This afternoon I will be flying to the tiny country of Brunei for work. This will be my first trip to the country and also to the island of Borneo. Unfortunately, I may not have much time for sightseeing as I’m scheduled to return tomorrow evening. I will update this post once I return.
Update: I have returned from the haze-free and mostly sunny country of Brunei. Although the trip was short (I was barely there for 24 hours) I was able to visit many of the city’s more prominent attractions (mostly a few very ornate mosques). Travel outside of the city, to the country’s rainforests and famous caves will have to wait for another trip.
My flight from Singapore to Brunei was on Royal Brunei Air, the country’s flagship (and only) airline.
As an uneasy flyer to begin with, my anxiety level was elevated at the prospect of flying an airline I had little knowledge of. Despite the plane being a bit old, the flight proved to be generally pleasant. The seats were comfortable with ample legroom (especially compared with some of the budget airlines in the area), and the flight attendants went out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The flight was relatively short at just under two hours but food service was still provided. Unfortunately, the food was the one drawback of the flight. I had a rice and chicken dish that was even less appetizing than it looks.
I would have enjoyed a drink to calm my nerves on the flight but Royal Brunei Air, like Brunei itself, prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol (although non-Muslims may bring small quantities of alcohol into the country, provided it is not consumed in public).
This was also my first flight with a pre-takeoff prayer following the safety briefing. The Islamic prayer was projected over the plane’s drop-down video monitors and I believe was in Arabic (although I could be wrong). There were also two sets of subtitles with one in English and I’m guessing the other in Bahasa Malay.
Strangely, rather than finding the prayer off putting, I actually found it somewhat soothing, but then again that might have just been the anti-anxiety drugs (notice the plural) I took before leaving.
I was lucky to be shown around Brunei by one of my work colleagues who was born and raised in the country. He picked me up at the surprisingly large and modern airport in a big Toyota Camry. Sitting in that familiar car with the sun shining down, I watched the palm trees pass as we drove out of the airport, their large branches swaying in the afternoon breeze. From my slumped position in the backseat, I could have been forgiven for suddenly feeling fourteen again, freshly landed in West Palm Beach, and on my way to my grandmothers house.
Despite being shown around the country by a local, I’m still not sure what Brunei cuisine exactly entails (or at least what, if anything, sets it apart from popular Malaysian dishes). During my short visit I can list out what we ate:
- Burger King at the airport
- Authentic…Malaysian food
- Japanese – mostly very fresh sushi
Before leaving I was taken to one place for a taste of local Nasi Lemak (a coconut rice dish generally found in Malaysia and Singapore). The “restaurant” was simply someone’s house where you order from an opening in the living room window.
The food was certainly good, but aside from the presence of a red (pickled?) vegetable, I’m not sure how it differentiated from the Malaysian version of the same dish.