The Nice Non-Kuta Places of Bali

A scrawny guy, megawatt smile on his sun bronzed face, waved his skinny tattooed arms over-enthusiastically as we approached the beach cafe. Ushering us to our seats, armed with menus, he asked the usual, “Where you from?”

“Singapore.”

His eyes lit up and sparkled with a glow that I couldn’t quite comprehend.

“Oh! Singapore. I have a friend in Singapore,” he exclaimed which still failed to explain that peculiar twinkle in his eyes.

Laurencia asked for the bathroom and upon her departure, the scrawny guy sat down beside me and looked at me with those eyes. “Is he your brother?”

An odd question. “No, we are friends.” I answered, regarding him warily. I thought the flirts only existed in lovely Kuta. My reponse seemed to have stoked the strange flames in his eyes. In a manner which felt like an oft-performed script, he launched into his pitch.

“I work here. I earn little money.”

“Singapore is very good. But I have no money to go there.”

“Maybe you can bring me there, buy me tickets to go there visit you.”

“I can make you happy happy. We do anything you want. If you happy, I happy.”

That was when it hit me.

On Balangan Beach, Bali, in a cafe overlooking the massive waves constantly crashing into the shores, I listened to the first sugar baby sales pitch of my life. I cannot have asked for a more dramatic, a more perfect backdrop to be pimped to.

Continue reading “The Nice Non-Kuta Places of Bali”

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Eating and Surfing in Kuta, Bali

It was the sixth day of overcast skies since the start of our trip. The dreary dark clouds were the perfect analogy of my mind as I walked down the nasty cobblestone streets, feeling the chill of having my security blanket pulled from around me, brows furrowed, ignoring the calls of street vendors who had seemed to morphed into vultures hungry for my tourist money.

Why did I choose to be alone in Kuta, Bali, otherwise dubbed as the the “most vile place on Earth“? *REGRET* My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. No vomit on my bikini but my anxiety be cripplin’. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a solo trip anywhere. I had forgotten how to be alone with myself and in a state of panic, I had devolved into a total child afraid of every fucking thing. What better place to be feeling lost and frightened than in Kuta?

Continue reading “Eating and Surfing in Kuta, Bali”

Paradise

14/04/2017 – 17/04/2017: Tioman Good Friday Dive Trip

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13/04/2017 – Thursday

Just a city girl, living in a lonely world, she took the midnight coach going Malaysia. I’ve always looked forward to the buses, the trains, the planes that take me on a long journey towards my destination. How incredibly cleansing to watching through your relaxed mind and eyes half shut, the trees and the night rolling into each other in a blur, the baggage of work, anxiety and worries caught in the mixture and tossed to the back of my mind where they can’t touch me anymore.

I fell into a deep slumber stretched out at the back of the empty coach before being awaken at approximately 3AM upon reaching our hotel for the night and proceeding to crash into bed again.

14/04/2017 – Friday

One of the best feeling in the world is waking up in the morning and knowing that you’ll be spending the entire day being in nature or doing something that you know will leave your soul and spirit feeling utterly satisfied. Its a kind of enthusiasm, a kind of hope that feels like tiny bolts of lightning, jolts of energy that can overwrite any less-than-quality sleep the night before. The sounds of the world ring louder in your ears and the colours brighter on your eyes.

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The weather was absolutely splendid, the unbelievably azure skies so tantalizing, stoking my impatience to get out there to wrap my body in the warm rays of the sun and fresh open air. But Malaysia boleh, our ferry was delayed and we spent a good amount of time cooped up in the overcrowded ferry terminal, dispersing our frustration through the pores of our necks.

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We reached Noryah Dive Resort slightly after lunch, scorched by a sun reigning over the Earth, shining down on us with all its might, ravenous from the long voyage across the seas. I wolfed down a lunch of fried rice, fries and nuggets before putting on my swimsuit, one which hadn’t seen the light of the day since the start of the month when school and work where in cahoots with each other and got crazy together.

