Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Traveling Hungry Geographers: Our adventure to Brunei

Recently, we were lucky enough to get a few days off of school for Buddhist lent and it just so happened that we needed to do a border bounce for our visas. So where did we decide to travel? . . . Brunei! Neither of us had heard much about the small county and thought it would be a unique experience and another check-mark on our list to visit all of the ASEAN countries.

Where is Brunei?

Some of you may be wondering, where is Brunei? … maybe even what is Brunei?!?

Brunei is a small country located on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Sarawak, Malaysia. It is the 5th wealthiest country in the world and is home to some of the oldest rainforest in the world! It’s twice the age of the Amazon rainforest.  For the geographers reading this, a lot of it is still primary growth, so yeah, it is definitely a forest lover’s dream! The country is ruled by a Sultan who recently introduced Sharia law as the law of the land. Therefore, alcohol is banned and non-existent (except non-Muslims are allowed to bring in a small amount with many restrictions).
How to get there:

Getting to Brunei can be easy! The airport is trying to market itself with the help of Singapore as a stopover destination for tourists from Australia, New Zealand, and more! We found ourselves a flight out of Krabi to Kuala Lumpur, and then from KL to Brunei.  For those living in Southeast Asia it is typically cheaper to by a second flight out of KL then going straight through.

Our Trip - Day 1:

Before coming to Brunei, we really did not know what to expect. When we finally arrived in the airport we were greeted by the mother and daughter of the family we were staying with through Airbnb. They picked us up and another girl from Chiang Mai and drove us to their apartment. 

The drive was quite beautiful, everything was green and there were spurts of giant mansions.  There was almost no traffic, which was quite surprising as everyone in the country pretty much has 1 or more cars because gas is CRAZY cheap ( 53 cents) and cars are also extremely cheap ( someone told us about 5,000 Bruneian Dollars for a very good used car [3700 USD]).

The apartment we stayed in was extremely nice and in a great location within walking distance of many attractions. Our host family had recently moved to Brunei from Indonesia. The mother was a stay at home mom originally from Indonesia and the husband is originally from Sarawak Malaysia, but of Chinese decent (just a few hours away). They have a two year old daughter who was learning English and Chinese and loved to play with us when we were around. The family was extremely nice, helped us out with directions, gave us rides and made an amazing breakfast!  Please check them out on Airbnb if you are planning a trip to Brunei.

For our first night in town we were not really sure what to do. We decided to go downtown. Our first and important stop was to find food!! We were recommended a small stand down the street from where we were dropped off called Nasi Kotak Mama.

This is where I learned that Brunei food might just be my all time favorite food. The stand serves different pieces of chicken  and rice, covered in the traditional sambal sauce, and all for $1! It may sound simple, but this sauce was so tasty, I am really upset I can’t find any in Thailand. The lady who worked at the stand was extremely friendly and even gave us a complimentary water when she learned we had just arrived.