I was on the road or plane a fair bit over the past week. Covered 3 countries in 7 days and even managed to find some charm in Brunei. It still doesn't beat last year's whirlwind journey of 3 countries in 15 hours (go HERE) but it was still quite hectic. I hate laptops. Seriously.
Anyway this time around it was Brunei, Singapore and Philippines in a space of 6 days actually. These were day trips but because of the schedules of the flights I had to stay a night in the Manila and Bandar Seri Begawan. It was my first time in Brunei and surprisingly it was not the overly posh gold paved roads that many of us imagine. Also Manila welcomed me back after a 5 year hiatus. Here goes a short account of my discovery and rediscovery of our ASEAN neighbors.
Kampong Ayer the village on stilts across the river from BSB.
I really did not know what to expect. All I knew was I wasn't going to get any booze in my one night stay there. Surprisingly Bandar Seri Bagawan is quaint. It reminds me of towns in Malaysia in the '60s or '70s. The building designs are was from era but they are still well maintaned - meaning a drive down the city is like going back in town. Traffic at 4 pm was surprisingly sparse and get this you KL city prisoners - there was ample parking on the streets on a weekday!!!!!!
The food in Brunei is better than in East Malaysia - more West Malaysian/ Singaporean then the rather bland fare in Sabah and Sarawak. Still no booze though.
I will do a seperate post on Brunei as talking to locals I realised that Brunei is not what many think it is. Sure its a rich state but there still is poverty. After Prince Jefri lost an estimated USD60 BILLION of state funds the country has taken a step back. Gone are the days of rock and roll spending. The only place for booze is to get invitations from friends who hold private parties. There are lot of white elephants in the country - the Jerudong Park, the stables filled with some of the most expensive polo horses in the world, abandoned buildings, etc.
The mosque in the city. I'll try to find the name (i wrote it down on my hotel bill which I sent in for claims. D'OH!)
Some of the polo horses at the Jerudong Country Club. I was told that to maintain the horses, they were being sold to individuals for Brunei D$1,000 but the new owners would have to cough up the monthly $500 to feed the steeds.
The most beautiful social football field I have ever seen! I just had to take this pic. Also at Jerudong.
If there is a beach I will find it! Just before the Empire Hotel.
The Empire Hotel (view from the beach). The best hotel in Brunei. Another wayward project of Prince Jefri. Now maintained by the Brunei government. You can still get some good deals as this 6 star hotel is running only at 20% occupancy. It will set you back about US130 still.
The lobby lounge of the Empire Hotel.
Downtown Makati district, Manila.
I like the energy of the Phillipines but have never really had much business dealings there. This also was a short trip but as I flew in via AirAsia I actually landed at the old US Air Force air field of Clark. ( I hope to do a proper post later as Clark is close to Mount Pinatubo and the former US Naval base of Subic Bay)
Are you in South East Asia or on a highway from California to Mexico?
I had almost 4 hours to kill when i got into Clark for my flight back. I hired Johnny here to take me around Angeles city for RM50. Johnny is the typical Phillipino cab driver - always looking to make that extra buck and ready to show you the best and worst of the city for a price. He offered to take me to a bar with girls at 9am! Also tried to get me to take out his cousin who owns a shop selling fake American army surplus equipment.... I grumpily told him I was FUCKING HUNGRY as I was up since 5 am and had no breakfast. Faced with a grumpy Malaysian who obviously had no money he just asked that I buy him breakfast. We're having a local dish called 'bulaluhan', a beef stew. Maybe it's me but I sometimes take unnessary risks. The Philippines have been know or at least used to me known as Kidnap Cantral especially for Chinese businessmen. I figured besides my tiny eyes I still can pass off as Phillipino, Thai, Nepalese, Indonesian, Malaysian, a Norse God....., etc, and that I wouldn't attract too much attention especially at so early in the morning.
Where I had my bulaluhan. This little diner was located inside the warehouse shown above. Only locals in this place.
View of the banking sector of Raffles Place
Ahhh, our neighbors, the city state down south. I've mentioned Singapore enough as it is so I thought I'll just share some pictures from the trip.
View of the Keppel ship yards
Catwalk in A Window, Paragon, Orchard Road.
I was walking out from my meeting and saw a crowd gathered outside the Guess boutique. Thought it was kinda cool - something you would probably see only in Singapore on a regular basis. I always think Singapore is more Australian/American/English than any other ASEAN country.
The only girl who looked happy to be there.
The most bored looking.
Everytime I travel I crave to cronicle our countries. The people, the cultures, the majesty of the simple beauty behind every wall, mountain, building, person are just stories waiting to be told. At least I have the time to glaze a little of the surface of our neighbors. At least I've seen more than most. At least I still can go back to gather more tales...