Plan B : Plan Brunei

This day I found a happy workaround in a misadventure – 11.19.15

Previous day’s visit to Penang’s beaches ended on a rather gloomy note as on my way back to Georgetown, I got a text message from the airline informing me that my flight back to Manila has been cancelled due to APEC .

As I needed to be back on that day in time for an event at work, I had to think of an alternative – one that gave me a window to briefly explore another country.

Planning the plan

To not ruin my beach day, I deliberately delayed worrying about the flight cancellation when I get back to Kuala Lumpur. I then used the time at the train to think of a plan

As I needed Internet connection to do further researches and of course do the rebooking, I chose to beer someplace in BUKIT BINTANG maximizing their free wifi as I search for ways back to Manila. Not with no damage on wallet but I found a route via Brunei with some decent time in between which I thought I could use to sightsee.

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I knew it was going to be a busy day so grateful to this few minutes of calm from sunrise on the ferry back to Butterworth

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From my ‘think’ spot

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My ‘think’ spot

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… and when in KL, my beer spot

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… then my post-beer calories in one of the outdoor stalls in the area

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And the plan went like this : 

1.  Spend the night at KL airport (and make it budget-friendly yet interesting)

I was supposed to be on my flight that late evening but since the new one to Brunei leaves early morning the following day, I needed a place to crash for the night. It was initially an unwanted plan because I had this perception that hotels near the airport tend to be pricey. Then the universe game me CAPSULE BY CONTAINER HOTEL! Not only is it within my budget range, sleeping in a capsule is an experience I have always wanted to do again since my first in Osaka.

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Checking in

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My clutter inside the capsule

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Talk about maximizing space

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2. They don’t sell beer in Brunei but bring own dose (unfortunately, I could not hand-carry. Boohoo.)

While I find the idea of side trip to another country exciting, I was not that excited about Brunei. I have researched about this country in the past and despite low fares encountered at certain points, I found little interesting about it. Thinking about it now, it probably had to do with the fact that they don’t sell beer – legally at least.

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I know that sale of alcohol is banned there so at the KL Airport I fueled up! 

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… and ended up peeing a lot

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I downed a few while waiting at the airport then got myself extra cans of beer thinking I can hand-carry it. Well, nice try. Cans confiscated at security check.

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My bag looks healthy

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3. Know where in Brunei can experience most

And that had to be at the center. Fortunately, unlike some countries where the airport is far, Bandar Seri Begawan center is about half an hour ride.

The original plan is to take on a purple bus but at that time, it ended up not as accessible as the online articles made it to be. That even gave me this moment of hesitation whether I should still go outside the airport. I was scared to miss my flight if I could not find a way to go back, to a point even rationalizing that the mosque at the airport is lovely enough. Thank goodness curiosity won over what sounded ‘safe’.

And because I was running out of precious time and the bus was taking ‘forever’ to arrive, I let go of some of my cheapskate and took a cab instead. To my luck, I chanced upon a friendly driver who in fluent English told me which spots to see in the area where I was headed (including a trivia on a structure shaped like number 7 but actually is 60 in Arabic).

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This quiet at the airport

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At the exit is this lovely view

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Lovely and neat

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4. Let the place surprise you

Again, I was not that excited but I was greeted by such beautiful mosque where my driver dropped me off my instinct was to take a selfie. Called SULTAN OMAR ALI SAIFUDDIEN,  this landmark is a stand-out amid the town-looking city, made even more beautiful on such a sunny, almost cloudless day.

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‘Cause it’s obvious when I like a place much (Ehem, I take selfies)

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Love at first sight

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It was one thing to see but what surprised me was how the place made me feel. It charmed me with its quiet, ironically despite the prayer chanting at that time of day. Except few cars, there was practically no one on the streets at that time that I assumed it was prayer time.  There was also something calming being alone in such a small city while hearing words I could not understand. I felt surrounded by beauty that I can see and hear.

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5. Let friendly strangers take your around

I knew about the water village but I did not intend to take a water taxi to go around it because 1) I read online that it required haggling with the boatman and it is not a skill I have; and 2) I was having some trust issues because that meant I had to be alone with a stranger in a foreign almost ghost town of a country, on a body of water (and I cannot swim).

I rented a water taxi though (without having to haggle). It was a choice I did not regret because it was interesting to go around the houses on stilts. My water taxi man also seemed kind, respected my quiet, occasionally pointing to me interesting parts of the village – like schools, police station etc.

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6. or 7? Spot that monument at the Waterfront

Called MERCU DIRGAHAYU, this gold that stands out at the Bandar Seri Begawan Waterfront. As my driver told me, the part that looks like number 7 is actually 60 in Arabic as this monument is a tribute to 60th birthday of an important person in the country.

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7. Just walk and discover (and in my case, I found a Jollibee!)

Where I had been that time (mosque, water village, waterfront) are all within walking distance from one another and are also close to commercial establishments and restaurants. I had some extra time so I did more aimless walking and even found a Jollibee inside one mall. One of the leading fastfood chains from my country, it just felt like having a piece of home somewhere not home.

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8. Just ask

I didn’t want to take a cab back to the airport just to experience the bus. Strangely.

My driver told me some instructions on where buses wait for passengers but I had to ask quite a number of people just to get there (including a fellow Filipino working in some shop). I was all sweat from all the walking by the time I score a comfortable bus seat before fellow passengers (almost all locals) started coming in.

It took longer than the cab because bus had to take on a different route. I was happy about it though because I managed to catch glimpses of local life as we pass by residential areas.

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Arrived to where I was earlier that day

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This trip has its tragedy and while not a firm believer of silver lining, these last two days have such. Another time then, Brunei?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Kristina Correa (or more known to almost all people in her life as Teng) is based on the city of Manila in the Philippines and whenever she can, cools off with routine and gets her doses of happy someplace else. She doesn’t mean to inform and help plan (as obvious with her laziness with details) but hopes her stories and photos can inspire you to create your own.

 

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