The first dive was a state of panic, the hasty re-introduction to the unpleasant logistics of diving which I had the luxury of skipping during both my open water and advanced certification classes. In retrospect, that luxury happened to be a curse in disguise. That realization hit me as I stood in the midst of a chaos of gears strewn all over the grass outside the concrete equipment shed, feeling as utterly lost as I was when I graduated from school on my last class. I clasped my gear bag between my palms and searched the surroundings for someone to imitate but everyone had advanced way beyond that.

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Drowning in all that jargons, halp

But all’s good. “Angkar”, our dive guide swooped in to save this blurcock damsel in distress with his huge twinkling eyes and megawatt grin with teeth pearly white against his sun bronzed skin. And within moments, my frazzled nerves were tamed as I got reacquainted with the numerous gears that I strapped upon myself.

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Dive #1: The first dive was a shore dive, which meant we had to walk out into the sea with our gears already on and float on backwards until we’ve reached water deep enough. Not a particularly enjoyable experience because I’m not the most graceful when putting on my fins while floating on my back. However, it did bring back wonderful memories of my Bali dives with Rebecca and the beefcake of our instructor.

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I had always struggled with descent, the journey from the surface down to the seabed. How utterly lonely I have felt floating on the surface as I watched with envy the air bubbles of the other divers on the surface as they descended with nary a hitch.

But not this time, for I lowered myself without having to put up a struggle and the sea enveloped me in its cool embrace. Welcome back. The area had lousy visibility due to the currents and the stirring of fine ass sand. Our group of 6 dwindled to 4 after a while and then almost 3 when I mistook another dive group for ours and Angkar intercepted to save the damsel in distress once again. He was indeed my knight in skin-tight wet suit.

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Dive #2: The night gradually descended upon us and we floated about the shallow waters, awaiting sunset before a night dive with Cristyano and Angkar. The sun went out with a fiery passion, setting the skies ablaze before disappearing into the clouds. Angkar strapped a compass to my BCD and taught me how to set the bearings for the land and navigate our way back when we’re turning back. He wanted me to lead us back to the starting point once we’ve circled certain landmarks underwater.

I’ve always loved the idea of night dives. It’s ironic because I’ve been absolutely terrified of the murky depths of the ocean, after having large pieces of seaweed brush past my bare legs, scarring my young mind, while swimming in the Sentosa waters as a child. Being submerged in my fear, in the darkness of a world that is not mine, activates a primal sense of urgency that feels like a burn in the pit of my stomach (might that be adrenaline though I  recall adrenal glands being located in the brain), which sharpens the senses, which have been largely dormant in our world of light and safety.

The dive went really well until we made a stop to practice my buoyancy control with a fin pivot. Then it went downhill from there.

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The ideal fin pivot

I spent what felt like forever fumbling in the darkness, attempting to float and sink according to my will through my breath, while hitting rock bottom 90% of the time. Cris and Angkar were really trying their best to help me, scribbling instructions and filling up the dive slate but unfortunately it was a spectacular fail trying to wield control over my body that no longer felt like my own.

The journey back to shore was quite the experience too, as my one track mind struggled to juggle the demands of looking down at the compass while watching where I was going. Granted, navigating a night dive with my rusty compass skills was probably a level 3 difficulty in the game. I bumped into several huge pieces of corals on the way, feeling both guilty and foolish, hoping fervently we’re headed back to shore.

What a huge relief being raising my head, see the ripples of black waters and the dancing moonlight across its surface. Despite my disappointment about not mastering buoyancy like I had intended to, I felt so incredibly exhilarated coming up for air, like a new life emerging from the cavernous wombs of its mother, welcomed by the chill of the salty sea breeze and silence of the big, great world. Gone was the initial panic. I had fallen back in love with diving once again.

