Friday, July 29, 2011

Raffles Hotel Singapore

In 1992 we visited Raffles, sat in the longbar, had one drink ate a few peanuts and left in case we were asked to buy another expensive drink!

This time we were back for high tea but were bettere prepared for the financial shock!

Along with many others we did our best to make it look as if we belonged!

Raquel enjoyed sampling the food and we all went away feeling as if we got our money's worth!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


In contrast to most South East Asian cities the taxi system in Bandar Seri Begawan is almost non-existent and dependent upon local knowledge. We tried to take a boat back to our hotel and were asked, "Why don't you take a taxi". When we told the man we couldn't find one, he said, "Ask the man in the green t-shirt - he will find one for you". ... and that's exactly what he did! I expect he will be wearing a different coloured t-shirt by the time you get here!

Taxis aren’t allowed to queue at the airport and public transport is almost totally given to purple mini buses that snake their way all over the city for $1 per ride.

Water Village

Today we enjoyed a trip to the water village across from Bandar Seri Begawan. It’s amazing how some people can preserve their way of life.

All the modern conveniences are supported by electricity, plumbing and concrete piles. One of the houses even had its own karaoke set up.

The tour also included a visit to a museum dedicated to illustrating the 1,000 years of modern history of the water village.

Certain houses are used as 'tea houses' for visitors. The hosts provide and elaborate array of beverages and snacks.

From the outside houses look as if they ought to be condemned but all that changes once you get inside.

The water village has its own police station and fire department.

People get from one place to another by boat or by using the plank walkway that joins one area with another - just like streets!

Museum of Royal Regalia

A museum of Royal Regalia is not a title that would normally draw me to it but I am glad I made the visit. The museum contained photographs, gifts from heads of state from around the world and ceremonial paraphernalia for previous coronations and affairs of state.

One can certainly imagine what a spectacle a parde would be with person powered 'carts', marchers holding sets of colourful umbrellas, ceremonial spears etc.


A more successful tour included visits to the latest Mosque near our hotel built for the current Sultan. Its’ spaciousness and manicured gardens helped to create an air of peace and tranquillity. Unfortunately it was not open to the general public because preparations were being made for some religious purpose.

The mosque has 29 golden towers to celebrate the fact that the current sultan who built it is the 29th sultan of Brunei. The mosque has separate areas for women to pray in.

An escalator from the ground floor has been built for the exclusive use of the royal family.

This picture of the pre-prayer bathing area was taken at the old mosque, built by the current sultan's father. Not as grand as the latest one but one can imagine that in its time it would have been much admired.

Visitors had to don the robs you see here to ensure modesty in the mosque.

Bandar Seri Begawan

It was about 4:30 pm on Saturday afternoon when we visited downtown BSB. One of the most stunning sights viewed from down town was the old mosque.

Perhaps it was well that my expectations for BSB weren’t high for there did not seem a lot to recommend it. I had read words to that effect in the Lonely Planet but put that down to seasoned travellers expecting it to be another Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore. However, watching the longboats ferrying people across the water to the villages and other places proved interesting. After turning down several offers of round trips from forward boat owners we drifted along the streets and in and out of shopping centres. Many stall holders were getting ready for another night of celebrations for the king’s birthday. There were so many of them I couldn’t work out who their customers were going to be – there certainly weren’t many around while we were in town!


Our voucher provided us with a free evening meal in the hotel dining room. What a selection! There was so much to choose from that we didn’t even get to use the on table BBQ facility for the steam boat. The service was great as you would expect from a Five Star Hotel! I hasten to add that we weren’t paying five star prices having picked up a two nights bargain on the internet.

Breakfast next morning was also classic Asian with excellent choices from both Asian and western menus. It was clear from the way we loaded our plates – more than once – that we were expecting a famine real soon!

From the nature of the clientele and the fact that prayer times are listed in our hotel room, the Rizqun hotel is Muslim owned and operated so the likes of bacon and alcohol are not on the menu!

However, the most interesting foods were to be found at the night market about 200 metres from our hotel.People started setting up for this at around 5 pm and by 6:30 it was in full swing.

The first night we spent 'looking' and the on the second we sampled the goods! When you have only so much stomach capacity you have to choose very carefully - some known items and some new ones. The market was a god place to pick up some new ideas as well. Everything seemed to be $1 - kebabs, pita pockets, chicken pieces and corn on the cob. Others were sold in small quantities - for example, 6 banana fritters for $1.

