Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei!

The day we travel from Miri to BSB (Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei) is also the first day of Ramadan. The bus ride is smooth and we collected yet another stamp. Upon arrival at our guesthouse we are immediately reminded that Ramadan has started and so we should not eat in the streets. Many restaurants are open during the day, but serve only take-away. So take-away it is and a few moments later we are back in our room with a bowl of rice and noodles.

Walking around in BSB it quickly makes an impression of a small provincial city instead of that of a busy bustling capital. Brunei is of course not a big country, so BSB is not a big city. The biggest and most important landmark is the elegant Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. We walk around and after a while Nadieh is kindly asked to leave the premises. Mosques are not accessible to non-Muslims during the month of fasting. Ruben is allowed to stay and shoot a few more pictures. Probably because of the beard. We have a little chat with a group of young people who convince us to come back next month to see the mosque. We will certainly do!

When the evening falls and the locals are allowed to eat again, the ‘Ramadan buffets’ pop up. Almost every restaurant serves a tasty buffet on the street: All (ah) you can eat for less than 5 euros – ha-ha. We decide to participate and stack up our plates. Not bad actually, that Ramadan.

The next day we want to visit two small museums and Kampung Ayer on the other side of the river. But it’s Friday. And Friday and Ramadan in a strict Muslim country means a virtually deserted city. As if the Dutch national team is playing the World Cup final. Streets are empty, shops and museums close. We had not taken that into account. The speed boats to the other side of the river do run, so an afternoon wandering over the wooden walkways of one of the biggest Kampung Ayers it is. Kampung Ayer means as much as ‘water village’. Every house, shop, school and mosque is built above the water on a large number of wooden poles and are interconnected with wooden risers. This creates a jumble of small paths and alleys, a kind of Venice on stilts. If the residents would not use the water as a garbage dump and as a sewer, the Kampung Ayer is very fun and homely, but when we look down through the walkways, the place is littered.

As we have done in every capital so far, we send a card to our parents. After three days we leave Brunei and start an interesting bus ride to Kota Kinabalu.