15/04/2017 – Saturday

After one of the soundest sleep I’ve had in the month (April had been fucking crazy mentally),  I woke up, crawled out of my bed on the upper bunk of the dorm and stepped outside. The sunrise had tinted everything in a warm orange glow. All was quiet as most were still sleeping. It was such a wonderful feeling just standing there, taking in the smell of the sea, the sensation of grass and sand beneath my bare feet, the lightness of my spirit. I was SO in love.

The village began to awake one after another, gathered at the dining table for breakfast. I didn’t need coffee that day for I was bursting with so much natural energy, eager to head back into the waters again. We were diving from the Frogman today, which meant no more involuntary weights training and broken seashells jabbing into my feet!

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The boat felt a lot smaller that it did when I was there the last year in October when I did my advanced class. Maybe it was because now that I wasn’t living on board, the sleeping bunks were off access and I had one less area to hang out at. However, we soon discovered the roof and headed on up to soak in the sun.

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There were hours waiting and nothing’s happening as we headed to our first dive site. The Frogman I’m not complaining a single bit because the roof was the perfect spot to chill, where you get an unobstructed view of the surroundings, the vast blue oceans, the unobstructed breeze, the golden rays of the sun warming your back. If perfection existed in a moment, there I was living in it.

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*Boatmen Appreciation*

Dive #3: The dive was not particularly remarkable, more of a desperate escape from the relentlessly rocky boat to quell any intensification of the motion sickness I felt welling up at the back of my throat. Being in the water was so meditative, so healing, so tranquil, especially after getting my buoyancy under control.

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In between dives, we took a boat and went swimming in a beach right in front of some dive resorts, in an area cordoned off for snorkeling. The place was filled with little kids and teenagers, boisterous and lively.  The water was emerald and clear, teeming with snorkelers and colorful fishes. What I was really excited about was the floating platform were you could dive off of. Cris showed me how to do the front flip and I managed to achieve half of it, hitting the water with my back mid turn. Hurts but it felt good being able to accomplish something which I’ve only been able to watched the boys in my swimming classes do in public pools 13 years ago.  It was a very pure kind of happiness.

Dive #4: We hit the waters again in full gear as the sun hit the time of the day where it commences its descend. Visibility was bad but the murkiness of the water was somehow appropriate for the landmarks we were visiting, 2 huge shipwrecks and the massive columns of the beams supporting the jetty.

It was like living in a cinematic segment of an adventure film without the dramatic music, the shadowy hull of the boats slowly coming into view as I ambled forward and it took a while before I could wrap my brain around the sheer size of the wrecks.  I caught myself hearing loud beeping sounds, like the warning alarms of the control devices of sinking ships I’ve seen in movies and the occasional panicked shouts of men, incoherent and frightened. My imagination – a built-in storytelling device. 10/10 experience.

16/04/2017 – Sunday

I woke up at 6 by newly formed mosquitoes bites on my legs demanding to be scratched. Apparently, I had kicked off my protective blankets in the middle of the night and unwittingly started an all-you-can eat blood feast for the little guys. I had half-an-hour before our meeting time so I headed down to the beach to walk again.

It is so therapeutic listening to the waves gently crash against the shore, the crackling sea foam as it retreated back into the ocean, mixed with the excited voice of Sherry face timing her boyfriend, showing him the beauty of the beach at sunrise.

Today was the last day of the trip and I was determined to make the most of the remaining dives I’ve had. We were diving from the Frogman again and I was beyond stoked to see that the weather was working in our favor again. Long live summer days!!

Dive #5: And this seems to be my first encounter with currents. It’s a love-hate relationship. So much hate when you’re going against it, kicking desperately, burning up your oxygen supply and finding yourself stuck at the same spot like a hamster in a wheel. But LOVE when you’re drifting with the current, like leaning back on the softest, silkiest blanket and sliding off it. Almost like flying. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I’ll definitely want to learn more about drift diving or dealing with strong currents because the word on the streets is that that’s where you get to encounter the most and best sea life forms.

