Archive for December, 2010

Kampung Ayer (“a village on water”) in Brunei

Monday, December 27th, 2010

If there is only one place you have time to visit in Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), it must be Kampung Ayer (loosely translated as a village on water). People live, work and travel on the water, which is actually a river, a huge river leading to South China Sea.  There are houses, schools, grocery stores, offices, police station, mosques, gas station and everything else a society needs to lead a common life. Yes their daily activities and transaction are done on the water. They travel from houses to house and other place in the motorized boats.  Kampung Ayer reminds me of my trips to Venezia, Italy (2006) and also Inle Lake in Myanmar (2009). Unlike Inle Lake, they don’t grow vegetables and fruits on the water — they must have bought it at the supermarkets along the river banks. I was told that the number of families making Kampung Ayer their home are getting smaller and smaller as many move to the river banks.  But it is really a refreshing experience for big city boys and girls to cruise around the Kampung Ayer on water taxi with nominal fees. Bring along the camera to shoot at waving kids. Water taxis available at the jettty at negotiable rate. We paid only B$10 per boat to the young boatman for a 20-minute boat ride. He had no passengers at that time and he just obliged. Beware that safety jackets may not be available on all boats. Have fun at own risk, so I said. Some photos below.

How to get here?

Kampung Ayer is right in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. You will never miss it. It is right across the road from Yayasan piazza and shopping center. Water taxis can be found and hailed from the jetty and fares are negotiable.  As a caution, safety jackets may not be available on private boats. How to get into Brunei? Royal Brunei Airlines flies to major cities in Asia Pacific and Middle East and other places. Catch one of their return flight to Brunei from your nearest airport. So easy ha! From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines fly directly daily to BSB. If you are already in Miri, Sarawak, just like yours truly, just catch the express bus Miri-Brunei. You need a valid passport of course, and if you are not Malaysians, you may need a valid visa. Check with your embassy, before getting on the bus or the aircraft. Read my other posting here for crossing land border Malaysia-Brunei from Miri side.

Bandar Seri Begawan, BRUNEI

Sunday, December 26th, 2010
November 2010:
 
 Brunei, located in the northern Borneo, is one of the last remaining Sultanate government in South East Asia. It is also one of the three governments in the world ruled by monarchies under a dynasty claiming descent from Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Brunei, despite relatively small size comparing to its neighbouring Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, has more to offer to unhurried visitors, in term of natural landscapes — unspoiled forests, rivers and beaches. The capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan (aka BBS).  Population of Brunei with all 4 districts (Belait, Tutong, Bandar Seri Begawan and Temburong) is about than half a million people only. Despite the size, the country enjoys among the highest GDP and purchasing power per capita in the region, and considered the developed country by IMF standards. Read on below for another story of the road, this time Brunei. Pictures quality may not be that good as  I was using camera phone SE Xperia X10 running on Android 1.6.
 
I was often informed by colleagues that it takes only one day to discover Brunei, but I did not think so, upon my first visit to Brunei. Yes you can travel end to end , i.e. border to border, within 5 hours non-stop, but to appreciate people and places in Brunei, you need more than that. BBS deserves a day or two for discerning travellers. Kampung Ayer is a must to visit. Town centers of Kuala Belait,  Seria or even Tutong are all off main highway, which require a detour and of course time if you want to visit them. Gadong is a suburb of BSB and just about 10 minutes drive to the BSB downtown area.
In summary, the key tourist attractions in BSB include:
1. Kampung Ayer. It reminded me of my trips to Venezia, Italy (2006) and also Inle Lake in Myanmar (2009).   I wrote about Kampung Ayer in Brunei my other posting here.
2. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
3. Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah Mosque in Gadong suburb.
4. Palaces (Istana Nurul Iman and Istana Darul Hana). Can just see from outside.
5. Royal Regalia Building. It is a museum containing treasures of Brunei Sultan. Free entry.
6. Yayasan shooping center, near Kampung Ayer jetty.
7. Modern shopping centers (The Mall & Jaya supermarket) in upscale Gadong area. Many expensive hotels nearby. Also fast food outlets like McDonalds and local competitor Jollibee restaurant, can be found there.
8. Jerudong Park. It is an amusement park. Good for kids and adults only.
9. Tamu Kianggeh. It is an open market selling perishable foodstuff, fish and vegies and others. (Unfortunately we reached there in the afternoon and already closed).
10. A mosque near royal cemetery (sorry, don’t know the name of the mosque, but it is rather big)
11. RBA Golf Club. It is near the airport (if you are golfers, of course)
See some photos on BBS below, as captured by amateur photographer (as for now):
How to get there:
Royal Brunei Airlines flies to major cities in Asia Pacific and Middle East and other places. Catch one of their return flight to Brunei from your nearest airport. So easy ha! From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines fly directly daily to BSB. If you are already in Miri, Sarawak, just like yours truly, just catch the express bus Miri-Brunei. You need a valid passport of course, and if you are not Malaysians, you may need a valid visa. Check with your embassy, before getting on the bus or the aircraft. Read my other posting here for crossing land border Malaysia-Brunei from Miri side.

Masjid hijau yang besar antara Miri dan Bintulu (Sarawak)

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

November 2010:
Travelling in Sarawak in November 2010, this masjid caught my attention. By Miri standard, it is quite a huge masjid, looks new with spacious compound. The masjid is next to the main Miri-Bintulu road. Image quite bad — taken by X10i phone camera on the moving vehicle.

