Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jungle trek in Sarawak

Was a long weekend here in Brunei so we decided it time to hit some sweet borneo jungle action!! Myself and Tim did the trip to Niah Cave which is the biggest cave in the world and you access it by jungle trekking, ie: walking along a boardwalk for 4.5km in jungle. This sounds pretty easy and it was, only it was about 35 degrees and 99% humidity. We spent about 4 hours getting to and from the caves with some exploring in between of a wee local village, then drove back to Miri. Saw one monkey having a scream at us from his perch high up a tree, loads of butterflys the size of small birds and so colourful. B/c they have such large wings they fly alot of the time gliding like a sea bird. Didn't see any Orangutan unfortunately. Tim says they are only in Sabah province now. I was pretty stuffed by the end of the day and ready for a good big makan (feed). Great day though.
We stayed the w/e in this coastal town in Sarawak called Miri, maybe twice the size of dtown in a resort hotel with a sweet pool and all the trimmings of a hotel. Really nice weekend. Before heading home on the Monday we visited a Crocodile farm near the border. This place would make Steve Irwin turn in his grave. Crocodile skins and eggs etc all for sale, stuffed baby crocs too. This place had so many crocs to a pool/enclosure they were all having to lie on top of eachother. "We have over 2000 crocodile on our farm lah." I left amazed at seeing so many crocodiles at once but a bit sick that i'd paid to fund their farming project. I hadn't realised it was really a "crocodile farm."
Ramadhan has started now which means i'll have to work a whole 6 hours a day now, from 8 to 2. I'm not complaining...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Brunei Pub

Thursday night here is like Friday night in NZ, its the weekend!! But what to do when in Brunei there is not a place in sight that retails alcohol due to the law? Malaysia sells alcohol, in fact its 15 mins drive from Tims house to Sarawak province so we did a little border hop on Thursday night. For us Tim told me about the best chicken wings in the world being sold over the border and we thought we'd have acouple of beers too.
So we parked the car 500m from the border and stamped the passport and walked over the line into Malaysia with a huge throng of Bruneians. You literally step across the line and the street is full of "pubs" in the middle of the jungle. Pubs meaning, tarpolin and corrigated iron rooves to keep the rain off and plastic tables and chairs on a dirt floor with big floodlights, TV's and fridges. These places are on both sides of the road and run for about 300m each side, then its back to plain road and jungle before you reach any sort of village of size 1/2 an hours drive away. So we sat down, had acouple of Carlsbergs each, $1/bottle and tucked into acouple of baskets of the "best chicken wings in the world," and they were pretty good. At 10pm the border closes so we joined the rush back across the border to Brunei and drove home following some pretty topsy turvy, swervy drivers. I don't think there is a single breathaliser machine in the whole country.
It was quite refreshing going to the pub, rather earthy in comparison to the gold laced, fluro lights image Brunei projects. Cheap night too, $2 for beer, $5 for chicken wings and 53c a litre for petrol.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Istana Nurul Iman

I'm currently sitting on the 4th floor of the hospital looking out a window that overlooks this palace, the largest residential palace in the world. We drove past it on the way to Tims from the airport and just the front gate is lit brighter than around 100 christmas trees in a small cupboard. Here's some entertaining facts about this monstrosity of a building.
Although the palace is hidden from public view through artful landscaping, satellite views provided by programs such as Google Earth, have increased the public knowledge of the palace's layout. Such images have relayed the existence of two large buildings in the center of the palace and five smaller buildings either adjacent to or nearby the palace center.
Istana Nurul Iman contains 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 m²). Amenities include 5 swimming pools, an air conditioned stable for the Sultan's 200 polo ponies, a 110-car garage, a banquet hall that can be expanded to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, and a mosque accommodating 1,500 people. The palace was built in 1984 at a cost of around $400 million USD and has 564 chandeliers, 51,000 light bulbs, 44 stairwells, and 18 elevators. It is also a home to a car collection that includes custom-made Ferraris and Bentleys as well as 165 Rolls Royces. Its golden domes, designed by Filipino architect Leandro V. Locsin, and vaulted roofs echo Islamic and Malay architectural influences.
Anyone care to become a lightbulb fitter for their first job out of uni? Surely it pays alright.

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