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Dive #6: Oh boy did I see the Renggis site in a whole new light! LITERALLY.

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It was the most perfect way to end the entire diving trip. Renggis is beautiful BOTH above and beneath the waters. Its mass of vibrant coral reefs were abundant with life and colors, with large schools of fishes just hanging out, darting in and out, between corals, away from my outstretched arms of wistful hopes to have one of them swim in my palms. The parrot fishes never fail to crack me up between breathes into my regulator.

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Girl look at those lips

We also swam past a massive moray eel, more commonly known as bad joke eel, snapping its jaws at little fishes as it emerged from within the corals.

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Credit: Someone in the leisure dive group

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The highlight of this dive has got to be the colossal sea tortoise, which I had mistaken for a huge piece of reef, with a voracious appetite, chewing away at corals like an underwater demolition machine. I was beside myself with excitement, an almost out-of-body experience, seeing this giant creature in flesh, not on the TV screen of Nat Geo.

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THE END

PS: I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY NEXT DIVE!!

PPS: Much thanks and love to my dive buddy, Cristyano

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Melbourne

The worst thing which can happen while embarking upon the solo leg of my travels had happened on the trip which I have eagerly anticipated for months.

On my 8-hour long Scoot journey Down Under, I began my slow descent down under the weather such that my virgin inhalation of the new air was obstructed by unyielding mucous and a throat as parched as the Australian outback in summer.

Some minor millennial whining… 

It’s a major bummer falling sick at the start of the trip, the inexplicable flu throwing a wet blanket upon my fiery enthusiasm to see the sights that Melbourne has to offer, drastically reducing the health immunity youth affords, which was vital for the nights of poor quality sleep in store upon barely there backpacker hostel mattresses.

 The weather was no help at all, with temperatures reaching as high as 38°C on my day of arrival, where I literally felt myself baked like a dough in the oven. Swarms of flies shrouded my head in a buzzing, grey fog and my arms were in a perpetual swatting motion. The pain was both physical and psychological.

On the following days, temperatures plummeted to 12°C with ferocious winds, determined to pierce my bones. The flies were gone now, mild irritation taken over by paper dry eyes and chapped lips. The chill of the days were considered a surprise, even to the locals and my ill-prepared summer wardrobe provided no defense against the elements.

It’s a wonder how I even began to recover at all, given the circumstances of being alone, sleep deprived, cold and very grumpy. I definitely burrowed my way into a hole and threw myself a pity party for a couple of days, which fortunately isn’t very comfortable. (Think poorly ventilated room filled with Scottish girls chatting in profanities).

Melbourne is a nice place and that played a part in my recovery, the psychological part of it that is.

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The Comfortable City-ness of Melbourne 

The sturdy grip upon my bag was loosened upon the first day when I felt incredibly safe exploring the place, knowing that I won’t get mugged. Walking alone through the cozy little neighborhoods after nightfall (the sun sets at around 8:30PM there) can be done very leisurely, without paranoia.

Aussies are also friendly without being overwhelmingly cordial, just how I like to interact. I bumped into an American tourist in the city and he wouldn’t end the supposedly brief encounter till 4 hours later. It’s nice striking up casual conversations with people on the streets (or on lawns… Aussies love sitting on lawns), knowing that you can comfortably end the conversation when appropriate. Also, Australian men are beautifully adorned with tattoo sleeves and full beards. It was like a walking art museum everyday. Hallelujah.

I was extremely charmed by the tram network, which connects you to the city and other suburbs. It had never gotten too crowded for my timid heart and runs along a straight track with a gentle rumble. Purchase the MYKI card from almost anywhere (got mine from 7-11) and you will be able to get to basically everywhere the network of trams access. And it is a huge network.

One issue I had was with the way fares were calculated and charged. The Melbourne network charges are based upon duration, instead of the distance fares I was familiar with. A Mexican immigrant I bumped into attempted to divulge her secrets of getting the most worth out of the fare system but I failed to grasp the complexities of her strategies. Hence, this dumb tourist was hitting the maximum of  AUS$6 per day.

