Brunei · 4 Days · 22 Moments · February 2016

Cheeky Brunei long weekend

14 February 2016

Due to weird flight patterns we had to fly to Kota Kinabalu (north west of Brunei) to fly to Kuching (south east of Brunei). You also under estimate how big Borneo is - Kuching is 800km away on the same "island ". Kk is only a twenty minute flight so shouldn't have taken long. Firstly, for some reason we were sat 20 rows apart. We weren't worried as it was a short flight. However half an hour into the flight the captain announced we would be circling Kk as the rain was too bad to land. Then... That we were flying back to Brunei. Uh oh. It was going to happen at some point! I was just hoping we'd be back flying in time to make our connection. Back in Brunei we sat around for half an hour and then took off again. There was much praying going on by the Muslim women next to me. I wondered if I should join in. We landed 20mins before check in closed for the Kuching flight and we still had to clear customs and collect our bags. But thankfully made our flight! Phew!
As its Valentine's Day and our last day we had a special treat and went to the Empire hotel for afternoon tea. The Empire was originally the guest house for Royal visitors but has been a hotel and country house for some time. I felt right posh! What a lovely treat for Valentine's Day. With sad faces Camilla dropped us off at Brunei international and we waved goodbye 😞
Our last day in Brunei! And it was time for the cave man, aka mister Jonathan Bates, to have a hair cut. Gavin had recommended a good place which costs about £2.50. Jon experienced the full Asian hair cut and even got a massage the lucky thing. Travelling beard is staying. Grandma Bates will be utterly thrilled by this entire post 😂
After the hilarious antics at the theme park it was back to Amanda and Dave's for beverages. Amanda is involved in an animal rescue charity (she's a trained bet but can't practice here). This little one was rescued last week from a river. She was in a cage with her siblings half drowned. We saw some very distressing photos of how they were found. She's the only one that survived and is gorgeous. Camilla is tempted to adopt her. Don't blame her!! Can't believe what bastards there are out there to do that to innocent baby animals 😞

13 February 2016

This evening we met up with colleagues (Gavin, Amanda and Dave) for dinner and for a cheeky trip to the local theme park. A totally bizarre theme park, it wasn't very big and virtually empty on a Saturday night. Apparently many years ago it was bigger but bits were sold off. It was reasonably hilarious!
This evenings squad.
On the water taxi home, which about 45 mins, I fell asleep and almost rested my head on some poor unsuspecting Muslim woman! When we were back in Brunei capital we went for a wander to see the mosque. Brunei is quite an odd country, it's tiny and there isn't much there. Plus under Islamic law it's reasonably strict - no alcohol, no holding hands etc. However as long as you're not being an idiot you don't notice it too much. The mosque is incredible but with all massively lavish religious buildings (the same for cathedrals) I can't help but feel they represent a symbol of power and wealth. A reminder to us peasants who's in charge. I find them oppressive. But then again I'm not religious so! Anyway, I digress, what an epic day!
Back to base we were fed an amazing lunch and feasted on coconuts. We had a cheeky wander in the tree house before getting in the bus back to the main jetty.
Once my heart had stopped racing we walked back down the hill and back onto the boat. Our next stop was a waterfall, trekking through the river. Once there we had to take off our shoes and let the fish eat our feet. Bloody weird and tickly. We squealed like idiots whilst a five year old Malaya girl stood watching us (with like ten fish nibbling her) like we were a pair of idiots. Probably accurate.
Cheeky snack for the way back
Don't look down...
At the top of a tough climb we came face to face with "the tree canopy walk". Which is basically a scaffold structure that goes up 45 metres. This was tough going. Really very scary. Camilla couldn't handle the height and had to go back, darn phobia. However as you'll see from the photos it was an unbelievable view...
Once we were off the boat we were once again trekking in the jungle...
Next we piled onto a canoe with an engine and bombed it up the river in water that appeared far too shallow. We had to disembark for check in. Camilla lost her footing on exit and face planted into the rocks. I'm afraid I was a terrible friend and laughed. Luckily she had a life vest on for padding. She was totally fine!
A very early start today as we were off to frolic in the Brunei jungle - Temburong national park. We set off in torrential rain for the jetty, praying for the rain to stop! In Brunei you often arrange things by using WhatsApp. Camilla had been in a WhatsApp conversation with a chap who had organised our trip. A bit of confusion at the jetty but we soon realised we needed to just board any water taxi. We boarded the water taxi with a large group of Chinese diplomats out on a trip. The water taxi bombed up the river, through the mangroves, at a hairy old speed. At one point the engine cut out but started up again. After about a 40 minute ride we arrived at another jetty. This time Camilla's new friend was there to meet us and we popped into our own minibus. We were driven 15 minutes up the road to our "base camp". We were greeted by a menagerie of people who all knew many of Camilla's colleagues. We were sat down for tea, coffee and cake - all very civilised!

12 February 2016

Great meal out tonight at the local Japanese sushi restaurant. JBs first ever sushi so he was given a gigantic piece to see off. Good lad.
Today we had a chill out day whilst Camilla was at work. It gave us the opportunity to sort out lots of flight bookings etc! Camilla picked us up at lunch so we could have a grand tour of her school. It is absolutely incredible, it reminded me of my school in NZ but like ten times nicer. It's huge! The theatre itself is the size of most schools and actually doubles up as the state theatre. Amazing. After our epic tour from Camilla's colleague Tom, we chilled in the staff room like naughty school children waiting for Camilla's meeting to finish. Camilla had some torture lined up for this afternoon. A power walk over 9 hills in the jungle, what's dubbed "bukit" (hill in Malay). We were joined by some lovely colleagues and totally bossed it in the afternoon heat.

11 February 2016

On the way back we had a little stop off at the local supermarket which stocks imported food from Europe and Australia. We were amused to see Waitrose essentials food available!
Also turns out Camilla doesn't know her way around yet despite being here for some time. We circled one round about twice and had to pop the sat nav on. Which is set to boy band mode, bit odd. This is Camilla's flat in her complex, all very lovely and complete with geckos. We drove, with help of sat nav, to a fab Thai restaurant (not at all like yesterday's!). We were joined by two pals of Camillas who were very nice.
We landed and nailed getting through customs with our alcohol! Another form added to the pile but otherwise easy stuff. We met Camilla on "the other side" and walked to the car. Problems... The car wouldn't start! After much scratchy head moments she whatsapped her mechanic who appeared 15 mins later (talk about service!). However he managed to start the car immediately (lol). Turns out the car just wasn't quite in park properly so wouldn't start. 😂 Mills was a tad embarrassed and gave the guy $10 as a thank you for coming anyway. Too funny.
Pashmina at the ready, Aladdin trousers on and we're ready to visit Brunei. Country number eight! That was until we were handed three forms to fill out, luckily the flight is over 2 hours otherwise we might not have had time to complete them. 😂 The section "please list the countries you have visited in the last 21 days" only had three spaces - we've been to six countries. Hopefully they'll just be reasonably impressed...! The exciting part is that we have to declare the duty free alcohol we picked up in Malaysia, woo. As you can see, JB is poised and ready to go 😂 The notice on the back of one form gave me the impression they're not very keen on drug taking here... 😕