The smells wafting across the market place were hard to resist! The smoke was annoying at times but we didn't let that stop us. We would certainly reccommend this as a place to visit.


You certainly have to keep on your toes in Asian countries when it comes to making deals! What you think you have agreed to in terms of service and price can change in the blink of an eye if you’re not alert to things. Yesterday, through the hotel desk we booked two tours. The first was to the oil area some 75 km from down town Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) for $110 per person and the second was a full day city tour including a trip to a river village $70.
Well – the first trip delayed its starting time by an hour yet managed to finish at more or less the agreed time. Because the display/museum we were supposed to visit was closed – something to do with the King’s birthday celebrations – the tour company was obviously unaware of that! Somehow the forestry visit we were supposed to make was also dropped off the itinerary – but the amazing thing was the price remained the same!!

While returning to our hotel the guide called his company about Monday’s arrangements. Well, they had changed as well! Instead of the tour we booked we were told that we wouldn’t have time to do that one because it would make us late for the airport. By my calculations, if they ran to time, we would have plenty of time to do the tour. However, they were offering us a shorter tour for the same price.

When we got back to the hotel we approached the reception desk to check with them what we had booked. It turns out there had been a misunderstanding and that the tour we originally booked for $70 was indeed $110!! Not understanding the language put us at a distinct disadvantage and out of all that we finished up with a 3.5 hour tour for $70!!

If we hadn’t been aware of this kind of experience our day could have been ruined. However we had the courage to question, discuss and debate before confirming things and as a result lost a lot less than we might otherwise have lost. Make no mistake, we still lost!!!
For all that we had an interesting day out admiring the oil and gas rigs standing offshore and a lunch at a place called The Buccaneer in Kuala Belait. The greatest ‘fear’ for Brunei seems to be what happens when the oil runs out.

Fish Market

The canal near our hotel is used to service the fish market, also near our hotel.

Brunei - Hotel Rizqun

The hotel Rizqun is situated in an area called Gadong located between the airport and downtown Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB); about 10 minutes from the airport. Unfortunately taxis are not allowed to queue at the airport so we had prebooked transport with the hotel - $45 one way! A taxi from the hotel to downtown BSB cost us $15.

The hotel’s location is quite god for our purposes. We arrived at about 8:30 am and while waiting for our check in time of 1pm we walked around a wet market about 10 minutes’ walk for the hotel. As with all wet markets a wide array of beautiful and some not so beautiful fish are ready to greet you! One cannot help but admire the skills of stall holders as they break down their fish into supermarket style cuts.

In another area of the market red and white meats were being readied for sale. The beef was plentiful and we learned that it had come from the Sultan’s (Brunei’s) farm in Australia. Incidentally the farm is bigger in area than is Brunei itself!

There were three shopping areas near our hotel. One centred on the Centre Point hotel about 5 minutes’ walk from our hotel, a second, centred on our hotel and a third that was probably the number one shopping area before the first two were built. Those centred on the two hotels were thriving with lots of foot traffic while the earlier one was certainly languishing for want of custom. It was quite sad really.

Internally and externally, this hotel is quite unlike us in that it looks like it costs a lot, even discounting the fact that this is Asia. The interior design, furnishings, fittings and facilities are really wonderful. Our room is bigger and better appointed that some apartments we have seen in NZ. The lobbies on each floor are ballroom size with leather furniture to match. The only other hotel we have stayed in that compares with it is the Centre Point in Bangkok.

I can certainly vouch for the swimming pool since I used it each day we were here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Around Pasir Ris Park 2

The climb to this slide was no problem!

This probably how Hilary started his career.

Checking out the parallel bars.

Around Pasir Ris Park 1

This platform is more Tyler's style.

This rope clim is really tricky!

Making rhthym with Koko.

Around Singapore

Tyler dines at Marche in Vivo City.

Posing with Grandma and Koko atop Vivo City.

Tyley enjoys the fountains/water spouts!

Tyler ready to conquer the world!

Back in Singapore!

Rachel, Rob Raquel & Steve and families back in Singapore.

Around the resort 4

Looking down stream to the sea.

Lynne on the beach!

Tyler starts his surfing career!

Lynne keeps and eye on Fyn and Tyler while we wait for transport.

The holiday is over as we all board the plane for Singapore.

Around the resort 3

The main dining area near the pool.

Feeding time! Tyler tries out the food!

Lynne checks out the breakfast offering.

Tyler showing suitable restraint!