If you are good with strategies and numbers, I do advise you give your transits a little more thought to save costs.

VIEWS + THE SEA

St Kilda’s has got great beaches. The water remains ice cold regardless of the temperature and the quantity of hot bods on its shores. Sunset and sunrise views are sick. There’s also a myriad of dining options just a stone’s throw away from the beach, which is easily accessible by trams or bikes.

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Morington Pennisula is an hour’s drive away from the city, away from it’s hustle and bustle, its soundtrack replaced by the gentle crash of the ways on the shore. You do need a car to get around the area, which unlike the city, does not have an efficient public transport system.

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We chanced upon a nude beach tucked in a corner of the coast where the pale bodies of middle-aged men glistened in the sun’s rays. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience for me as I felt my guts clench on instinct and I have to turn away from the sight. I reckon my Asian genes had rendered nudity taboo and repulsive.

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Off Dromana Pier, we had amazing $7 fish & chips at a place called Lucky Catch where they serve up large portions of a variety of fishes to you in grease resistant paper wraps. No-frills. Let the chips do the talkin’. The waters were crystal clear, which afforded us a view of large stingrays making their way down south, flapping fast, waves past and they’re home bound.

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Cape Schanck is a MUST-GO if you are into #views. Word of advice to check the weather forecast before you go for we had to battle winds, strong enough to slam us right into the wooden railings on the side of the stairs to get to the beach.

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It was all worth it though to see the swirling sea foams and to hear the roaring waves hit the rocky shores for an equally loud hissing finale, to repeat the cycle all over again.

If you are in the Morington region, I will also like to mention and recommend Spitfire Restaurant with the finest buffalo wings and monster burgers by the bay. I do have to warn you about the spicy buffalo wings because I was wrong to have assumed it was of white people’s spice standards. It is the absolute fires from hell in your mouth.

The Great Ocean Drive in all honesty, was an okay ocean drive for me, having done Big Sur in California. I suppose what made it great was the history behind it, a road project which provided employment to young men returning from WWI that was constructed by hand and took approximately 19 years to complete.

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The Twelve Apostles were disappointing, for we jostled large tourist crowds and waved off unrelenting flies, to realise that there were only 8 left. The view was really not all that inspiring. Instead, I suggest heading down the Gibson’s Steps to get away from tourists and be more one with nature.

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Brighton Beach of course. There’s nothing much you can do with the bathing boxes, except to enjoy their vibrance and watch tourists standing in front of them in a variety of poses, taking more photos then they will ever need.

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THE CITY

Nothing too remarkable in the city, except for dope phó at Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam restaurant, which tagline is “Bill Clinton had 2 bowls, how many can you have?”. I certainly do not doubt the truth of the statement but I don’t think Bill Clinton appreciate the fact that they do not split bills. Mexican food (THE CORNS!!) at Mamasita is lit AF and you should totally drop by for lunch.

Brunswick is a short tram’s ride from the city and is aptly deemed the soul of Melbourne. The walls of the buildings are crawling with life and expression. It was exciting spotting the corners of graffiti peeking out from the lane ways, rushing over to swoon over the entirety of it, understanding that it might have taken well over a week to coat the entire 4-storey high building in colours.

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Also, if you ever consider exploring the Yarra River Trail, rent a bike. Do not attempt to walk the entire trail like I did, which costed 4 hours and a day of aching soles after. That being said, it was not altogether a futile journey, for it is a peaceful and quiet pocket of nature, a refreshing change from the city.

Why did the snake cross the road? To stop an astonished Australian cyclist in his track and slither his way into the Yarra river with a resounding splash.

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Beneath the freeway, I also chanced upon the free Burnley Bouldering Wall, which had 3 different walls of increasing difficulty level, and is opened 24/7. This place is set up and maintained by the community, for the community and I thought it was a rather commendable thing to do.

