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Brunei to Sabah

April 8, 2018 – Sunday – Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

2018 Borneo tour

In front of the Main Atrium - Empire Hotel & Country Club

In front of the Main Atrium – Empire Hotel & Country Club

We start our day visiting the Royal Regalia Museum, which is located right across the street from our hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. This museum contains all the gifts given to Brunei’s sultan by visiting dignitaries, as well as commemorating his 1992 silver jubilee. There is a huge chariot on display in the lobby (see above banner image) of the museum, which was used to carry the Sultan through the streets. As it turns out, this is the only thing we can photograph, since photography is forbidden throughout the rest of the museum. No great loss, since personally I find this sort of thing rather boring.

We make a quick stop at the gates to Istana Nurui Iman – the Sultan’s palace before continuing on to the Empire Hotel & Country Club, a six-star resort where we have a few hours to spend as we wish. Most of us have lunch and spend time drinking in the opulence of the place before getting back on the bus to head to our afternoon flight to Kota Kinabalu. Sabah, Malaysia.

Malaysia & Borneo local flights

Malaysia & Borneo local flights

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

April 7, 2018 Saturday – Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

2018 Borneo tour

Woman’s Entrance, Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque

Woman’s Entrance, Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque

We start our full day in Brunei visiting the opulent Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque, where we are allowed to visit the inside of the men’s prayer hall after removing our shoes. The women in our group must also cover their heads and legs, and everyone has to check our bags, although we are allowed to carry a camera with us.

There is a very impressive Royal Entrance to the mosque with fountains, gardens and ornate gates, however the best photo-op I found was the Woman’s Entrance, where the symmetry of the golden domes and minarets is stunning.

We then travel back into Bandar Seri Begawan to see Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien old mosque. I decide to not go inside, since our time here is limited. I walk out to the decorative cement boat that is situated in the middle of the lake beside this mosque, where I take some very nice photos of the mosque despite the midday Sun beating down on us.

We walk along the Jalan McArthur waterfront promenade to the jetties and board boats which take us across the Brunei River to Kampong Ayer, a Malay stilt village. After our return, we have time for a quick lunch at Franini’s Italian restaurant before boarding the bus to head out of the city. We make a quick stop for some retail therapy at a Starbucks in a mall, where I find some unique souvenirs of Brunei to take home with me before we continue on to see the Wawasan Brunei 2035 craft skills display.

Proboscis monkey in a tree on the Brunei River

Proboscis monkey in a tree on the Brunei River

Boats on the Brunei River take us past Istana Nurui Iman – the Sultan’s palace to see Proboscis monkeys in the mangrove at nearby Pulau Ranggu. We finish the day with another visit to the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque at night, which is spectacular.

I’m pretty well beat by the end of this marathon day, so after we return to the hotel, I go downstairs to have a quick dinner of Nasi Goreng and then I unwind in my room before bedtime.

 

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Kuala Lumpur to Brunei

April 6, 2018 – Friday – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

2018 Borneo tour

I have Coconut flour pancakes, savoury stuffed croissants and a cappuccino again for breakfast in the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur this morning – a yummy way to start the day!

We fly to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei at noon today, so we are on the bus in front of the hotel by 9:30AM. Traffic is slow, especially at the toll booths along the way to the airport, so it takes us well over an hour to arrive. Initially, our tour guide Susan suggests we should check in as a group, however the group check-in is slow, so we switch back to individual check-ins, which gets our boarding passes and bags checked faster. Clearing Malaysian immigration is a dead slow process, since they fingerprint or take a mugshot of everyone leaving the country – quite strange!

Visas from Malaysia & Brunei in my passport

Visas from Malaysia & Brunei in my passport

Although we had cleared a security checkpoint just before going through immigration, we have to do it all over again before we can enter the gate area. Our flight was scheduled for 12:30PM departure, however it is just after 1PM when we pull away from the gate in a Boeing 737-800 on Royal Brunei Airlines. Lunch is served on this two hour flight – I choose the sweet and sour chicken with rice, which is piping hot, a bit spicy and quite tasty.

After arriving in Brunei, we clear customs and immigration, find our local tour guide, and hit the ATMs for some Brunei Dollars before being transferred to the Radisson Hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. After a quick cleanup in our rooms, we leave in the bus for a buffet dinner at nearby Tarindak d’Seni, an up-scale restaurant beside the Brunei River that serves traditional Malay food. Some of the entrees are a mystery, but the food is good. After we return to the hotel, I have a shower, and then watch a movie before going to bed.

Malaysia & Borneo local flights

Malaysia & Borneo local flights