A floating village on Brunei River.
14.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
Bandar Seri Begawan, May 15th 2012
Last night, the customer attendant at Body Shop who said was a Christian and from Jakarta also (but accent was Malay) promised to show me around today. She told me to meet her at Body Shop at 11:00 AM. When I'm on a trip, eleven o'clock is very late for me. But of course I won't argue with someone who's doing me a favor. I decided to do some exploration before meeting Jolina at Body Shop.
Several meters away from my hotel, I realized that I had left my hat in my room. So silly. Yesterday while at the airport, I had it attached all the way on my back whereas I definitely didn't need a hat. On one second I felt reluctant to return to get my hat. Later on I became very grateful I did go back. Being just 4o 53' North from the equator, Bandar Seri Begawan (in fact through all Brunei) is like a green toaster. I say "green", because there are so many trees -- wild and man-planted -- here and there. Yet, it's still prickly hot. Hot, hot, hot! I turned dark brown in just half a day. Exactly like a slice of bread popping out of a toaster: brown around the outside but still white in the inside. No need to imagine that.
As I had promised myself last night, I tried again to search for that bridge only accessible on foot. Either it's my poor sense of direction or the map writer's inaccuracy or both, I couldn't fine that path. Instead, my steps leaded to a graveyard. Did the front desk staff meant that the shortcut is by crossing the graveyard?? Eeewww...
I decided to take the other road which the front desk staff had told me would lead also to Kampong Ayer. Hmmm, confusing still. I read on the map "Royal Cemetery" and also read a sign by the side of the street that said "Kuburan Diraja". Okay, so at least I'm not too far away. But where's that Royal Cemetery? Royal, you know. Glorious, gigantic tombs, surrounded by tall curved gates... that was my eyes tried to fine. None.
I went into a shopping center to steal the aircon and let my sweat dry up. Nothing special in this shopping center for me except several colorful fresh looking florist shop.
Since making the Royal Cemetery my pin point seemed not working, I picked up a mosque on the map for guidance of getting to Kampong Ayer. It turned out that picking up a mosque became more complicated as there were many mosques, big and small.
Eventually, I gave up on the map. I just let my happy feet walk to wherever they wished to. The road, as it seemed everywhere, was smoothly asphalt and the pedestrian path was safely paved. Through the hilly road, I followed. Deep dense wild trees framed my way left and right. Like natural earplugs, chirps of birds sang to my steps while hopping from one branch to another. Occasionally, one or two would drop down on the pavement in front of me and flap their wings. "Welcome to Brunei!" it says. The only wild birds, if any, in my hometown were only sparrows. They never sing for me when I go to work. Here, there were not only sparrows. There were species that feathers were like the purple pigeons, but smaller in size. And then there were another species with brown feathers, black head, and white beak. As they hop from one branch to another, white dots swung here and there between the greenery. There was a life orchestra.
It's hard to believe that I was actually in a city, the capital city. I had all the comforts of walking in a capital city but with the environment of what in my country would have only been in the mountains. Moreover, I was nearly walking alone all the time. Nobody was seen around.
Suddenly! Shhh...! What's that crossing?!
A few meters in front of me I saw a creature creeping my asphalt smooth road from the woods on my left into the trees on my right. A baby crocodile?? It stopped awhile and bent its neck towards me. I moved forward trying to make sure of what it was. Judging by the size, it surely wouldn't be able to bite. I wanted to take a picture of it. But then it rushed into the woods across.
My path ended up in front of a gate to a residence that well... looked rather 'royal'. The gate was shut closed. I turned back. At a bus stop not far away I set down to rest my happy feet. Once again I stretched out for the map. Ah... it seems that the "Royal Cemetery" is that whole area I had seen just now and also yesterday evening. It doesn't look royal, but it is royal. Assuring myself about that, I could track down my way to the mosque I had pin pointed in the map easier. I followed a cemented path.
Before long, I was already walking on a path formed by wooden bars attached side by side. Beneath me water glittered under the super heat of Brunei Darussalam. Salam, I'm in Kampong Ayer!
"Kampong" means "village, and "ayer" means "water". Let me quote part of Wikipedia about Kampong Ayer:
From a distance the water village looks like a slum. It actually enjoys modern amenities including air conditioning, satellite television, internet access, plumbing, and electricity.
By purpose, with all my heart and my hurt, I made a close up of this. Because of one thing only: The water company in my hometown has been playing a game on me and the authorities so far, have taken no serious act. Why? Probably because I'm regarded as the slanting eyes community who are potential but has no one for back up -- meaning: connection to the government. My 10 months -- still not closed -- case with this company owned by my country's high official reflects to me nothing more than how justice is handled in my country. So what? You might ask. So... how is it in this country? I wonder. This country, Brunei, has the same main fanatic religion and has the same width of slanting eyes community in percentage.
I had another thing to wonder. How do you take a water taxi which is said to be one of the regular public transportation in Brunei?
At first I thought this was a place to relax, chat, while enjoying Brunei River. No, it isn't. It serves as a water-taxi-stop.
You wait for a water taxi here. When you see a boat without passenger pass by, you wave your hand. Shout, if the water taxi driver doesn't see you.
Step down the stairs and step into the boat. For close distances it cost 1 BND. Far distances would cost 2 BND. Journeys taken at night like past eight o'clock, would be charged an additional fare.
There, off you go.
Sungai Brunei is a river, but the water is salty. I was told so, but I didn't try. I would, next time when I have another opportunity. I would like to know the difference between sea water. How salty?
People park their cars by the side of the street along the river.
Apparently, there are no floating garages like I had imagined. Sungai Brunei is very long and wide. So there are many parking areas like this in the whole Bandar Seri Begawan. When one wants to go by car, he just walks to the nearest exit or take a water taxi.
Woohoo! I found the path and bridge my hotel's front desk staff drew on the map.
Actually, I had been here already last night. But instead of going up the stairs and cross the bridge, I turned left to this bridge on the left. Finally, I've found the shortcut! Yes, it's really shorter indeed.
Ooops! I left out an interesting sight! A trolley cart was parked idle in front of a house on the river. I saw nobody there. The cart just sat idle. Several blocks away is Hua Ho Department Store. Most likely this cart belongs to Hua Ho. I just can't imagine one pushing his grocery out of the department store this far and then leaving it parked like a car. In my country you would be accused of theft. Hua Ho Department Store itself seemed to be a branded supermarket in Brunei.