|Outside Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque|
|Held in Sarawak, Borneo|
|Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque & Royal Barge|
Linda also mentioned Brunei and the Empire Hotel and Country Club...Where?...What? The Sultanate of Brunei is a tiny Muslim country nestled between Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, and the Empire Hotel and Country Club is its 5 star hotel centrepiece. Whilst I have never had a huge desire to travel to Brunei, we decided to go there, as we were already going to be so very close. Staying in a 5 star plus hotel? Linda had been there before with her band (Inka Marka), and said it was worth the splurge. With some really decent on-line deals, we decided to "OTT" (over the top) it, and act like royalty, well at least sultans, for a day...or two.
|This speaks for itself!|
|This sure beats vegemite!|
The flight was good, no problems at all. Once we arrived in KL, we had to wait a few hours before flying on to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the capital of Brunei (whose official name is actually the State of Brunei Darussalam). Linda had her lap top with her, so we filled in our time by sitting in a cafe, and sipping on coffee (as you do), whilst using the free wireless provided. You can never have too much coffee, or wireless internet access for that matter! Soon back on a plane, we were on our way to Brunei.
|The Empire Hotel...no luxury spared.|
|Beachfront view from the Empire Hotel|
On the Empire Hotel: It was built in the 90s on the same scale as a Las Vegas Casino, and was commissioned by Price Jefri, originally as lodging for the royal family (talk about putting a new spin on private accommodation!). Construction costs were estimated at US $1.1 billion, and the property was quickly transformed into an upscale resort to recover some of the construction costs...word has it that this will never actually happen! Amongst many other things, the hotel boasts two camel-shaped lamps made from pure Baccarat crystal, topped with solid gold...they cost a mere US half a million each! Now that is extravagance!
|Linda and Ombi - wining & dining at the Empire Hotel|
|Royal Regalia Museum|
|Which side of the Yarra d'ya reckon the mosque is on?|
|Homemade boat & paddles - Kampong River|
The next day we made our own way into the city centre and wandered around. We seemed to not only be the only tourists, but the only ones walking around, and I must say, it was pretty hot. That couldn't possibly have been the reason! We visited the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, (built in 1958 at a cost of about US $5 million...then! They don't go by halves in this country!), another very aesthetically pleasing monument. Alex and I also walked around Kampong Ayer. Right in the centre, this water village is an amazing juxtaposition to the many lavish buildings which surround it. Just minutes away from the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, is a jumble of wooden planks and shacks, considered to be the biggest water village in the world. Housing an estimated 20,000 people, Kampong Ayer is made up of 28 water villages. As we wandered and meandered around the walkways, and on many a broken plank high enough above the water to make the idea of tripping over positively frightening, I couldn't help but be amazed how poverty could reside so close to luxury. I alternated between looking at the rotten planks below me, and then looking out to the city from which I had just walked. What a contrast!
|Brunei water-taxi service|
Our three nights and four days in Brunei passed in a flash, and before we knew it, we were on a plane flying out to Kuching, where we would be volunteering at the Sarawak Rainforest Music Festival. Whilst I was glad that I had seen Brunei and had seen and done some interesting things, I cannot say that it tops my "5 places to re-visit" list. Interesting enough it's kind of more in the been there, done that category!
What am I reading?
The Havana Mob - T.J. English
"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by" - Robert Frost
|How people on "the other side" live - Kampong water village|
|Outside wooden house - Kampong water village|
|Boy going to school - Kampong water village|
|Opulence - Empire Hotel & Country Club|
|Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque|
|Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque|