| Part 8: Labuan,
Brunei, Ulu Temburong |
18.7: Kota Kinabalu
Hotel, Labuan. RM 80 for a small, but functional room. There is a TV,
phone, adjustable A/C, fridge, table+chair, cupboard for the clothes,
bathroom with shower. Close to the centre of Victoria. Fast WLAN in the
room. Good shower with plenty of hot water.
sunny in the morning in KK until about 11am, then overcast, then it's a
mix of overcast and sunny. In Labuan sunny until 3pm, then overcast.
Rain in the evening after 6pm and at night.
combination of breakfast and lunch at 11am in a KFC restaurant, then
check out of the hotel and take a taxi (RM 25) to the airport. Nice new
airport terminal. Long waiting time at the Malaysian airways counter -
a guy needs almost half an hour to check in a group of girls, the lady
at the other counter is also painfully slow.
early and arrives early in Labuan at 1:20pm. I call a couple of hotels,
book a room, take a taxi to the hotel (RM 12.50) and check in. By 2pm
I'm already exploring Victoria, the main city of Labuan. Taxis can be
chartered for RM 40/hour.
Victoria is small and
cute. No old
buildings, because of the destruction of WW II. There is one big mall
in the east of the city centre. Victoria is quite laid back and I only
see a few tourists.
There are a few islands off the
west tip of
Labuan. To get there you need to charter a boat, but when I ask for the
price of a two hours trip I get ridiculous answers (RM 500-1200,
depending on the size of the boat). A bit strange since the islands are
2:30pm I buy a ticket for the ferry to Brunei for tomorrow (4pm, price
is RM 43 for a first class ticket). In the afternoon the sky gets
Labuan -> Bandar
Seri Begawan (Brunei)
Jubilee, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei). 70 Brunei $ for a room with
adjustable A/C, attached bath with bathtub and shower, lots of
furniture incl. a table+chair and a big cupboard, fridge, TV, phone.
Big toilet. Corridor connecting door with actual sleeping room. No WLAN
neither in the room, nor in the lobby (but available in the adjacent
Thai restaurant). The hotel has seen better days and definitely needs
renovation, but everything still works and is functional. Noisy road
typical tropical pattern with a sunny morning, followed by a gradual
clouds buildup, overcast sky starting from 2pm, rain later in the
afternoon. In Brunei it rains from 5pm until after 9pm.
skip breakfast in the morning to save time, then
at 9am I call the taxi, the same one which brought me here yesterday.
For RM 40/hour the driver will show me the interesting places on the
The first stop is at the Labuan mosque, in
modern style, quite
nice. Then we drive to the Sikh temple nearby, white with golden domes.
Easily accessible, no controls.
At 9:15am we
already make our
third stop at the botanical gardens. Beautiful gardens with many
tropical plants, where one could spend a couple of hours or more
strolling around. I'm there for just about 10 minutes then get back to
We now drive to the WW II cemetery and
where many allied soldiers, mostly Australian, are buried. Beautiful
cemetery, with a perfectly maintained, immaculate lawn and
neatly laid out gravestones. A very peaceful place.
drive to the chimney in the north of the island, sort of a huge chimney
built with bricks shipped here from England. This was probably used in
combination with coal mining activities on Labuan (adjacent museum
showing coal mining on Labuan).
We then continue
the northern coast. Some beaches which however are not nice. In fact I
can't see a single nice beach on the entire northern coast.
10:37am we arrive at the surrender point, where in 1945 the Japanese
Borneo army surrendered to Australian forces. This island has a lot of
WW II history on it. No overwhelming sights, but lots of history for
those who fought or have/had relatives who fought here. The driver
tells me that many Japanese tourists come here.
when we continue driving along the north coast. At 11:15am we stop at a
newly built Chinese temple. Very nice temple.
11:20am we drive back to the hotel. I pay the driver (RM 100), pack my
stuff and shortly before 12pm check out.
boat to Brunei only leaves at 4pm, so I spend the next few hours
walking around and having some lunch. At 2 something pm I'm back in the
hotel. They call a taxi for me (actually it's a short distance to the
ferry terminal, but walking it in the heat with the big suitcase is not
After about 10 minutes
the taxi arrives
and brings me to the ferry terminal. I'm surprised by the RM 10 this
guy is charging for such a short distance, probably less than 500m.
Maybe I should have walked, but I have a heavy suitcase.
still a bit early for the ferry, so I spend my time going through the
photos and checking my emails (free WLAN hotspot available in the
At 4pm the ferry leaves and arrives
at 5:30pm. We land in Muara, which is about 20-30km from BSB. A taxi is
already waiting for me. For RM 40 he'll bring me to the hotel in BSB. A
bit pricey, as I later find out.
