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Monday, December 16, 2013

Brunei Babymoon : Kuala Belait, Seria (One Billionth Barrel Monument, Nodding Donkey, Seria Beach), Tutong Beach, Jerudong Park, Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, and Gadong Night Market

It wasn’t that difficult to find a way to Kuala Belait, for we’ve seen the signboard this morning, on the way from Brunei International Airport to Jubilee Hotel. The highway exit was located somewhere around Gadong, where we had to pass by the Gadong Night Market. The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Highway was clear, huge, nice, and toll-free. (Note that he named this highway with his name, again.) This highway will merged with Kuala Belait-Muara Highway somewhere in between. The moment we were on this highway, we had the same feeling of cruising on it.
“Feels like driving at Australia, isn’t it?” I acclaimed.

“Coz the sky is blue and the road is super cantik!” Hubby praised the road.
Another thing that caught our eyes was the praises on Allah s.w.t that was frequently projected along the way. A good reminder for all drivers to keep “berzikir” though you are on the road. 
An hour on the road, hubby suggested that we should stop for lunch. We were in the middle of no where and had no choice but to opt for one resto called KK Koya, which turned out to be a mamak resto.

“We flew this far and you still wanna eat at mamak? Pfft!” My eyes were drooling at hubby.

“Do we look like we have other options?”

Hahaha! Ok, fine! We entered the resto that almost fully occupied by locals who seemed just came back from “kenduri”. They were wearing “baju kurung” and “kopiah”. We sat at one corner and started to place orders. I ordered mixed rice with fish curry and vegetables, while hubby ordered briyani with chicken. The food was so-so but the price was cheap! I mean, do not convert la ye…
We then continued our journey and reached the famous “teko” roundabout after an hour drive.

“Ayah Pin! Ayah Pin!” We laughed out loud!
From this roundabout, we reached Kuala Belait in 10 minutes. This is the second largest town in Brunei. It is well known as oil town, for big companies like Schlumberger and Shell operate massively in this area. We included this place, for we wanted to see those scattered “nodding donkeys”. Nodding donkey is used to dig and pump out crude oil from the ground. It is called nodding donkey due to the way it moves (up and down). BUT we seen none at the town area! Not even one!
We drove into one gas station and asked one of the pump attendants. With the help of an image on the tourist pamphlet, the boy told us that nodding donkey and commemorative arch is located at Seria, NOT Kuala Belait! Ahhhh dang! It was 30 minutes drive from Kuala Belait, heading back to Jerudong. 
Anyhow, it wasn’t that difficult, for the road was exactly along the beach side. Though we hardly seen the beach, but we knew the beach was on the left side. We drove along the road and turned at Shell Research & Training Center. And there were nodding donkeys residing!
I got excited and snapped almost ALL nodding donkeys along the way. Hahaha! And I had no idea why I was so amazed with this thing! You see…Brunei has too many crude oil till it can be easily pumped out from the ground, anywhere by the seaside. So, can you imagine how much they can get from the sea itself? You’ll be amazed to see how dark the canals and drainage were. 

Even the sea turned to dark grey! We experienced this when we stopped by at Seria beach to have a closer look on the rig out in the ocean. Big oil ships were scattered all over the sea, waiting to load, both, crude and processed oil. I had this habit to touch any beach that I’ve seen, just to feel the seawater, at least once. But looking at the condition of the water, hubby didn’t allow me to do so. Pfft! And so I sat on the bench, enjoying the breezy wind of South China Sea. 
After an hour of relaxing, we drove away and looked for the famous landmark of 1 Billionth Barrel Monument. This monument is located a bit off-skirt from the main road but it was quite easy to find, for the huge arch can be seen from afar. We drove in and parked our car, and walked along the pavement, heading to the huge arch. On each side of the pavement, there were slabs of craved plats being displayed, donated by some companies including Malaysian’s. 
We didn’t spend much time here as it was getting dark. We continued driving along the road, heading back to Jerudong, via Tutong. Anyhow, we had a quick stopped at Tutong beach to catch a sunset. This beach seemed to be the place for locals to gather and enjoy their weekend. We didn’t manage to capture the sun-setting, but I got this beautiful moment caught on camera.
Hubby then asked me whether we should proceed to Jerudong Park, and I said why not. Via the same highway, we headed to Jerudong and saw Jerudong Park right on our left. BUT there was no direct exit to this park! We had to turn back and guess what, the exit was on the opposite way! Pfft! See…based on our observation, Brunei is lacking in giving a head’s up for all its POIs. The signboard only shown, once you have reached the desired place. Bleh?

There park was a bit gloomy and dimmed, and the huge diamond on top of the arch was also not lit-up.

