When I found myself wrong.
14.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
From BSB to Pantai Seri Kenangan, May 16th 2012
Good morning, Brunei! Start the day right with a good breakfast: Martabak with scrambled egg. The restaurant I had breakfast yesterday was under renovation for 3 days. This restaurant is the one I had my first dinner. It's not as cozy, but the food is not bad anyway. Best thing of all, it's free. Included with the hotel's rate, I mean.
Remember my photo collage of the shop signs I made in Faces of Bandar Seri Begawan? Here's another example of a shop sign, across the restaurant. 4 languages (Arabic, Malay, English, Chinese) on one sign! Judging by the name "Lai Lai" which is written below in Mandarin characters 来来 meaning "Come Come" I assume the owner must be Chinese. Indeed, this looks Chinese, I thought to myself as I looked at the red painted rolling door. The curving on top and an accent on below made the Chinese-look perfect. To me, the rolling door reminded me of the shops in Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟. Later on I found out that many shops, if not all, had the same kind of rolling door. Only the painting differs like green, blue.
Based on information from the woman from Jogja I met yesterday here, I got on this bus. She had said, "The bus drivers are Indonesians. Just tell him you want to go to Pantai Seri Kenangan." Great, I thought.
A man got on and sat behind the the steering wheel. He was an Indian. As he started the engine, I asked, "Does this go to Pantai Seri Kenangan?" He nodded with a guaranteed look. The engine started, he got off. A few minutes later, another Indian got on, and off we rolled.
The music heard is from the bus' stereo. Indian music, Indian driver. I didn't lie. So here you get a glimpse of the streets in Bandar Seri Begawan. The big white bridge is the one I had crossed on foot on my first evening in Brunei. The bridge crosses Brunei River or Sungai Brunei. It was a Wednesday and not a holiday. But, the streets were as quiet as the streets in Jakarta during Ramadhan Holiday. Even quieter, I think. This, is Brunei, second richest after Singapore in all Southeast Asia. Welcome to Brunei and let's get rich in a different way!
I fell asleep. I woke up because the bus stopped. Across the bus stop was a shopping center. Some people were getting off.
"Have we passed Pantai Seri Kenangan?" I asked my Indian driver.
"Pantai Seri Kenangan."
"Just now I asked whether this was going to Pantai Seri Kenangan and he said yes."
"What? Show me the address."
"It's not an address. It's Pantai Seri Kenangan. A beach."
"What? Adrress, address."
"Have we passed the beach? It's a beach."
"What? Adrress, address."
This is the first time in my life someone has asked for an address of a beach.
Suddenly I heard a Malayan voice behind me. "Mau ke Pantai Seri Kenangan?"
"Yes, I am," I answered him in Malay, or Indonesian, I don't know.
The young Malayan guy told me to get off here and take a taxi. It's not far, he said.
"Have we passed it?"
"No. But this bus will go straight and you have to turn right to get there."
Thinking that the shorter the distance, the lower the taxi fare would be, I replied, "Then I'll get a taxi before we turn right."
"It's better you get off here. There are many taxis over there." He pointed across to the shopping center. "It might be difficult to find a taxi at the crossroad."
That young guy spoke in rapid Malay which I couldn't grasp. I only knew he was telling our driver where Pantai Seri Kenangan is. I gave the Indian driver a 10 dollar note and he gave me 7 dollar change.
Taxi? No taxi sign. I went into the shopping center and found a travel agency office.
"Oh, Pantai Seri Kenangan. It's just nearby," said the Chinese lady in English. "Just take a taxi."
She let me out off her office and pointed outside. "There. Under that blue roof."
"I have been there already. But there was no... uhmm... how do you call it?"
"Yes, no sign."
"You just go there, tell you need a taxi, and they'll call a taxi for you."
Under that blue roof were many cars and some men sitting. To my confused look a man asked, "Taxi?"
"Yes. I want to go to Pantai Seri Kenangan."
"Here..." He led me into an old "Kijang" car. I don't know what it's called in Brunei. The car rattled as we moved. No air condition. I regretted myself for not bargaining.
