We've had a busy couple of days in Brunei since the last post. After writing that, we went to Gadong night market, spending a whopping NZ$2.50 on dinner for two. Deep fried vegetable bits and pieces and this thick pancake thing full of chopped nuts, sugar and chocolate powder.
Yesterday we went on a trip to Ulu Temburong National Park. It was a 45 minute water taxi ride from BSB to Bangar (mangroves, some jungle, crocodiles, herons & egrets, monkeys), then 20 minutes drive to the tour company "lodge" where we had morning tea. From there we took off in a traditional longboat, only they are now powered by outboards. The river was going pretty fast, and got wet and bumpy over the rapids. It was another 45 minute ride up river to the park. That was when the going got a bit tougher. We'd come to do the canopy walkway, and hopefully see some wildlife. The former we did, the latter was ruined by a group of very loud Russians. We heard heaps, but didnt see anything other that birds and insects (the moths were huge!) To get to the canopy walkway we had to climb 1226 steps up through the trees. Like Bukit Subok the day before, there was no nice gently meandering forest trails, these steps went straight up! When we had climbed all those, and remember here its about 30C out and still humid but not as bad as in BSB, we still had to climb up the scaffold tower to get to the walkway. This only had about 150 steps though, in lots of short ladders zig zagging up the tower.
The views from the top were fabulous, we could see for miles, right over the tops of the trees. Apparently the monkey like sounds we could hear were eagles, frightened away by those Russians. Not all of them had climbed up to the walkway, and those thad had kept yelling down to those that hadnt. Oh well. It was still spectacular, after all the hard work getting there!
Before lunch, we had a very welcome swim in a pool under a waterfall. There were some little fish in the pool that kept nipping at us, so no chance to just lie in the water and cool off.
Getting back was just a reverse of the morning rides. Longboat, going much quicker down river (the outboard was a bit puny), car, water taxi. We were taken back to Pauls house where we just had time for a shower before he whisked us off again. He's been a great host, keen to show us as much as possible of BSB.
Paul took us first out to Jerudong to the Empire Hotel, 6 star luxury built by the Sultans playboy brother, wasting the countries reserve cash. The rooms/suites/villas range from NZ$600 to NZ$26000, and it costs more to maintain than it brings in. We could see this from little things like light bulbs that need changing (we tried getting Colin a job here!!) It was very hot and sweaty though, but cooler on the coast than in town.
Next was the Jerudong Playground, a huge theme/adventure park full of rides, again built using the countries reserve cash by the playboy brother. This place used to be free, but they have now had to change entry fees to help with maintenance.
Dinner was a bit strange, we ate at a Chinese / Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, that part was fine, but they were having some kind of fundraising meal for causes unknown (but bound to be good). You could eat and drink (tea and soft drinks) as much as you wanted, and then pay what you wanted. Good food, and very popular.
Today was a bit more relaxed, the calves were a bit tight from all those steps yesterday. We took then bus into the city centre and played at tourists again. We visited the main mosque (see picture) and the Royal Regalia Museum. The former was interesting, but being non Muslims there wasnt much we were allowed to see. Surprisingly I wasnt asked to cover my head to enter the mosque. The museum was full of the Sultans regaila, chariots, shield, spears, umbrellas and attendants uniforms for when they're in processions. It also houses many of the gifts he has been given by various local and overseas dignitaries.
Today its even hotter (we have this current fascination with the heat and humidity!) at at least 35C and majorly sticky. So we didnt do a lot outside! We're off back to Pauls to shower and pack ready to leave for Dubai tonight.