April 21th, 2016 - Day 19 - Docked at Maura, Darussalam in Brunei

We woke up in Brunei.  What a cool little country.  The temperature is 94 degrees.

Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo, in 2 distinct sections surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. It's known for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest, much of it protected within reserves.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had the Express breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast.  Pat had blintzes with berry compote. 

We met in the insignia lounge at 9:15 AM.  Our guide is Marvin for our tour today to Mangrove Cruise and Visit to Water Village.

Facts from our guide, Marvin, about Brunei:

Brunei is 2,026 miles and is just a small country

There are 375 thousand people in Brunei

Rich in Oil and Gas

Ranked 5th richest country

They do not flaunt wealth

They do not ask for tips but if they are given a tip they are very gracious.

61 percent are Muslim/Islam and 39 percent are Christian

Average salary is $800-$900 a month

The more education you have and  the career you get more pay. 

Marvin is working to bring tourism to Brunei & said he makes $2000 per month. Doctors make $60,000 and up and are trained elsewhere and are ex-pat. 

Their gas cost is $.32 a liter

They do not have to pay taxes on income or VAT.

Our guide said he could live a week on $20 because he does not have many expenses.

The Sultan contributes two hundred dollars a month for retirement that they can collect at age 55. 

It is a dry state but if you are not Muslim you can go to the Malaysian border, which is about 30 minutes away, and buy liquor and bring it back.  Marvin said they have speakeasies and they are okay to drink at but they cannot serve Muslim people.  You would just need to know a local to be able to drink there as a local could take you to the places that serve alcohol.

No one is allowed to own a gun.  If you are caught with one  then you get life in prison.

The Sultan has his own 5000 soldier army to protect him.

The most money spent in the budget is for military protection.

We boarded our bus for a 45 minute ride to the main town called Bandar Seri Bagawan.  We walked by a Chinese cemetery on our way to the Water Village which is a community built entirely above the water on stilts.  More than 30,000 people live in the village which is an amazing assortment of homes, restaurants, mosques, shops and hospitals, all connected by wooden boardwalks. People have lived in the Water Village for more than 1300 years, making it one of the most historic areas in Brunei.

Some of the homes are quite elaborate and we stopped at one home for a unique opportunity to have a cup of tea and some snacks.  We went and sat on their big porch and was served a big spread of snacks and tea.  32 people live in the home which is comprised of three generations.  We were able to go in the house if we took off her shoes. The place was amazing with jewelry collections, medals from the owners time in the service...he was a pilot and colorful rugs and Louis the 14th furniture style.  Jim bonded with the owner as he had a stereo system that Jim liked and the owner was very proud of it so they talked about his system.  When we first went in the house we didn't think it was that big but you just kept walking and walking and it had lots of rooms and was very big. There were about six children playing inside so Pat took a picture of them and she told them it was her grandson, Thatcher's birthday today and she showed them a picture of him on her phone.  Everyone was so gracious...it was an unforgettable experience. 

We then  boarded a boat off of this families pier and took a ride and cruised the surrounding waterways, which are lined with mangroves. This area is strictly protected by Brunei law, the unspoiled vegetation supports an abundance of wildlife.

On the cruise they say you can see macaques, monitor lizard, crocodiles and countless waterfowl, which feed on the bountiful supply of shrimp, crabs and other aquatic food that inhibit the waters.  We were just able to see some waterfowl and a crocodile that was waiting for a primate to come to the water to eat.

The most unusual animal living in the mangroves is the Proboscis Monkey or Bangkatan, which sports an unusually long nose. These primates are only found on the island Borneo, and Brunei has a thriving population of them. Although they are tree-dwellers, Proboscis Monkeys are proficient swimmers, and we tried to catch a glimpse of one of them in a tree but we were not successful.  We could hear them calling but no luck in seeing them.  We did see a tree limb that looked like a monkey...does that count?

From a distance on the river we were able to see the Istana Nurul Iman (Sultan Palace) in the background of the Water Village.  It was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest living residence of a state head and has 1788 rooms.  This massive royal dwelling is several times larger than the Palace of Versailles and the Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is the house of Brunei’s sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The palace stands on the banks of the Brunei River, several miles south of Brunei’s capital.  Istana Nurul Iman is a massive white construction with golden domes and minarets.  It is quite a sight to see.

We returned back to the bus which was parked at the city center and drove 35 minutes back to the pier.

There were some shops in the Cruise Pier so Pat shopped while Jim used the free wi-fi.

We had lunch at the Terrace Café. Jim had an amazing Caesar salad and Pat had a piece of margarita pizza.  We shared two desserts a strawberry tart and some special type of dessert that was cake like with jam on top.

Tonight we are having dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had  for her appetizer Timbale of Blue Crab Cocktail with seasonal greens and lime vinaigrette.  Pat had yogurt, cucumbers and dill on a bed of greens for her salad.  For her main course she had Jacques Pepin signature dish Supreme de Salmon: poached salmon supreme with rice pilaf and Choron sauce.

Jim had Emmental and Leek Quiche with Mixed Greens and Walnuts for his appetizer.  He had Italian Pearled Farro salad with grilled zucchini, scallions and lime balsamic dressing.  For his main course he had a taste from Jacques Restaurant Coquilles Saint Jacques aux Morilles et Pommes de Terre Fondantes: sautéed scallops over fondant potatoes and morale sauce.

For dessert we shared a Brandy Snap Basket with Cointreau Marinated Strawberries with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

When we got back to the room we were able to face time with Thatcher and wish him a happy sixth birthday.  We love and miss him so much!

Good night Brunei and Happy 6th Birthday Thatcher!