Brunei: 20 September 2009

I arrived at the Labuan International Ferry Terminal at 8.20am. A new counter opened just as I arrived so I was 5th in line. I managed to get tickets on the ferry to Brunei. Immigration opened at 8.40am and there was a queue to get through. Surprisingly, everyone managed to get on board the 9am ferry which left as scheduled. The ferry was rather packed but not full. The ride took 1 hr 15 mins. I arrived at the Brunei ferry terminal at 10.15am.

Ferry to Brunei.

Many ships off the coast near the ferry terminal.

The ferry terminal, including the restroom, is new and clean.

It was fortunate that I noted the departure time for ferries back to Labuan.

I was clueless except for the knowledge that I can take a bus to the city, Bandar Seri Begawan. A staff at the terminal approached me when he saw me looking around at the ferry departure time. He pointed out to me where the bus to the city was parked.

Walkway to the bus to the city.

The bus to the city

Here in Brunei, the Singapore currency can be used too because Brunei has its local currency pegged to the Singapore dollar. The bus ride cost $2 and took 40 minutes. A few people at the bus stops en route to the bus terminal.

The bus terminal is pretty old and very crowded. It's surrounded by buildings and shopping malls. I considered staying in Brunei for the night. So I went to check out KH Soon Resthouse which is just 2 minutes walk away from the bus station. I didn't have much difficulty locating it. From a map I saw online (I don't have a printed map), the resthouse is across the road from HSBC bank. I found the bank so all I had to do was check out all 4 sides of the building.

All the rooms with en suite toilets were occupied. I was shown a $30 room without attached toilet. It was clean, but I didn't want to stay in that room because there were 2 big noisy boilers just outside the room. The owner offered to give me a big room with 2 big beds for the same price but the common toilet was just outside so I figured it would be noisy with people opening and closing the toilet door. Fussy me. I thanked the owner and said I would return if I wanted a room.

There was a tourist information center in the same building. The lady there stated plainly that there isn't much to do in Brunei because of the holidays. She mentioned 2 places of interest: the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and water village. She also suggested that I could join a tour to the national park for $138 per person if there are at least 2 people in the group (she said there's a guy from Scotland who may be going on the tour). I didn't want to pay that much for a tour! Besides, I have a hard time understanding the Scottish accent. If you're wondering why I'm in Malaysia during the Hari Raya Puasa holiday and I'm ill-prepared for the trip, it's because I was supposed to be climbing Mount Kinabalu with my friend but she couldn't make it. My ticket from Singapore-to-Kota Kinabalu can't be refunded so I'm trying to make the most of my trip alone. Fortunately, I didn't book my Kota Kinabalu-to-Singapore ticket so I'm able to travel down to Miri from Labuan and then fly directly back to Singapore from Miri.

Considering the price of the room, the limited number of things I could do here, the food costing the same price as it would in Singapore, and no Internet cafes (all were closed. There are free Wifi hotspots but I don't have a Wifi device), I decided I would make a quick exit. I wanted to take a bus directly to Miri but the travel agencies were all closed. I asked 2 ladies waiting at the bus station whether there was any buses to Miri but they said there weren't any (they had a hard time understanding me but they tried their best to help). I was resigned to having to go back to Labuan. Thankfully I took pictures of the signages stating the return ferry times (I don't have a pen). I could take the 3.30pm or 4.45pm ferry back to Labuan. It was still early - only noon - so I had lunch and proceeded on to the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. On my way there it started to drizzle. I took out my umbrella but the drizzle fizzled out after 5 mins.

The dome made of pure gold. A must-see for tourists.

The mosque is huge and has 3 sides like a traditional church which looks like a cross from the top view. But of course, the mosque can't be mistaken for a church from the top view. (I will post some pictures when I return to Singapore). I couldn't go in because there was a prayer session going on.

Too bad I couldn't go in.


Fountain around which people wash their feet before entering the mosque.

