20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

at BreakFast time.

At night time

Std postcard view

Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque

At dusk

and again

Final time.

A new country, first one for ages.


Even I will admit that I've had some fairly average ideas once or twice in the past but this is looking like a blindingly bad one, to spend my birthday here, possibly the dullest place I've ever been. To be fair there is lots to see and all the museums are free but as it's Ramadan everything closes about midday. 70% of the country is virgin rainforrest but why pay Brunei prices to visit it when the same stuff is in Sarawak at less than half the cost.

Brunei was a very dull place but I have to say that the people were really friendly and there were two very picturesque mosques.

The one adventure I did have in Brunei was on Saturday evening when I wanted to watch the football, being a dry country there are no bars which is always the first choice when it comes to finding football. I know from watching ESPN all around asia that it is transmitted in Brunei as they give the programme times for there so I walked all around BSB near kick off time hoping that one of the coffee shops would have it on but found nothing so gave up. As I was walking back to my hostel I stopped at a Pizza Hut (I'm sick of rice now) for a take-away slice of pizza and saw that they had a TV so asked if they had ESPN, the woman laughed and said no. Then two doors further up there was a Brunei equivalent of a Starbucks and the person on the door invited me in to have coffee, they too had a TV so again I asked if they had the football - he said yes and told me to come in, as I was still eating the pizza I said I would finish that first but he said it didn't matter so I went in. I've done this in the past and after you've ordered they find that they don't have the right channel so I hesitated in ordering but he found the channel straight away. The guy was actually the owner and very friendly, I think everyone in BSB must know him as everyone greeted him like a friend. The cafe filled up as the match went on, it's Ramadan so they all eat at night now, and I had the whole cafe watching the match but couldn't get them to suppost Newcastle, they were happy for anyone to score. I had a couple of lattes and a very nice tuna salad, makes a change from a skinfull of beer.

On the sunday I walked to Gudong one of the subburbs of BSB where there is a huge shopping mall and a new mosque. I timed it to get to the mosque for sunset then went to eat at the mall and came back for some night shots. The mosque was very impressive so I took loads of photographs, it was built for the 25th Anniversery of the Sultans reign. It's funny but I lothe the sound of churchbells at home but really like the sound of the mullahs calling from the mosques, there is something very evocotive about it, maybe the fact that I'm always in tropical climates when I hear it. I decided to walk the more direct route back to BSB which turned out to be an error, the footpaths ran out and I ended up walking alongside the motorway and what looked like a normal junction on my map where I needed to turn off was actually a fly-over so I had to follow the motorway junctions to get back into town.

I'd already decided that I was going to leave on the morning of my birthday as I couldn't face being in a dry country but Brunei had really grown on me by then and I nearly changed my mind. It might be dull and expensive but the friendliness of the people and the nice architecture make up for it. I did leave as planned though partly for the stupid reason that I wanted to have a passport stamp with my birthdate on it.

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