... as the fifth richest nation out of 182 nations ...
14.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
Bandar Seri Begawan, May 14th 2012
Wikipedia says: Brunei has the second highest Human Development Index among the South East Asia nations after Singapore, and is classified as a developed country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked 5th in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. Forbes also ranks Brunei as the fifth richest nation out of 182 nations due to its extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Wow! And, wow!
To my surprise, the airport was far incomparable to Singapore's Changi Airport. It was clean and neat, though.
This is the view from my bedroom in Le Gallery Hotel.
Ah, in a country next to Singapore as rich, living cost is just next to Singapore as high. I painstakingly searched through the internet for a hotel near the river port but with the lowest price. This was the best I could get. 53 BND per night including tax, breakfast, and airport transfer. Oh ya, and free WiFi in the room. This is after all far much better than the super budget room I had in Singapore but with a higher rate.
I sat down at the desk and continued uploading the shots I made while flying above Malaysia to Facebook. Then I went downstairs to require information about bus and ferry tickets I would need for the following days. Le Gallery's front desk staff was friendly but could not give much information. He gave me a magazine that had a map of Bandar Seri Begawan with several main attractions, hotels, embassies, on it. Le Gallery was one of the hotels. He told me that there's a shortcut only accessible on foot across Kampung Ayer and get to the bus terminal where I can get further information.
While we were talking, a lady in the same blue uniform came in. "Hai, wanita..." I heard him greeting while squeezing her hand as she passed by and went into the office behind the front desk. ['Wanita' means 'woman' in Malay.]
According to this map, it looked like that the bus terminal wasn't far away. Then I asked whether there's a bus to Merimbun Lake. "What?" he asked.
"Merimbun," I repeated.
He turned his head back and said, "Hai, wanita...." That lady just now came out. "Wanita," he continued. "Kau tahu Merim..." He looked back to me, "What did you say just now?"
"Merimbun," he imitated me.
"Itu di Tutong," 'Wanita' answered.
"Yes, that's in Tutong," I replied. "What bus can I take to get there?"
'Wanita' shook her head.
Besides them, there's no tourist information desk in Le Gallery. That was the beginning of my understanding that Brunei is not a touristic country. In other words, a modern road less traveled by tourists.
This front desk staff drew a short line on the map. He said that was the bridge I had to cross.
"I'm sorry. My sense of direction is bad..."
"That's okay," he interrupted.
I faced the door and continued, "So from here I go there..." I pointed to the right with my arm. "And then?"
"Here, let me show you." He walked me out of the door. Outside, he pointed in front of us. "You see that tower?"
It wasn't exactly a tower such as Tokyo Tower, Eiffel Tower, Petronas Tower, or such. It was just an antenna tower or alike.
"Yes, I see it."
"You just head to that direction. If you walk along the highway, it would take longer, because you would have to turn around."
As I walked on, I wondered, "How can you walk along a highway? Isn't it prohibited?"
My eyes followed the tower but the tower disappeared behind the hill not long after. Ah, Bandar Seri Begawan seems like Kuala Lumpur: hilly. Okay, so now where's the pedestrian path and where's the highway? Nothing in front of my eyes looked like either of them.
I went to the right and found wooden houses lining up side by side. Hmmm... that looks like the water village, but where's the bridge? I turned left and followed a narrow pavement path. That path ended by the side of a main road which actually could be seen from the point where I first followed the tower. Is this the shortcut meant? It's really short, but I don't understand what it has cut off. I looked to my front. One two cars rolled on. Wasn't I told that the path is inaccessible by cars? But... this doesn't look like a highway anyway. So maybe it's this way. I walked on.
Does this look like a highway? In my country, this would be called just a road.
The letters on the map were so small. I almost couldn't read it. Auw... I'm aging. I walked on while mostly guessing the direction. It seemed quite awhile until I reached a bridge.
This bridge is crossing a river. Ah, that must be Kampung Ayer, I thought to myself. So... I'm not heading to the wrong direction at last. I bent over and searched for a Mercedes. None.
This is Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. Cars and cars parked along the roadside around this mosque. But the street was very, very, quiet. There didn't seem many people inside the mosque either. Where is everybody?
I took these pictures while placing my lens between the gates that were much higher than me. My tripod I carried all the way through the 'highway' could do me nothing with these gates so high. Unlike when I was in Bangkok, no one here seemed to noticed my silliness trying to take a slow-shutter-speed photo handheld, by any means.
As I made my shots, fishes in the pond below jumped up and down. They were the only ones that noticed.
Across this mosque is a mall. But the mall is also quiet to a capital city's standard. I was so happy to find a Body Shop that sold the cream I used to use. I couldn't find it in LCCT's Body Shop in Kuala Lumpur. Forget Jakarta. It hasn't been on sale in Jakarta for 2 years. I calculated in rupiah, it's more expensive here than in Kuala Lumpur. Well, I have no choice. What's the meaning of a cheaper item that does not exist? I bought 3 tubes.
I went back to Le Gallery half lost, eventually passing by the same 'highway'. I promised myself that tomorrow morning when it's bright, I'll searched that shortcut.
- During that half lost session back to Le Gallery, I took a wrong direction and entered an asphalt path but boarded with dense trees and no light. Very clearly I heard crickets and frogs singing to my steps. Am I in a city or in a jungle?
- If there was a highway, until I returned from Brunei, I never saw a road around this area broader than what I've seen this first evening in Brunei.