When Jane, a friend of Jackie visiting us last night before the pool party, she suggested having some attractions visited at night with her as guide and driver, promising to bring her car. Jane’s sedan can only accommodate 3 extra persons, so she proposed to hire her officemate with a car to join us; we’ll only pay him for the gas and some tips.
|Selfie at Brunei Museum|
Second day yet in Brunei and it will be a long wait for the night’s itinerary. As seats were booked last night, our daytime destination was Gadong area. It was informed that Gadong, being 5km away from Bandar Seri Begawan, is an expansion of the urban settlement area where a number of commercial centers stand side by side. It was said to be alive night and day.
Clothed in our uniformed Brunei souvenir shirt, we took the usual breakfast to prepare for the free shuttle ride. We arrived at Gadong’s The Mall few minutes after opening time. The Mall resembles that of a borderline between Greenhills Shopping Center and Division Tutuban Center. We realized yet again that we mistakenly booked a 4pm pick up because as soon as we got the perfect feel of inside shops, we found it too small to spend half a day of window shopping. There was nothing much to check, nothing more interesting to find, just another flea market in an airconditioned environment.
Just like in Yassan Shopping Center, we did the best we can to enjoy the moment. We found another Giordano outlet and shopped for more tees. Then we stumbled on a shop which sold to us plenty of local items, worthy to be ladies’ gifts, from shawls, silk handkerchiefs, malongs, and other batik-made stuffs. Grateful to have Filipino saleslady assisting us, we settled shopping there, spent much of our time and much of other Brunei dollars. We pulled them off from displays, picked them up from stacks, asked for more variety of each item. Later, we departed from the shop with bags of purchases, both for personal use and for gifts or pasalubong to our friends and families back in Philippines. I thought we have wasted reasonable portion of our time but it was still 10:30am when we exited The Mall. We decided to check out the adjacent Centerpoint Hotel and its mall. Thankfully there is a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf shop the, so I opted to stay sipping a handcrafted iced coffee with Dupong and Jun, while Ruth, Jackie and Auntie Myrna roamed around the mall area… to kill time... hopefully until 4pm.
|The museum was closed for renovation during our visit|
Coffee filled me up when lunchtime came. Jun and Ruth, invited us to try the Chinese cuisine at Szechuang Dynasty Restaurant, just next door to Coffee Bean. We were greeted by a Filipino waiter.
Everywhere here in Brunei, from department stores to commercial stalls, from food shops to restaurants, we find fellow Filipinos. Amusing enough to know that a Bruneish who worked with Filipinos for decades is able to converse with me in Tagalog, she was a teller in Jollibee-BSB Complex outlet. Dynasty also has Filipino waiters whose assistance has added comfort and value to the establishment. Jun, who drained his cellphone battery, was able to ask for a charger from them. We only forgot to leave a tip.
|Jame 'Asri Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque at day and night times|
It was still 2pm when we finished our lunch – 2 hours more to wait for the pickup shuttle, which seemed too long still. We can no longer wait so we finally decided to take the local bus. Dupong has googled about the commuter bus in the city, that out of the two bus lines between Central and Circle Lines, the latter will stop at Centerpoint Hotel. Jackie shouted at the approaching bus about our destination, “SEA Hotel” but the bus passed us. She shouted the same destination at the next approaching bus and the driver called upon us to board. After turning around Q-Lap and Gadong areas, passing more commercial centers, central public market, the Masjid Jame 'Asri Hassanil Bolkiah at a distance, and more flea markets, we stopped at SEA Hotel and walked a little more to Radisson Hotel before 3pm. We then advised the front desk to cancel our pick up reservation.
Actually, we only deposited in the rooms our purchased souvenirs from Gadong’s The Mall and taken out leftover foods from Dynasty Restaurant. We went back to the bus stop at SEA Hotel to take the next bus to the Central Bus Station.
Brunei Museum was the next destination; initially not part of itinerary but we have spare time to pay a curious visit. We took the Central Line bus number 39 from the city bus terminal. Positioned at its bay, the bus waited to fill with commuters and it departed only a little past 4pm. We thought of taking taxicab instead, but a taxi around here is limited and expensive. Reaching the Brunei Museum was a waste of time; we found it closed for renovation. Fortunately we did not invest in taxi ride and the 1 B$ bus fare per head per trip did not matter. What mattered was the time lost getting there and back. But again, losing time in Brunei is insignificant because there was nothing more to go see around the city center; some interesting points are located at the city outskirts which would require private vehicle to get there.
We walked our way back to our hotel and along the way we passed by the public market, where Jackie went to buy Lansones, Chinese-looking Temple, Coronation Palace, and Youth Museum.
Night came and we readied for our night tour. Auntie Myrna paid for the related transport service fees. Jane arrived with her officemate, Alex, to board us. It was known later that Alex once took a Filipina for his wife. Jackie, Auntie Myrna and myself took Jane’s car; Dupong, Ruth and Jun in Alex’s.
|Groupie and selfie at the Empire Hotel and Resort|
Jane took are of our itinerary. Our first stop was in Istana Nurul Iman. We had our selfie and groupie photos at the main gate because the palace is only open to the public during Hari Raya, as we were told. The second stop was reasonably far from the city center, the Empire Hotel and Resort. This gargantuan structure has a lot more to offer, from an exclusive cinema theater, to almost an Olympic-sized swimming pools, a restaurant of buffets, from breakfast to dinner, and the giant fountains fitting for its size. Getting into and around the hotel and resort was overwhelming and we thought better than splurging for dinner. So we headed next to Jerudong Park and found a seat for 8 persons under its covered food court. My company was already tired, thus Auntie Myrna and myself headed on to our routine photo ops at the krypton-like landmark of the park. We are all adults so we ditched the park’s entertainment and rides and headed on to the next attraction, the Jame 'Asri Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. This marvelous mosque is another gigantic structure which golden paints illuminated by strobe lights at night. That mosque exuded majesty and richness, which superlatives I cannot even find to describe it. Ruth and Jun were already tired and preferred to stay in the car while the rest of us still have reserved energies for the photo ops including the last destination of the night, the Jubilee Park. This park looked white and lame at daytime but at night can transform into an extraterrestrial attraction when the spotlights pointing the center island changed its hues.
|Jerudong Amusement Park|
|Selfie at Jerudong Park|
|Selfie at Jame 'Asri Hassani Bolkiah Mosque|
It was indeed a very long day which made us lie down very tired.