Monday, September 21, 2009

Journey to Brunei 2 : The Arrival

"Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God".

So wrote Kurt Vonnegut.

Arriving Bandar, I knew I had to get to the hostel soon as it was getting dark and beginning to drizzle again. I asked the bus conductor how to get to Gadong, and he told me if I was willing to take the bus the main terminal was nearby.

I hot footed it to the nearest block, only to remember my little problem that I had not a cent of Brunei currency to my name. Oh dear. Shops were closing, and town was winding down for the day, with people getting ready to break fast. I wandered block to block and was relieved to see an open shop with a sign for the money changer.

Alas, too good to be true, the money changer guy had gone home. The shop part - selling general miscellaneous stuff, I was tempted to buy a cute old fashioned Made in China alarm clock - was manned by a man, with his two cute little boys playing quietly inside the shop.

I explained to him my predicament, and I must have been a pitiful sight, so he made a call to his friend (I assume it's the money changer guy) and then - bless him - told me that he'll give me BND40 for RM100 just enough to tide me for the day. He told me to hurry too if I wanted to catch the bus as the services end at 6:30 pm. It was now around 6:05 pm. Profusely thanking him I left the shop and walked to the bus terminal adjacent to the block.

Asked for the bus to Gadong (either no 55 or 01) and jumped on one that was just leaving. Journey took under 15 minutes, and reaching Gadong I now am faced with the challenge of locating the hostel, SEAMEO VocTech. All I know is it's near The Mall. I asked 2 persons and they had no idea. I then noticed a Police Post, and confident that they'll be able to help, sauntered inside to be greeted by a lone officer.

And guess what, he couldn't help me because he did not know! Oh dear. I asked if he knew of any hostels or colleges nearby - nope; if he had a telephone directory; nope. I must have had an "I don't believe this" look on my face as he was clearly embarrassed and kept apologising. Thanking him for his time I proceeded and tried to see if I can trust my instincts. On another block I asked a passerby and she said, yes I was going in the right direction; yeay!

I finally managed to locate the hostel - across the main road five minutes walk from The Mall. Checked in, got my room key and got to the 2nd Floor where my room was. The building was eeriely quiet, although the receptionist had said there were other occupants that night. Heard some TV switched on somewhere along the corridor so I was inclined to trust him. Other than that there was no other sign of life. Creepy night ahead, I thought but quickly shrugged them off.

The room was clean and big, very old though, must be from the 80s. Bed was alright, a small towel was provided. Bathroom fixtures were old too.

I freshened up quickly and went back to the shops area to get some dinner. The buka puasa crowd had subsided a bit so I managed to get a table at one of the restaurants in Centrepoint building. It was almost half past seven now, and when the Raya announcement was made the patrons (mostly youngsters) cheered and whooped when it was confirmed that Aidilfitri will be on Monday.

After dinner I walked over to The Mall, which is their biggest shopping complex, joining the throngs of shoppers doing some last minute shopping. Ended up buying a few pieces of Jibbitz for my nephew, nothing else called my name. Went back to the hostel, showered and read my book, with one eye on the BPL match.

I can hear fireworks booming outside from time to time, the celebration has started early. And don't know what time I fell asleep, as when I woke up the lights and TV were still on :)

Last instalment in Part 3, next post.


  1. theres nothing much to see during the festive season even the palace is closed due to h1n1. most people are out for visiting relatives, open house etc.

  2. Hi Zie

    Yes I read that the Sultan usually has an open house, or in his case open palace on the 2nd day. Hmm, next timelah to get my chance inside the palace :)..thanks for dropping by!