At the moment the
sultan is celebrating his
birthday and the whole of BSB is decorated like a Christmas tree. Lots
of activity on the street. In the evening the main mosque in Bandar is
burning. Lots of smoke coming out of one minaret.
20.7: Bandar Seri Begawan
(BSB) -> Ulu Temburong NP -> BSB
Jubilee, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei).
sunny morning, followed by a gradual
clouds buildup, more or less overcast sky starting from 4pm, rain
between 4 and 5pm and after 6pm.
Sunshine Borneo Tours tour bus arrives late at 7:40am. We (there are
another 8-10 people doing to Ulu Temburong today) drive to the jetty
where at 8am we board a public boat to the city of Bangar in the
We actually leave Brunei,
Malaysian territorial waters and cross back into Brunei. The boat zips
at high speed along the coast and then the rivers to the city of
Bangar, reaching top speeds of 80km/h.
At 8:45am we
the jetty of Bangar. We leave the boat and walk into two minibuses, one
for the day trippers (me) and one for those staying overnight at the
At 9:15am we arrive at the second
jetty on the
river which goes into the Ulu Temburong national park. We all go into
small longboats, each seating five tourists. These are open boats.
river is surrounded by some quite impressive rainforest. Very tall
trees are lining along the river. It's all primary rainforest, of which
there is plenty in Brunei because Brunei has never had to start logging
activities due to its oil wealth.
When I ask our
we'll see wildlife today, he tells me most likely not. We'd have to go
much deeper into the national park, not doable on a short day trip. He
also mentions that the Temburong district is surrounded by palm oil
plantations in Malaysia and animals feed on the oil palm fruits and
therefore leave the Ulu Temburong park. I wonder if this is
chit-chat with the tour guide. There is no shopping mall in Temburong,
all people go to BSB for shopping. There are just 9000 people living in
Temburong, which is an economically underdeveloped district. The
economy here depends mainly on tourism and quarries where stone is
extracted for the construction sector. Cutting trees requires an
official permit, which costs 200 Brunei $ to obtain. Some illegal
logging at the border to Malaysia.
9:50am we finally arrive at the Ulu Ulu rainforest resort, which lies
inside the Ulu Temburong NP. Here it is possible to stay in luxury
rooms with A/C. After a welcome drink and a brief presentation of the
park, the overnighters now split from the day trippers.
must be a bit less than 200 Brunei $/night, including all meals,
because the daytrip costs 150 Brunei $, while the 2D/1N trip costs 350
Brunei $. The resort is operated by the Sunshine Borneo agency. Nearby
there is a camp site, apparently used by other travel operators, so I'd
guess that there must be a cheap option to visit Ulu Temburong.
day trippers (that is a Korean couple, a Norwegian couple and me) will
take a boat for a short ride to the path leading to the canopy walkway.
The path is not very long (I'm told 385m) but is quite steep. It's
partly with staircases and partly muddy and slippery jungle path full
of tree roots. Very muddy because it rained a lot yesterday.
11:25am when we finally are at the base of the canopy walk. It consists
of three metal towers, 42-45m high and above the
tree level, linked by bridges. You walk up the first tower, enjoy the
view, then continue to the second tower, then to the third, then down
again and back to the base of the first tower where our guide waits for
We meet a family of Chinese tourists from
of parents + two grown up daughters). There is an
increasing number of tourists from mainland China in SE Asia, which
shows that the Chinese are getting more and more affluent.
view of the rainforest and the region from the top of the canopy
walkway. We are there until 12pm, then walk back to the resort where we
have some lunch at 12:40pm.
1:40pm we take the boat back.
After 5 minutes we stop, get out of the boat and walk through a creek
on the right side for about 5 minutes, reaching a nice waterfall,
around 10m high. We have to walk through almost knee deep water, and
the Norwegian guy gets his waterproof, high-tech goretex boots full of
water, because the water level is higher than the boots and water comes
in from above. Let's call this "defeat of the high-tech boots".
then do all the way back, taking the sequence of boats and cars in
reverse. While I am in Bangar, Raymond, from the car rental company
I reconfirm the car+driver for tomorrow. I'm back in the hotel at
I wash myself quickly, and walk back into
some more photos since the sun is shining. Not a chance, it gets
overcast and starts raining for one hour. Looks like my day is already
I have some snack in a KFC restaurant, then walk back to the hotel.
in the room I read in the newspaper that Brunei is experiencing some
unusual weather conditions. More rain than ordinary, flooding problems.