The only Internet cafe available was in the shopping mall near the mosque. I didn't stop to use the Internet because I didn't have much time to spare before I need to make my way back to the bus station. However, I did stop to sit at the esplanade opposite the water village. Boatmen in the boats rode by and tried to convince tourists (including me) to buy a boat tour of the water village. I didn't ask how much because I wasn't interested.

Back at the bus station, I couldn't find the bay for the bus to the ferry terminal. A guy wearing a green floral shirt, carrying a haversack with an Elmo stuffed toy on it asked me whether I needed help. He said the bus to the ferry terminal had just left but there would be another one leaving in an hour's time, and pointed out the bay to wait at. He identified himself as a staff at the bus station by showing me a card. He asked me where I'm from and where I would be heading to after Labuan. When I mentioned Miri, he said I could take a bus there. I replied that I wanted to but the travel agencies were all closed. He said he works for an agency, showed me another card, and asked me to follow him to the agency while he made a phone call. He was told on the phone that there was no bus to Miri today. I said it was ok and I'll just take the ferry back to Labuan. I thanked him and said I would go get a drink then return to the bus station later.

I walked around town a little more to confirm my knowledge that there really wasn't anything interesting to do. There always seems to be a queue at a fried chicken place. I queued but when it got to my turn, a lady tried to cut my queue and they had run out of chicken. I was too impatient to wait for the next batch.

I got a drink at a shop near the bus station. I was surprised to see the guy from the bus station walk in. Perhaps he was there to use the toilet. I don't think he was following me because he didn't see me initially, and I did walk to a number of places before sitting down in that shop. He told me that the bus was leaving in 10 minutes and he had asked the bus driver to wait for me.

I quickly finished my tea and went to the bus station. I still wasn't sure which bay
till I saw him waving to me. I got on the bus, and thanked him again. While sitting on the bus, I observed him talking to a European couple. They seemed happy after leaving. As the bus pulled out of the station at 2.50pm, I waved to him and smile, and he waived back.

On the way to the ferry terminal, the driver stopped for petrol. The driver and the 2 pump attendants were staring at me for a while so I smiled. As the bus left the petrol station, one of the pump attendants waved to me. I waived back and smiled. No harm being friendly :) A guy boared the bus and asked me for my ticket. Initially I thought he was trying to steal my ticket. I saw that he was carrying a list and realised he's the bus conductor - it's been ages since I last encountered one! I reached the ferry terminal at 3.50pm. I don't know why the trip took much longer than the one to the city. There wasn't any traffic jam. Traffic was light on the roads and the drivers were all very patient with other motorists and pedestrians.

I like the people of Brunei. Everyone I encountered (including the queue-cutting lady who smiled at me) was friendly and helpful. However, I won't be going back to Brunei for a vacation any time soon.

Ferry ticket from Labuan to Brunei: Rm35
Bus ride from ferry terminal to town: $2
Bus ride from town ferry terminal: $2
Ferry ticket from Brunei to Labuan: $17


andrewcha said...

oh, wasted....! Then accomodation on KK trip down to the drain as well?

Anonymous said...

Is hard to get around brunei with out a car and hardly there are any taxi around. If happen i knw that u are here in advance maybe i can bring you around to few place of interest. :)


Yu-Kym said...

Andrew, had to forfeit 10% payment that was made for laban rata which is about $13. But that's still ok lah.

Sky, thanks! I didn't know I was going to be there either! Maybe next time :) What's nice there?

Anonymous said...

My pleasure :) well actually noting much u can do. Maybe do visiting to few place of interest like jerudong park, empire hotel, de sultan palace and .... If for shopping is a bit boring. If u're at miri jst be extra careful on ur belonging as now a day de security over der is on de down side. Enjoy or trip.


Yu-Kym said...

Sky, thanks for the tips! I didn't lose anything in Miri thankfully :)

Roger said...

Brought back memories of my trip to Brunei. Thanks.