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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brunei : Day 2 & 3

Tuesday 18th September 2012
Early morning temperature a sign of the day ahead. 24oC at 6.30am and high humidity.
Sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, then heading out for a walking tour of the capital city.
The tour lasted for about 2 hours starting near the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Unfortunately we could not go inside as there was preparation taking place for a Koran reading competition and the mosque was not open to non-Moslem visitors. We continued our tour of notable landmarks including the State Library, the Secretariat Building and the clock tower donated to Brunei by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. We also listed the Raja Ayang Tomb Stone and Erick told us the story of the couple banished by the Sultan to live in a cave due to their inappropriate relationship, rather than being stoned to death. We then moved on to the only Chinese temple in Banda Seri Begawan , followed by the Open Market, Public Bus Terminal, Old Custom Building, the Monument for His Majesty’s 60th Birthday and then stopped at the Yayasan Shopping complex for lunch and some leisure time.
After lunch, Erick took us to the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. This is the largest mosque in Brunei. Fortunately we were able to visit inside. The mosque is spectacular, with all building materials imported from overseas, including Italian marble and stained glass from Shanghai.
From the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque we went by water taxi out along the Brunei River and the mangrove swamp looking for the local inhabitants - the proboscis monkey. After careful scanning of the treetops we finally spotted a small group of monkeys and then another lone monkey on our return journey. No crocodiles were in sight – maybe a good thing for us and the small group of proboscis monkeys in the area.

Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
On our return trip we visited the water village, a communityof about 20,000 people still living in the village of houses, mosque, primary and secondary school living out on the river and connected by a myriad of wooden walkways, the total length of which is about 37 kilometres. The houses looked weather worn outside due to the salt air, but inside was beautifully setout and maintained. The house we visited was a large 5 bedroomed house often visited by tourist groups.
There is also a large area of newer houses, including 2storeyed homes in a new section of the village. (Photos to follow)

On return from the water village we dined at the Port View Restaurant, enjoying an interesting combination of local and Italian food. We then continued on to a visit to the night market.

Wednesday 19th September 2012
Today we headed out of the city to visit key places related to Brunei's economy. Our first stop was the Timber Centre which the first major industry in Brunei. The histpric methods and equipment used in establishing the industry were on display.
We then moved on to the Seria oil field. On the way we passed the stretches of the silica sands. These sands are much sought after by other nations as the sands are nature areas of sand which contain silica and could be used in industry such as glass manufacture. However Brunei is rich in oil and gas, so the Sultan has so far refused to allow mining of the sands due to the impact this would have on the environment.
The Seria oilfield visit included an inspection of the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre which explained the process of mining and refining the oil. The oil fields and production in Brunei is jointly owned by the Sultan who retains about 55% of the income, whilst the rest is operated by Royal Dutch Shell. On our return we stopped at the Billionth Barrel monument which was constructed in 1991. 
Billionth Barrel Monument
On our way back to the city of Banda Seri Begawan we stopped at the Sultan's Royal Brunei Golf & Polo Club at Jerudong Park. The building was an exceptionally opulent building at the centre of the park which was once open only to the Sultan and his family and their invited guests. The polo facilities include stables for up to 1,000 horses at one time, most of which have been imported from polo studs in Argentina.

Back in Banda Seri Begawan, it was time for a quick check out and travel to the airport in time for our flight to Kota Kinabalu!


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