It’s the last day of my two week journey on the island of Borneo, and I’ve felt like I’ve done so much, I don’t even know where to begin! 😯
…well, I guess I could just start at the beginning. 😆
On November 11th, my mom and I arrived at the airport in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Nation of Brunei, “The Abode of Peace.” My uncle Vincent picked us up and brought us to where we’d be staying:
(Oops! I had a photo of the house here, but the current owner requested of me to not show any photos of it online for security reasons. Sorry, y’all!)
Ever since I was a child, I’ve visited Brunei every 3-4 years and stayed in this house, which belonged to my dear old grandfather. I have fond memories of walking around the premises, picking up fallen mangoes and coconuts, and enjoying the various other fruit trees around, such as the ones of bananas and rambutans.
One of my favorite things about this huge island is how fruit just grows freely everywhere.
But if the fruit you desire isn’t in season, then you can usually find it at the local grocery store. (I also had a photo here, but was asked to remove it.)
Stores here also have unique local treats. One little treasure is a type of small waffle stuffed with various fillings, such as kaya (delicious coconut jam), red bean paste, and/or peanut butter.
But possibly one of the most beloved places in Brunei might just be the Gadong night market.
Here, there is a wide variety of local food to choose from – roti beef/mutton/chicken, satay, chicken wings, barbecued/grilled fish, fried kuey teow (literally “stir-fried ricecake strips”), lamb chops, beef steaks, ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken), traditional kueh melayu (sweet pancakes with peanuts, raisins or sugar fillings) and more.
Food is usually only cooked when there’s an order, so it’s nice and hot when served. And the best part? Each dish usually costs only one or two dollars! 😀
However, the night market certainly isn’t the only good place for food. I think that the one thing that everyone can agree on here is that the food in Brunei is *delicious*. There’s really no shortage of tasty food everywhere, and my relatives have made absolutely sure that I never go hungry when I come here! 😛
After endless eating sessions, it was hard for me to justify just sitting around potating away, so I asked some of my cousins to take me with them on hikes within the local parks.
Although forest parks are a great way to experience nature in Brunei, there’s also some nice beach areas around as well. I was lucky enough to be invited to a private party on one with my cousin Nicole, and I had a blast! 😀
Other than what I’ve mentioned, and some shopping, there isn’t a whole lot more to do in Brunei for non-Muslims. The Islamic faith has grown to have a very strong foothold here in Brunei, and although many of the archaic news-grabbing Sharia laws aren’t strictly enforced, there are no clubs and bars, as the country is entirely dry.
However, for those who are interested in computer games, cyber cafes seem to be quite a popular venue for the younger crowd. For just 70cents ($1 BND), you can play any pc game you want for an hour. It’s actually a lot of fun when you’re there playing multi-player games with your friends right next to you!
In summary, I’m glad that I made the time to visit Brunei again. It’s always great to see my relatives, and even though they all usually only see me once in a blue moon, everyone is always so nice and welcoming. It’s truly like a home away from home, and I’m very grateful that I got to experience the growth (and sadly, decline) of this country throughout my lifetime.
Would I recommend visiting Brunei for people who don’t have family here? Hmmm… yes, but only if you plan to do a tour of Borneo. I can’t say that Brunei is the best thing about Borneo, because I also visited Sabah, Malaysia on this trip for roughly four days, and even though I’ve been battling a stomach virus ever since, Kota Kinabalu was definitely a more interesting place… but I’ll try to write about that fiasco next! 😛
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‘Til we meet again,
– Comrade Brad