 25 taxis in the entire country. After 40 minutes we got one though and we arrived in the city center of Bandar Seri Begawan (15 minutes drive – 20 euro).
Bandar Seri Begawan
Well, the place is not something you would spend more than 2 hours. The very central place of the city is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.
Also, the surrounding gardens and streets are worth to visit. Few steps from the Mosque, at the river’s bank, the tourists can rent a boat for a short trip throughout the residential areas (huts on the water) and the Palace of the Sultan. The cost is some 20 USD. We did not go for it (which we deeply regret) because of too much sunshine operating on the head of my wife over the last days. Anyway, the boat drivers will find you at the bank and there are not too many tourist competitors fighting to get the boat :-).
After having spent some 2 hours in the city and given the fact that there were still 7 hours left to the return flight we decided to visit Brunei’s countryside. Therefore, we found the bus station and we decided to go to Gadong, the commercial heart of the country :-).
The above picture presents the Central Bus Station of Brunei. The busses are a bit tired, finding the right one to your destination is a challenge and the travel experience is worth the (cheap) price. The crew of the bus is consisting of two people i.e. the driver and the ticket seller who also pulls the string to open the door. If the Sultan decided to allocate part of the funds he spents to invite western call girls, on the public transportation, the comfort of residents to travel in the country would be much higher.
After having studied the principles of local public transportation in Brunei (leaving the passengers in the middle lane of the highway with all of them risking their life to get to the pavement), we got to Gadong.
Gadong is consisting of the huge shopping mall, adjacent hotel of local brand, the food market place and few restaurants/ currency exchange points. My wife was quite happy to find attractive silk textiles at affordable prices in the mall although the word “mall” has a very different meaning than in Europe. The mall means a building with thousands of individual businesses located under one roof, which is actually the feature of most shopping centers in Far East.
We had also our lunch there in a pizzeria we found in the neighborhood and we approached the hotel to get a (one of 25) taxi. After waiting time of over an hour, we boarded the car and we went to the airport.
We were quite bored and to kill our boredom we were killing the cockroaches on the floor of the airport’s food court floor. The appetite was completely over and, from time to time, we were looking at the huge banner in front of the airport’s terminal saying ” Brunei – your most favorite holiday destination”.