This morning my bus left Miri at 8.15am. It’s not far to the border with Brunei. There were only 5 passengers on the bus crossing the border. At both the Malaysian side and the Brunei immigration, all the officers were dealing with people going in the other direction so we had to wait for someone to come and stamp our passports. Then a customs officer got on the bus to ask if we had anything to declare. What that meant for the 3 foreigners on the bus was did we have any alcohol. Brunei is dry but foreigners are allowed to bring in a small amount of alcohol if it’s declared.
It was about a 3 hour drive from the border to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. This country is expensive; I won’t be staying long! I checked into my hotel (there aren’t any hostels) and went to find an ATM and some lunch. At least there are local markets with cheap food stalls.
I walked around the city centre. It was very quiet. Even though its a very religious Muslim country it seemed that Sunday was the weekend rather than the first day of the working week. Across the river from the city centre is a floating village. I knew virtually nothing about Brunei before I arrived, except that it got rich on oil and is religious and more conservative than Malaysia. The floating village was a surprise. I took a boat across to have a look.
Traditionally most people lived in floating villages. That’s now changed but a substantial population still lives in Kampong Ayer. Many of the buildings are still made of wood but some are concrete. The older wooden ones were definitely more aesthetically appealing; the newer ones all looked alike. All have electricity and running water, most have huge satellite dishes. There are shops, schools, mosques and a fire station that are part of the floating village. The buildings are all on stilts and are linked by wooden walkways. There’s a large population of cats. That’s got to be a strange environment for cats to live – one missed jump and they’d be in the river. Water taxis connect the village with the city across the river where the residents keep their cars. It was a really interesting and different place to wander around.