The easiest way to get to the wall is via the Yarra Trail, on bike. Trams take you there too but a significant amount of walking will be required. Trains are another transport option, with Burnley Station being the closest.

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I probably will not be back in Melbourne again because it is too familiar and comfortable a place for my taste. I look forward to returning to the continent, armed with my driving license, to visit Tasmania, dive in Queensland and get my skin further charred in the Gold Coast.

travel chapter: 13th to 23rd december 2016 

special thanks to Rachel for lending us your bed, while you take the couch and Nicola for taking one bird shit to the hand for the team

affordable caravan airbnb recommendation (dromana) >>> https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/3499537

My Solo Trip to Brunei

In the sweltering afternoon heat, I felt like a slab of raw meat left out on the kitchen counter, gradually wet with condensation, turning bad by the minute.

That was exactly what happened as I sat my ass down at the perhentian bas (bus stop) for an hour, as cars streamed by, none of them being a public bus. I was getting hangry as lunch time had neared, came and passed.

Resigning to my fate of having to travel an hour on foot under the scorching sun to my next destination, I sighed and got up to walk. After about 20 minutes, I was walking along the highway, against the flow of traffic.

A grey car had stopped by the curb, with its two hazard lights switched on, blinking. I peered into its cool, grey interior as I trudged by.

“Where are you going, Miss?”, the driver of the auto mobile asked as soon as we made eye contact.

“Gadong Mall.”

“Ok. I take you there.”

“Okay!”

And there I have my first hitch-hiking experience ever, afforded by the friendly people of Brunei.

The Beauty is in Her People

One thing which left a lasting impression on me during my 3-day solo trip (16th – 19th April 2016) in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei was how genuinely nice the people there are. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with cordial smiles and casual greetings, none of which felt forced at all. It really does seems as if they haven’t got much to worry about, at least not financially.

Another thing that made my trip really pleasant was the fact that almost everyone spoke and understood English. This took the stress off having to communicate in order to get my basic needs met and also learning more about the place.

The kind guy who gave me a ride to my destination, the joggers who uttered “Good Morning” as I passed them, the lady at the flea market who gave me a discount before I even asked for it, my lovely mangrove tour guides Mark and Wann, my amazingly generous AirBnB hosts Eirene and James.

Brunei, the Abode of Peace, feels immensely safe and I could devote my attention to seeing the beautiful places she has to offer.

Places Worth Visiting

  1. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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I was caught off guard by its majesty in real life. No doubt, this has got to be the most beautiful mosque in South East Asia.

 

You’re allowed to head into the mosque and have a look around when there are no religious activities going on. Ladies will have to don the long black robe they offer at the entrance. There is a small little door to the right indicating perempuan (female) which will lead you up to the second floor of the mosque, overlooking the main prayer hall for males.

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Getting there: Walking distance from the main bus terminal where bus timings are more trustworthy than bus stops.

 

2. Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

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My AirBnB host took me there at night. It was illuminated in a really magical way, which had my jaws hanging as we pulled into the deserted parking lot. It was really quiet, past visitors hours. I ventured into the mosque, listening to my breaths echo against the beautiful marbled interiors, before being chased out by several guards. :p

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The middle lane is the Sultan’s personal escalator.

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Getting there: With the unreliable public bus system, it seems like you have no choice but to get a taxi ride over to the second largest mosque in Brunei.

 

3. Tasek Lama Recreational Park

“It’s like a bigger MacRitchie Reservoir,” cautioned my host as I shared with her my plans to spend a morning there. “There’s nothing much to see, really.”

The taman (park) is a stone’s throw away from my AirBnB residence, a 15 minutes walk away. It is a green space filled with healthy joggers during the weekends, with basic exercise facilities and shelters to keep the people happy. There are many trails to explore. Walking on flat land is boring. The ascent to slight hills make the entire experience challenging and hence rewarding.

