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BORNEO & BRUNEI

NOV. 2nd+ 3rd  BRUNEI   BSB– Apek Utama Hotel. B$30 inc. A/C en suite + hot water.

We are running out of time and have to decide between Kota Kinabalu or Brunei. We reason that Brunei being one of the worlds richest countries, who provides free health care and education for it’s people with no taxes to pay, will be a great contrast to Sarawak so we catch the express bus to the border

It’s an epic journey of 4 different buses plus your usual customs points and it’s 5 and a half hours before we reach the capital Bandar Seri Begawan  which we had imagined would be on a smaller scale of Singapore. Wrong. The riches of Brunei seem to go on a jet set life for the Sultans son– a rather classy lad who named his yacht TITS and the speedboats NIPPLES 1 and NIPPLES 2! We were very disappointed with the town but made the most of it by visiting all the sights;

The Kampung Ayer is a stilted village that is home to 30,000 people and includes mosques, schools, shops and boat fire stations– the people who live there made the journey worthwhile. They wave and call hello as you walk around the boardwalks watching everyday kampung life go by.

There are two museums in town– the  Brunei and the Royal Regalia. Entrance is free to both and they are worth going to see- especially the Islamic Gallery where you will find a lovely collection of art from Iran, Turkey and Oman.

And finally the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. This has to be the most unwelcoming mosque we have ever visited. We were told to go away during morning visiting hours, so we returned later only to see the staff turn the visiting hours sign around as they saw us approach! We did get in but they were real ass holes about it. We would understand it if we were being disrespectful but we are well aware of how to dress and behave- I was asked 3 times in Iran if my wife was Muslim because Rose was so covered up!!!! After the mosques of Iran and Turkey this place was very bland.

TOP TIP: There is a small blue ‘shack’ opposite the hotel, toward the river– this lovely lady sells the best chicken in town. A plate of rice, chicken and vegetable tofu will set you back B$1.50. BARGAIN.

NOV.  5th  KUCHING    B&B INN again.

The thought of sitting on any more public coaches kills us so we fly to Kuching from Miri with Air Asia for the grand sum of  17 pounds per person.

It’s great to be back and we spend the following day yet again chasing the dream! We have seen the cultural village advertised and it gets a good write up for it’s authenticity, so we decide to blow the budget in the hope of seeing the tattooed tribals that are featured on the brochure. We catch the shuttle bus from the Holiday Inn where they sell you discounted entrance tickets and arrive some time later at the site. It is a good place to see the original designs of the different tribal houses and they put on a show that was well worth watching if only for the Iban blowpipe act but, there was not a tattoo or long earlobe in sight!!! We round off the day with a revisit to Semenggoh  where we were treated to a serious close up of Ritchie.

What a tremendous way to end our trip to Sarawak.

CULTURAL VILLAGE near KUCHING

NOV. 4th  MIRI  Brooke Inn– 48Rm  A/C, en suite hot water + T.V  Again ask reception for your channel.

We were dreading the bus trip back but fortunately all the coaches were small and relatively comfortable. There is a bridge that links Brunei to Sarawak it was built 6 years ago but was only for government use, 3 years ago it was opened to the public. We crossed over it 2 days ago but today are told that, ‘it’s the bridges day off’ -so we have to disembark from the coach and onto a small boat to cross the river?! Weird. We arrive in Miri  after 6 and a half hours. Was Brunei worth the expense and effort?? Probably not– but the people of Brunei were incredibly welcoming and friendly.

                              KAMPUNG AYER                                                                      OMAR ALI SAIFUDDIEN MOSQUE

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP;  

BAKO NATIONAL PARK

SEMENGGOH WILDLIFE CENTRE

KUCHING TOWN

KAPIT– spend a few days- you won’t regret it.

BOAT TRIP TO BELAGA– superb. Be sure to make the most of any opportunities to get invited to a longhouse en route.

NIAH CAVES

Everything else was thoroughly enjoyable and is recommended except Brunei. If you happen to find yourself there or have to go that way for some reason then it’s worth a look around– but we all agreed that it was not worth the journey or the budget. We spent a total of 83 pounds on our 2 night trip!

Whatever you do make sure to visit the Borneo part of Malaysia– it has been the highlight of our trip, second only to India.

Malaysia Borneo-  We made a serious mistake in only spending two weeks here– a month would be a more realistic time frame and then you could incorporate Sabah. We had a fantastic time with the only disappointment being the lost opportunities of meeting and speaking to the older generation of the tribal people. We did see some but were concerned that we may cause offence by staring or asking too many questions. It was  a mistake– the people, especially the Iban and Kenyah tribes, are renowned for their friendliness.

We have asked other travellers who left for Belaga a few days after us to let us know how they get on– any new top tips we will be put in this section.

RITCHIE– what a star!!

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