On the way he asked me where I was from, and then the usual question, "But you are Chinese?"
"Yes, I am."
He commented that the Chinese in Indonesia are rich people. No, that's not true, I strongly argued. Oh, if I were rich, I wouldn't be on this taxi. I would have rented a car. Yes, I used to rent cars while traveling. But in Brunei, it's simply a luxury. The driver himself looked Chinese.
"Where are you going after this?" he asked.
"I want to see the oil company."
"Ah, oil company! 16 dollars."
"With this car?"
"Yes, with this car."
"If by bus, 3 dollars."
"Wow! What a difference! I'll take a bus."
Within less than 10 minutes, a beach was rolling on our side. "It's close. 2 dollars."
"Yes, it's close. But you cannot walk."
Well, that was half true. We just now passed part of a highway which probably must be where the bus would go straight as the young guy had said before. It would be dangerous walking pass that part on foot, not to mention the heat.
"Call me when you are returning to the bus terminal," said my taxi driver. "There are no taxis here."
"Hmmm..." I looked to my right. The beach didn't look super awesome. "I'd be here for just about half an hour. I don't have a cell phone. Just come back here within half an hour." Actually I meant I had no Brunei number and it would cost a lot if I had to use my Indonesian number to call him. I did have a cell phone. Well, as my pastor once said, "Who among you have never told a lie? Raise your hand! If you don't, you are lying."
Welcome to Pantai Seri Kenangan!
To my Indonesian eyes, honestly, there wasn't anything special except for the nearly spotless beach. Spotless from litter, but also from visitor.
I was the only human being standing on this beach!
My taxi driver had said that if I wanted to meet many people, I should come on a Sunday. No, I don't.
Spotless beach. But compared to e.g. Lombok, lifeless. In Lombok, you don't need to view the beach from an aircraft to admire the color gradation of the beach. How does deep dark blue turn into light green and then into white, it's there.
Across the street, runs a river.
This is my first time standing between a beach and a river, side by side.
As always, upon preparing on a trip, I consult Google Maps. Most of the time to draw my itinerary. For example, I want to go to place A, B, and C. I find out where A, B, and C are. And then I figure out the efficient route. Is it A - B - C or A - C- B. I should have consulted Google Maps more.
When I sat down to write this story back home and re-opened Brunei on Google Maps, I just realized that this is how Pantai Seri Kenangan is mapped.
The river was Tutong River or Sungai Tutong. I regret I didn't continue walking the spotless beach. Or I could have asked the taxi driver to go further. If I did, I would have come to the point where Tutong River meets South China Sea. Ah... Yes, this beach is lifeless. But there's something unique which I've never seen before. I had underestimated Brunei when I said to myself, "For sure there are no better beaches than Indonesia's." Later on, I found myself wrong about other places, too.
My taxi driver came 10 minutes late. I was just about to walk back to the bus terminal.
"Can you please take my picture?"
He looked nervous at once. "But I don't know how to use your camera."
I handed him my Powershot G12. "It's easy. You just look through here and press this button."
"Wait a minute." He took his reading glasses out of his pocket. And then groggily he held my camera like holding a baby for the first time.
Frankly speaking, this photo has been heavily edited by Photoshop. Well... maybe I had picked up the wrong location. Blame it on me.
"So... you are going to the oil company?" my driver asked when we were back in the car.
"Yes, I am."
"Yeah, you better take a bus lah."
I was rather surprise to hear that. Is he afraid I'm going to ask him to take my picture again?
We arrived at a stop light. Suddenly... brmmm... brrmm! The engine stalled! When the traffic light turned green, the engine still couldn't be started.
"Is it okay?" I became worried. He already told me that there aren't taxis here and that I can't walk.
He didn't answer my question and kept on turning the engine key.
Brmmm...! Exactly by the second green light, the old Kijang continued to rattle on.
Right across, at the bus terminal, a bus to Seria was stopping. My driver waved to the bus driver and pointed at me. I had almost missed!
The bus driver, an Indian again. The music, Indian also.