20.10.2011 - 23.10.2011 34 °C
We spent Thursday lazing in KK back at Borneo Backpackers, who are awesome. Trousers chopped. We also indulged at Chilli Vanilla, a nice restaurant in town. We had a glass of wine for RM13.50, or about £2.70 (Joe made me look it up).
We had an early start on Friday to catch the 8am ferry to Labuan. It was a nice ride, but we couldn't go outside and the air con was set to arctic. Labuan is an island off the coast of Brunei and is mostly used as a duty free haven due to complicated politics in the past - something about it technically being a Federal Territory of Malaysia. When we arrived, we were picked up by a guy on a scooter, who we will now call Uncle Jack because he ran Uncle Jack's Backpackers. Our guidebook doesn't have much to say about the cheap hostels on Labuan, but Uncle Jack's was really good. The rooms were nice and the showers worked (which is better than some of the places in Lonely Planet). He was also happy for us to drink tea and coffee (also alcohol left by students from Brunei who go to the island to let their hair down, but can't take the alcohol back) and fed us lots for breakfast, including fresh melon - the luxury.
The only downside was Uncle Jack's dog, who thought Joe wanted to play and tried to savage his leg. But she was only a puppy.
Labuan has a marine museum, which wasn't as good as we were led to believe, but passed a couple of hours quite happily. We also went to the Financial Park - Labuan's number one attraction - which is a duty free shopping centre. I bought sunglasses (which I've since broken) and we had a go in the free massage chairs - Joe's clamped him in. We also met Diane from Australia at lunch when we shared her table and chatted for a bit. She's from the south end of the great barrier reef, so we may run into her again when we're there.
Half a post and no Brunei - it's time.
That's about it really.
We arrived yesterday a little later than expected because the 9am ferry was cancelled. Then when we arrived on the 11am ferry, the money changer was at lunch, so we missed the express bus to BSB and found out the next one wasn't for hours (the guidebook was wrong again). Eventually we decided to walk to Muara, the nearest town, and were picked up (again!) by a local bus almost immediately. We shared the ride into the capital with a couple from New Zealand, who were lovely and chatty. We found the hostel, Pusat Belia, very easily and availed ourselves of what seems to be the only cheap accommodation in town. We're in separate dorms, so we had to meet on the balcony last night for a covert exchange of toothpaste and bite cream for safety pins.
Bandar Seri Begawan is a really lovely city, but strangely empty. It's also very clearly a different country to Malaysia. There's still a stilt village as part of the capital and everything is very spacious and quiet. We can't work out where all the people are. It takes about 10 minutes to walk across town. This morning we went to the Royal Regalia Museum, which mostly contains gifts for the sultan from pretty much everyone. It was an amusing way to spend a couple of hours, although I got cold feet. We had to leave our shoes outside and the museum is aggressively air conditioned with marble floors. After a break for brunch we headed to the boats for a trip to Bangar. This was a 45 minute hair-raising water taxi ride through narrow channels with tight bends. The driver is keen to shave off any time he can from the journey. Although he did stop on the way back to let us have a good peer at a crocodile on one of the banks. Bangar is a very sleepy town, nice, but virtually everything was closed; mostly we did this for the journey.
Brunei seems to be mostly untouched rainforest, which is nice. No palm tree plantations! We're going to come back campaigners against deforestation by default.