2010-07-02 -- Brunei

A half day tour, followed by, guess what, pool time. We started off with Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (a collection of pictures, and a great picture), then visited the royal museum (Bangunan Alat Kebesaran Diraja?) (the 'great picture' guy also visited the museum), quickly (and unofficially) saw Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, then took a boat through Kampong Ayer (the water city), and finally drove by the palace.

The rest of the day was spent at the pool. We borrowed kayak's and paddled around the salt-water pool, but both no current, and only 1.5m of water made this a bit boring; 'twas free though, so I shouldn't be complaining.

The Empire Hotel and Country Club looked extremely promising on arrival -- nice grounds, huge lobby, fancy shops, nice rooms, two pieces of free pressing daily (hinting that this is a nice formal place) -- but lackluster service, declining maintenance, and bad food quickly killed any illusion of high end. They claimed conservative Muslim policies (women should be covered at the pool) but these were not inforced. Dress codes weren't reliably enforced (until we got used to them not being enforced). The food...was terrible. The first night was a buffet (unheated, gasp) and a mongolian grill (the guy at the grill dumped on garlic sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and some other sauce without asking, ruining any dish). The next day was a buffet at lunch, slightly better, but not much. Dinner was at 'Spaghettini' a (shock) Italian restaurant. OK, nothing special; I was grumpy because they finally enforced the dress code.

Bottom line, fun for families. Think 'Holiday Inn'. Certainly not a seven star hotel (I heard that claim), maybe three.


Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 24.0 mm; 1/15 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
(For this and the next two pictures, the same caption; I couldn't figure out which was which.)

Lembing Tembaga Dan Taming - Eight "Lembing" (spears) with brass band and eight "Taming" (shields) were carried by eight "Awang-Awang" (Aristocrats). (In Malay: Lapan batang Lembing yang bersampak tembaga dan lapan buah Taming (Utap) yang dibawa oleh lapan orang Awang-Awang.)

Lambing Perak Dan Taming - Eight "Lembing" (spears) with silver band and eight "Taming" (shields) were caried by eight "Biduanda Kecil". (In Malay: Lapan batang Lembing yang bersampak Perak dan lapan buah Taming (Utap) yang dibawa oleh lapan orang Biduanda Kecil.)

Pedang Kerajaan Dan Perisai - Four "Pedang Kerajaan" (Royal swords) with golden bands on the hilt and four "Perisai Kerajaan" (Royal spears) were carried by four sons of the "Cheteria" (Common Nobles). (In Malay: Empat bilah Pedang Kerajaan yang bersampak emas dan empat buah Perisai Kerajaan yang dibawa oleh empat orang anak Cheteria.)

Lembing Kerajaan Dan Taming - The six Special Lembing (Royal Spear) and Taming (Shields) with golden at the tip are borne by the six Biduanda Kecil (pages). (In Malay: Alat Kebesaran Diraga ini adalah sejenis senjata yang berbentuk Lembing dan Taming (Utap) yang bersampak emas dan bergambal buah jambu yang diperbuat daripada emas. Alat Kebesaran Diraja ini mempunyai enam batang Lembing dan enam buah Taming yang dibawa oleh enam orang Biduanda Kecil.)



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 24.0 mm; 1/15 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 28.0 mm; 1/15 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 32.0 mm; 1/13 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
On the far side, 'Payung Kawan', on the near side 'Payung Dadu'.

Payung Kawan - Forty umbrellas in cubic design, which consist of two colours; yellow and red, were carried by forty "orang muda-muda" (the youngs) and stationed to stand on both sides below the area called "Peningkah Lapau". (Or, in Malay, Empat puluh pucuk payang bercorak dadu yang mempunyai dua warna iaitu; kuning dan merah, yang dibawa oleh empat puluh orang muda-muda yang berdiri di kiki kanan di bawah Peningkah Lapau.)

Payung Dadu - Eight umbrellas with gold top in cubic design, which consist of five colours; Yellow, White, Green, Black and Red, were carried by eight "Awang-Awang" (Aristocrats) and stationed to stand on both sides below an area called "Peningkah Papau". (Or, in Malay, Lapan pucuk payung yang berpuncak emas dan bercorak dadu yang mempunyai lima warna iaitu Kuning, Putih, Hijau, Hitam dan Merah yang dibawa oleh lapan orang Awang-Awang yang berdiri di kiri kanan di bawah Peningkah Lapau.)



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 47.0 mm; 1/800 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. For reasons I cannot begin to imagine, this was NOT on our tour. And since we were on a tour, I couldn't wait for the random guy to move out of the picture -- I already waited for a group of women to get out of the way and was getting a bit late for the boat. Here is a much much better picture of the mosque.

Having now done a bit of googling about Brunei -- in particular, looking at Google Earth of exactly this area -- I'm both annoyed we didn't visit here, and frustrated (again, still) by group tours. I can't count how many times a 'guide' has told us that we're going to some fantastic place, he babbles on and on about something about it while we're getting there, then tells us we can get out to 'take some pictures'. What? No exploring? No discovering? No absorbing? Just jump out, snap whatever is in front of us, and jump back in! sigh.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 97.0 mm; 1/500 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
Speedboat in front of Kampong Ayer (the water village).



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 58.0 mm; 1/800 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, just behind the water village.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 96.0 mm; 1/1000 sec, f/7.0, ISO 200
The Sultan of Oman's palace, behind the water village.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 99.0 mm; 1/2000 sec, f/7.0, ISO 200
This is about all one can see of the palace, this from a park along the river.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 45.0 mm; 1/250 sec, f/7.0, ISO 200
Also in the park along the river, a wonderfully cubic sculpture. "The World of Asean", by Marsidi Hj. Akip. See also a semi-official page, a travel blog, and another travel blog.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 16.0 mm; 1/125 sec, f/7.0, ISO 200
The lobby at the Empire is huge. The entrance is technically on the fifth floor (the top most balcony), this is from the ground floor. A couple of restaurants and lots of convention space fill up the floors



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 17.0 mm; 2 sec, f/4.0, ISO 400
And the end of the day, almost a nice thunder and lightning storm. It was too far away and too misty/foggy to be pretty.



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