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You know shit is real when they installed rope railings on the side.

The main attraction of the park was supposed to be a waterfall, white foams plunging into depths below. However, due to the dry spell Asia has been suffering from, the flow has unfortunately been reduced to a mere trickle.

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Hydroelectric dam

Getting there: Buses 36 and 38 will get you to a nearby bus stop. Or you can walk if you ain’t feeling lazy. It’s a short distance away from Terrace Hotel.

 

4. Pasar Malam Gadong (Night Market)

If you’re looking for good and cheap food, here’s the place to eat yourself silly. I love the atmosphere of the venue too. It was crowded with families on a Friday night, little children munching on colourful sweets or greasy bbq drumsticks. Smoke in the air mingled with the joyous shouts of vendors. Smiles on everyone’s faces.

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It HURTS so much being a vegetarian, looking at this sight and walking away empty-handed, stomach growling in protest.

Getting there: Take bus 01C. It is a bridge away from the Gadong Mall district.

 

5. Gadong Mall

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Unfortunately, the shopping here isn’t fantastic, if you’ve been born and raised in shopping paradise, Singapore.

 

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However, there is a cineplex at the top most level which offers up-to-date movies at just SGD$4 before 6:30PM on weekdays. I watched Batman vs Superman in an almost empty theatre and allowed myself to bawl my eyes out when the man of steel got punctured by the hideous lump of a creature.

Getting there: Take bus 01C. Or hitch a ride from a local if it’s your lucky day.

 

6. Kampung Ayer (Water Village)

I didn’t expect much going into this place because I know it’s a renowned tourist attraction of Brunei. I was anticipating loud crowds, jostling tourists and annoyed locals. But I experienced none of that when I took a $1 speedboat over to the other side from the mainland waterfront.

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What greeted me was serenity and the local’s relaxed way of living. Visiting the museum enlightened me about the significance of the kampung, of its importance in the development of Brunei itself. It’s also interesting to observe that there is almost everything there, a school, shops, motor boats parked beneath the stilts, prayer rooms, full houses. It is pretty much self-sustaining.

Once again, the locals were really friendly. I’ve always feel a sense of pressure to purchase something when I browse in shops overseas. The shop owners tend to hover around you like a hawk stalking its prey. Yet, I was completely at ease doing that over here.

Getting there: Take a speedboat over from the mainland. Just walk towards the water and you will have a handful of speedboat operator coming over for you, quoting their prices. A one-way trip over to the Kampung should only cost you $1.

 

7. Mangrove tour

YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE MANGROVES. You have to.

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When my AirBnB host suggested going on this tour, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea. I had thought I would be floating on the boat, a quick hour will pass without me spotting anything interesting. I was dead wrong.

I took a tour with Mark and Wann, who were both extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife within the mangroves. They carried encyclopaedias and guide books with them, pointing them out to us whenever we changed upon something. It really did pique my interest midway through the tour and I was asking more questions than I’ve ever did in all my science lessons combined.

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We spotted the famous proboscis monkeys, ordinary monkeys (I recalled the names being “meccah” but Google search produced no related results), straited herons, egrets, monitor lizards and even the eyes of a crocodile. It was very invigorating, getting to know a side of nature I wasn’t used to.

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The trip back to mainland coincided with sunset. My, it was beyond breath taking, a piece of memory which I will take to my grave.

I definitely do recommend booking a tour with them! I did the tour with an exchange student from Estonia who was putting up at the same AirBnB as I was and it costed us only SGD$20 each.

Future Destinations

Next time I return to Brunei, I will make sure that I’m not alone, that I will have my driving license and have a longer period of time there. These are some of the places which I haven’t been able to explore on this trip:

  1. Jerudong Park
  2. Muara Beach
  3. Ulu Temburong National Park
  4. Underground bar (rumors or truth?)

If you are planning a trip to Brunei, I’ll say go for it! Feel free to ask me more about the culture and stuff if interested!