Masjid baru berbumbung hijau di jalanraya Miri-Bintulu

At Niah, take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Ever been to Batu Niah in Sarawak? Follow this link.

Rules for visitors to Niah National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia

Taman Negara Batu Niah di Sarawak, Malaysia

Monday, December 13th, 2010

November 2010:

Gua Niah adalah sebahagian dari kawasan Taman Negara Niah. Taman Negara ini pula hanya 3 km dari pekan Batu Niah, sebuah pekan kecil tidak jauh dari persimpangan jalanraya Miri – Bintulu. Batu Niah terletak hampir 110 km dari Bandaraya Miri menuju Bintulu.

Taman Negara Niah, walaupun saiznya kecil dari banyak taman-taman negara lain di Sarawak, menjadi tarikan pelancong tempatan dan luarnegara. Saya terjumpa seorang pelancong agak berumur dari Jerman semasa berkunjung ke sana baru-baru ini. Dari KL dia terbang ke Miri semata-mata untuk melawat Gua Niah ini.  Lepas tu dia terbang balik ke KL dan seterusnya pulang ke Jerman. Kalau orang Malaysia tak mai ke sini, apatah lagi orang Sarawak, apatahlagi orang Miri, memang teruk betul kitak tok. Satu lagi, niat kena betul.

Apa yang istimewa dengan Gua Niah di Batu Niah ini?

Antara Taman Negara terawal di Sarawak yang digazet pada tahun 1958. Ianya menjadi tempat kelahiran tamadun manusia di Asia Tenggara sejak 40000 tahun dulu. Gua inilah menjadi rumah dan tempat berehat manusia purba dahulu kala. Kesan-kesan peninggalan seperti rangka manusia, lukisan dinding, kawasan perkuburan mereka masih boleh dilihat di sini. Aktiviti arkeologi masih lagi aktif sehingga hari ini. Pencinta sejarah mesti datang ke sini.

Hari ini Gua Niah hanyalah rumah kepada kelawar dan burung pipit (swiflets). Orang tempatan mencari rezeki di sini dengan mengambil keluar tahi kelawar untuk dijual sebagai baja asli, dan juga sarang burung untuk dijadikan minuman berkhasiat yang dijual kepada orang-orang moden di bandat metroplitan. Mereka memanjat batang buluh yang tinggi tanpa sebarang alat keselamatan semata-mata untuk mencapai sarang-sarang burung yang terletak di siling gua. 

Terdapat sebuah muzium berdekatan jeti yang menceritakan sejarah Taman Negara Niah. Masuk adalah percuma.

Beberapa maklumat berguna:

1. Bertolak awal pagi. Perjalanan dari Bandaraya Miri mengambil masa 2 jam (110 kms). Jalan bertar kecuali beberapa bahagian sedang dibaiki. Tidak perlu pacuan 4 roda. Kereta boleh sampai rapat ke pejabat Taman Negara. Malam dan gelap datang awal  di dalam hutan, jadi pastikan anda keluar dari hutan awal sebaiknya sebelum pukul 3 atau 4 ptg.  Kalau anda berjalan pantas dan tidak berminat dengan detail, lawatan ke  Batu Niah dari Miri boleh siap dalam masa separuh hari sahaja.

2. Jarak perjalanan jalan kaki dari jeti (di seberang sungai) ke gua paling jauh (Painted Cave) lebih kurang 4.5 km. Ini bermaksud anda terpaksa berjalan kaki sejauh 9 km. Pakai kasut yang sesuai dan backpack yang ringan. Bawak air minuman dan makanan ringan dan snek. Terdapat satu gerai makanan/minuman di laluan menuju ke gua, tetapi harga tidak masuk akal — sebotol air minuman 500ml ialah RM3. Gerai-gerai kecil ini juga menjual cenderamata orang hulu.

3. Daftar dahulu di pejabat Taman Negara sebelum bergerak ke jeti untuk menaiki bot. Jarak pejabat ke jeti hanyalah 200m. Boat ride hanyalah 5 minit — menyeberangi Sungai Niah dari tebing sini ke tebing sana. Taman Negara ini juga mempunyai chalet, kafetaria dan bilik mesyuarat.  Bayaran masuk yang dikenakan ialah RM10 utk seorang dewasa. Pas masuk berkumpulan (group entry pass) untuk maksimum lima orang satu kumpulan (campuran kanak-kanak dan dewasa) boleh dibeli dengan hanya RM30. Pas sekali masuk untuk pelajar, warga emas dan OKU hanyalah RM5 setiap orang. Tanya di kaunter pendaftaran untuk maklumat terkini. Patuhi undang-undang taman negara seperti yang tercetak di belakang pas masuk dan juga papan-papan tanda di kawasan taman.

4.  Anda perlu membawa lampu suluh berkuasa tinggi, topi dan juga sarung tangan. Tanpa lampu suluh, mustahil untuk anda menyusuri laluan papan (plankwoods) di dalam Gua Besar (Great Cave)  yang gelap gelita lagi sunyi sepi. 

How to get there?

Batu Niah is about 100 kms to the west of Miri, about midway between Miri and Bintulu. Road condition are good, tarred all the way.  Private bus operator like Suria Bus Company is also available from Miri Pujut Corner bus terminal.