“Alaaaaaaaaaaaaa…I want that diamond to be lit-uppppppppp…I want to see Rosmah’s diamonddddddd…” Hahaha!
We crossed over the road and went to the Jerudong Park entrance. I was told by hubby that it was free before, but now, they charge BND1 for each visitor. I didn’t see anything interesting or fun except for Malaysian rock songs from 90s being played in the air. Haha! Seriously…lagu Kain Cinta Putih???
On the way to Gadong Night Market, again, we passed this beautiful Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. We took this chance to snap the night view of this mosque for our safe-keeping.
We walked back to the car and off to the final destination that was Gadong Night Market, to see what we can get for dinner. It is located somewhere near the university and Gadong Mall area. You know you are at “pasar malam” if you can see and smell white smoke all over the places. We followed other cars by parked at the roadside, hoping that no police will issue us a ticket.

“I want to eat ikan bakar…coz they recommend to get it at this place.” I hinted hubby.

“I want nasik katok and selurut damit!” Hubby shouted happily…and I had no idea what damit is.
Hubby went to several vendors to see the different in prices and presentations of nasik katok. He finally chose one of them. I almost had my jaw dropped when I saw the price. BND1 for rice and chicken??? I thought of buying 10 packs instead! Hahaha! Hubby then suggested to try one of Brunei delicacy that was “selurut damit”. He made the right choice coz it was sooooooo delicious! 
While I, what else...chicken wing and smokey lamb! The lady owner was so excited seeing this pregnant lady and allowed me to pose with her fan! Owh btw, we ate in the room…not at the night market :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Brunei Babymoon : Kampong Ayer, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Kubah Makam Diraja Brunei, and Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

We bought a bottle of H2O and kaya buns, and off to Kampung Ayer. It is located 5-minutes away from Jubilee Hotel! Hooyeah! This place is called Venice of the East, the biggest water village in the world with 30,000 over population. This population roughly represents 10% of the nation’s total population. They purposely reserve this place as a Malay culture and tradition. Though it looks simple and plain from the outside (more to a slum), it is said that it looks nicer and better in the inside, with satellite, air-cond, internet and what not. So don’t judge a book by its cover ya! This village also has its own school, mosque, clinics, police station, marine station, and etc. WOW!

Ok. We didn’t exactly go to Kampong Ayer to examine what they have in their house, for the boat ride was too bumpy for me. If you want, the water taxi can take the visitor on a boat ride, enjoying the village with the price of BND15. We only enjoy the village from the opposite side of it where we drove along Jalan Residency and stopped at one of the jetty. There was one local guy who was enjoying the breezy wind with fishing rod in hand.
It was like a normal day with normal routine, where boats were seen here and there with locals lingering around their balcony. The water wasn’t clear and blue since it is an estuary. Nothing more, the same view that we can find in any fishing village in Malaysia. Anyhow, we were amazed with the parking area, where most of the villagers parked their cars at the other side of the water village, took a boat ride back to their crib, and it has been said that there was no case of car break-in till date. Isn’t that great?!
The sun was too hot that both of us had to quickly capture whatever needed. After few snaps of Kampong Ayer, we continued driving at Jalan McArthur (you may find souvenir shops along this road too), headed to the gorgeous landmark in Bandar Seri Begawan, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. We had to make two rounds since we missed the entrance. We didn’t see any parking slot along the roadside, so we had to go to the back of the mosque via one government building and small village.
From this side of view, we actually positioned ourselves at the most perfect location, where we can cruise along the mosque outer gate. I quickly asked hubby to drive slowly along the curvy black gate, and stopped whenever I asked for. Huih penat gak la! We’ve been stopping for more than 8 spots started from the left side to the center of the mosque, where a ceremonial barge was located. There was another entrance led by a walkway. The reflection looked so marvelous with the help of scorching sun and cotton clouds.
This mosque is built in 1967 with the main dome covered in pure gold. I repeat, PURE GOLD! Like other mosques, the main minaret is the tallest feature where it is equipped with elevator to the top that can view the entire city. The interior is decorated in stained glass windows, arches, domes, and marble columns, where these materials were fully imported from abroad. Nangis tak tengok dalam!
There was no exit at the end of the corner, hence we had to turn back to where we came from.

“Two popular spots checked!” I re-confirmed.

“Now, where to?”

“Another mosque before we off to Kuala Belait…well, what else?” Both of us laughed.

On the way to another mosque, we accidentally stopped by at Kubah Makam Diraja Brunei which we didn’t spend much time to explore. The graves kept all four generations of sultans and all graves were nicely covered and carpeted. They were:
1. Al Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin III (28th Sultan)
2. Al Marhum Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin  (27th Sultan)
3. Al Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Allam II (26th Sultan)
4. Al Marhum Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam (25th Sultan)
We then headed to Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque that is located at Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Highway, Kampung Kiarong. (Note the different in spelling.) Okay! This issue has bugged me for the whole day when I was reading the road sign, and I need to ask you guys out there. Why is he naming EVERY SINGLE road and building after his name? Confuse la weh. Hahaha! If its not his name, it will be his wife’s or children’s name.

It is claimed that this mosque is the largest mosque in Brunei with four terrazzo-tiles minarets and 29 golden domes. Gold lagi! Again, we didn’t enter the mosque, for we had a very minimal and limited time since we were heading to Kuala Belait. We quickly snapped the gate pictures, the mosque, and drove away. Macam paparazzi!

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