This is part of the eleventh section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Malaysia
27/10/04 We had obtained visas for Brunei in Australia unsure whether we could get them at the land border and needing multi entry we thought it easier. A drive through border, immigration then customs. We needed a temporary road vehicle permit for the motorcycle, a form and no payment, no customs checks, one of our easiest border crossings. Immediately the feel of a western society. We avoided the highway passing through smaller towns, oil fields, all well tended. Closer to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the capital, all roads are freeways with flyovers. Fast traffic, big cars and almost no motorcycles. Brunei doesn't seem to be monitoring pirated movies and software. CD, DVD shops are everywhere. Latest release movies on DVD less than $US 2.00. The latest version of Encyclopaedia Britannica just $US 7.00. We watched a movie on the laptop DVD player and relaxed.
28/10/04 The Brunei Museum houses exhibits of oil exploration, mosques, past history and prehistoric peoples but the most fascinating exhibit is the Islamic Art section. The personal property of the Sultan, the third richest man on earth, it is an amazing collection of intricate jewellery, ceremonial swords and art from all over the world covering the last millennium. Even though only two thirds of the population is Muslim, they are strict and observe Ramadan (the fasting month) conscientiously. Most businesses and government departments operate on restricted hours. Restaurants, except for a few Chinese ones, are closed during daylight hours, and markets open mid afternoon selling traditional festive foods for the breaking of the day's fasting. Gadong markets, where we went early evening, perhaps has the greatest variety of cooked meats, vegetables and sweets. We collected our dinner and went to Tasik park planning to wait till after sunset to eat. However with few people around we couldn't wait and ate discretely.
29/10/04 BSB is a city of extremes. The modern centre with traffic packed streets could be in any western city. Well maintained buildings, roads, parking enforcement etc. Halfway across the river, on a shallow bend live 30,000 people on wooden stilt houses connected only by boardwalks and boats. Whilst poorly maintained the houses have water and electricity, sewage seems to pass with the tide. Hard rubbish also seems to be left to nature with old fans, chairs, cabinets, refrigerators all dotting the mudflats beneath the houses. These don't seem to be poor people, their cars line the riverbank a boat ride away. A contrast to the freeways nearby. We caught the boat across, did a walk then a boat tour back around near the city.
30/10/04 Brunei has banned the export of timber, logging only for its own consumption thus leaving 60% of the country as old growth forests, a high percentage of which is in the Temburong region. That small section, separated from the rest of Brunei by Malaysia. We left BSB crossing by land to Malaysia, another straight forward crossing, passed through Limbang then back to Brunei. Unfortunately the Malaysian Immigration office was back in Limbang, 15 km from the border so we had to return there to get an exit stamp in our passports. Back into Brunei in the Temburong district and onto Bangar. 17 km out of town, upriver, is as traditional a long house as is left in Brunei, that is accessible. Once they were built from bamboo and palm fronds housing the extended families of the Iban peoples, the head-hunters of Borneo. Now they are made from sawn timbers and corrugated iron roofs. Instead of pigs underneath they have Toyotas. Some traditions remain, like the making of rice wine although some now drink beer. The long houses have water and electricity, cable TV, stereo's and DVD players. Many Iban are employed with the local government receiving interest free loans making it easy to let the cultural past slip away. We toured the longhouse getting great information attaching ourselves to a guide showing a visiting family details of the longhouse. Back to Bangar tonight. The lady at our hotel in BSB had arranged a couple of interviews with the local newspapers and during dinner tonight we were informed of our fame in the Borneo Post. Generously the restaurant owner paid for our dinner.
31/10/04 Another day another border crossing. Left Brunei
Move with us to Malaysia
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,