Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A quick stopover in Brunei

Over the last 60hr I have traveled to South East Asia on a long awaited holiday. Mid way through 2008 I decided to use my tax return to set off and explore more of the world - well at least a tiny little part of it.
So Kiel and I bought tickets to travel to Thailand in over Christmas/New Years. I didn't really know much about Thailand at all - I knew that people often went there and I was told a lot how cheap things were. And I heard a rumour it was big on Buddhism.
So in the last 6 months I have slowly been asking questions and reading up on Thailand - ok so well those of you who know me will be well aware that a majority of my "reading up" would have taken place in the 24hr prior to take off...
So here I am in Bangkok. But I didn't come straight here. Let me tell you about the stopover in Brunei.
At 4pm Christmas Day, we touched down in Brunei. It was almost 7 years to the day when I was last in Brunei stopping over for 2hr on my way to Malaysia. The memories came flooding back as I stepped into the airport - the stairway in the centre of the lounge, the shops, the seats. This time though, I had 26hr in Brunei. I was able to step outside of the airport.
We were put up in the Orchid Garden - we had no idea of what to expect. A hostel? Something similar to Formula 1 in Australia? To our amazement we were staying in 4* luxury. It was great.
But of course we are not traveling to see the inside of the lobby so out we went straight away. Caught a cab to the city. Now the cabs - oh we have a story there = maxi taxis, miscommunication, unregistered taxis with tyres scraping the chasis! haha Incredible. It worth every penny!!
The following day 4 daring Australians (two of whom Kiel and I met in the line going through Brunei customs) caught public transport into the heart of the capital city.
We had head of a water village and were keen to check it out. We made a beeline straight for the waters edge - we weren't sure if it was part of a canal system or a river/dam etc.
Asmi - a local Brunei came to the rescue and offered the four young Aussies a tour around Brunei's water ways. $20 for one hour. We were there.
The water village was amazing - with incredible structures standing on the tiniest stilts, walkways connecting kilometres of houses, three story school buildings, mosques, restaurants, supermarkets, service stations (for the boats of course), police stations... the waterways had it all so it seemed.

It raised a lot of questions in my mind - should the Government whom receives all royalties coming from the sales of the oil being drilled in Brunei, be investing further in the infrastructure of the people (over 25% or 30,000 people live in the water village)?
What regulations can you possible put in for a place similar to this? Is it even worth the effort?
What role should a country like Australia play in the development of such nations? Are we to stand by and allow a country to somewhat neglect their people?

More things for me to consider over time...

At the end of the stopover I was extremely glad that we went the les comfortable option and got amongst it - the lunch at the restaurant on the river was also incredible - $2.50 for food, drink and a banana desert. mmmm

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