Thursday, April 6, 2006

Hello all, Feeling a little uninspired ATM, think I'm just a little too hot and sticky today.
We arrived in the main port of Brunei - Muara - yesterday, it's only 25km from Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB). We caught a bus into town and then another one from town to the hotel we planned to stay at which is a few km out to the east. It's cheap by Brunei standards, only B$30 a night (which is a little less in AU dollars) and has a very friendly proprietress full of (slightly misleading) information. Last night she told us about a lookout nearby, 'only 10 minutes'. Sure. 10 minutes.Try 20 minutes up flight of stairs to the first lookout with a good view (and a snake).
We decided to keep on walking up the hill to the second lookout and lets just say it was a bloody long way and there were lots and lots of steps. The path looped around and then went back down the hill to the first stop...I counted 770 steps from the second point. We and our temporary travelling companions (a UK couple called John and Tanya) were shattered by the end of it but dragged up the energy to catch a water taxi to a night market in town after a stop off at the hotel for a shower.
The taxi was fabulous fun, they're little pointy wooden boats with an outboard engine. The drivers stand up in the back and shine a spotlight into the darkness so they don't run into any other taxis or the houses packed into the river. From the city we begun to walk the '15 minutes' (closer to half an hour) trying to find this mysterious night market where everything was 'only 1 dollar' (try $1-$6) where once we finally located it we had a fabulous dinner of crab (took us ages to eat that one) noodles, fried chicken and rice. I had a bizarre very pink milk drink with bits of jelly and corn floating in it. It was quite nice but a bit too sweet and artificial tasting for me to get it again.
We powered back off into the darkness to our hotel in another water taxi and slept the sleep of the dead in our air-conditioning.This morning after yet another curry breakfast (I'm dying for a fruit salad or something light for breakfast already) and frothy tea (much to Dylan's disgust, he's been trying to order a frothy tea/coffee for days with no success, hehehe ) we headed off to see the Brunei Museum which our hotel lady assured us was only a 20 minute walk up the road. Half an hour later we stopped to look a 16th century sultan's tomb which was more run down than I expected, but deserted apart from a group of monkeys crashing around in the trees. I liked it nonetheless (love that half lost feel), I especially enjoyed the desk, 2 office chairs and filing cabinet right next to the tomb (what does the dead need with paperwork?). Then we powered on for another 15 minutes in the heat and sun only to find the world renowned museum was closed for renovations. I felt distinctly underwhelmed by the amazing sights inside. Then back to the city via bus and a long lunch in a little cafe with no less than 18 fans blasting away from the roof (what would use more power I wonder? 1 air conditioner or 18 fans?) while we waited for the 4:30-5:00 slot allocated to tourists to look at the mosque in the center of town.
We also walked around Kampung Ayer, the water village (it's enormous) strung our along Sungai/River Brunei. It's very cool looking from a distance but up close it's set in a sea of mud and tonnes and tonnes of rubbish. How does a country as wealthy as this have an area like that? Kampung Ayer is the history of this place, once upon a time Brunei was almost ALL on the river. It was odd to see after everywhere has been spotless and gleaming.
By the time 430 finally arrived we wandered up to the doors of the mosque to guessed it, 'closed to non-Muslims today'. It wouldn't bug me but we only have one day here and so far all we've achieved is a sunburn.So that's been the last two days. Lots and lots of walking, a bit of disappointment, and overheating and winding up in half empty shopping centers to cool off eating ice creams. Cheers guys

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