All this probably caused by La Nina.
-> Tasek Merimbun -> BSB -> KL
Flat of Sara in KL
almost sunny with some blue sky in the morning. Completely overcast
after 11am in the interior, some sun and blue sky near the coast (BSB
airport). Clear sky and a nice sunset in KL.
today I've booked a car+driver who will
bring me around Brunei. Was originally thinking of taking the Sunshine
Borneo tour to Seria, but there are not enough people. The guy at
Sunshine Borneo suggested I rent a car and call Raymond (tel. 8757755).
A small car is 80 Brunei $, Raymond suggests I take it with a driver,
only 120 Brunei $ and save myself the hassle of finding the way which
is not easy if you don't know Brunei. Not a bad deal - the price also
includes the fuel, which would cost around 10 Brunei $ for the
250-300km we're going to do today (one litre of gasoline costs 53
Actually the driver is making very little.
40 Brunei $
for 6 hours is just 7 Brunei $/hour. Apparently despite the high GDP,
it is still possible to find people willing to work for so little in
Brunei. This may be an oil rich country, but it seems that either the
average salaries are not that high or that there are huge income
So here I am at 8:30am in the lobby and
is already there waiting for me. The car is a Toyota Corolla,
compact-medium size, and surprisingly luxury (leather seats, well
accessorised, wooden or fake wooden interior). I notice later that
almost all cars in Brunei are Japanese. I only spot one Korean car
(KIA) and one Proton car today.
We drive at high
speed on the
motorway (well built motorway with not much traffic) towards Seria. At
9:35am we stop in Lumut and have a look at the BLNG plant. This is
actually not a tourist attraction and in fact they don't allow tourists
to get into the plant, so we have to drive to a spot along the beach
from which there is a good view of the plant. Next to the plant is a
long pier to which at the other end ships dock and load liquefied
The beach next to the plant is
surprisingly clean and the sea water, while far from crystal clear, is
not black with oil.
9:45am we continue driving towards Seria, at the centre of the oil
industry in Brunei.
10am we pass by the Seria crude oil terminal where there is a refinery
from Shell. Adjacent to it there is a Shell petrol station, where you
can buy freshly brewed, locally made, authentic Brunei gasoline. They
could sell small bottles of locally made gasoline as souvenirs,
although you might not be allowed to take that with you on a plane.
minutes later we are at the Billionth barrel monument, celebrating the
production of the billionth barrel of crude oil in Seria in July 1991.
The beach behind the monument has brownish sand, while the sea here is
really black, well brownish-black to be more accurate. Perhaps oil
production is not that clean here.
After that we
drive to the
Shell oil museum (entry ticket 5 Brunei $). I was hoping to see some
exhibits showing the history of oil discovery and production in Seria.
Well no, instead the museum is more or a science museum, showing some
principles of physics, geology, how the earth is structured etc.
Perhaps geared towards interesting kids for the topic. There is a
'build your own pipeline game', where you can connect plastic pipeline
pieces and other similar games.
It's 11 something am
when I get
out of the museum. Brief discussion with the driver, apparently this is
all that can be visited regarding the petrochemical sector in Brunei.
So we decide to drive to the next place, Tasek Merimbun.
Merimbun is a lake in the interior of Brunei (Tutong district) with
nice sceneries and bird spotting possibilities. It's an ASEAN national
heritage site and in fact it is very, very nice. Beautiful setting,
with nice vegetation, shores and natural setting. It's a pity the sky
is not blue, otherwise the photos would have been even better.
arrive there at 12:10pm and stay there until 1pm. The wooden bridge
crossing the lake is closed and apparently is only open on Sundays. The
lake probably is a weekend retreat for Bruneians because there are
picnic tables on the other side of the lake.
along the lake I hear something big in the trees. Cannot see it, but
judging from the volume of tree branches moved it must be a big animal
up there in the trees. Probably a big monkey.
driving to the airport and arrive there at 2pm. I'm underwhelmed by
this airport. Small and old-fashioned, it probably has been built ages
ago and has never been renovated.
I feel like on
planet. This place is actually very close to Malaysia, but it feels so
different. Or perhaps I'm so used to Malaysian airports.
Brunei $ airport tax which I have to pay at the check-in counter and
apparently were not included in the ticket. Shame on Airasia for
quoting an artificially low price.
Can't find a
decent restaurant in the terminal. The Airasia plane arrives late and
leaves with a small delay.
We land in the LCCT
terminal with a small delay. I take a taxi (RM 85) to Sara's place.