Sunday, 23 March 2014

Borneo part 3 - Kuala Belait

The last bit of our Borneo adventure was a huge contrast to the first week and somewhat bizarre - a trip to Kuala Belait. Cleggy was working in a forces school for a few days (the reason for our adventure) so the boys and I had some time on our own.

I am a demon holiday researcher and can usually eeek out an activity or a sight to see most everywhere we go...
but I really struggled here.
When tripadvisor tells you that a teapot in the middle of a roundabout is one of the top three things to see you know it's going to be hard going!
(To be fair it lights up at night!!!)
Equally when your hotel has carp and turtles in the reception area you know it's going to be a bit weird...and it was!
Because (research had shown!) that restaurant opportunities in the town were also limited we booked a suite which was (in theory) a self contained apartment, intending to self cater. And it did indeed have a kitchen - but the cupboards were bare. Not a pan (or anything else) to be seen. It did however have a camping fridge and some magic cheese flakes. Good-oh.
It had some slow wifi...if you sat in the hall....
What it lacked in amenities it made up for in views. To the front we had a panorama of the town and the sea beyond
 And with all kinds of tropical weather and light 
the colours were ever changing
 And to the back a wonderful view of the river Belait 
(Kuala means mouth of the river) with the rain forest behind
Beautiful sunsets
 and boats galore - my favourite!
 We started the first couple of days sampling breakfast in the hotel. I would go as far as to say it was the worst I have ever had.
(there was a hot option - but completely unidentifiable. 
Even after eating!)

What it lacked in finesse it also made up for in view
My favourite colour combo...
 By day 3 even the boys were turning breakfast down 
(and they really aren't fussy) 
so The Teen went to the local bakery for some extra sweet treats.
 The Bruneians have a VERY sweet tooth - even that pizza was on some sort of sweet brioche!
The town of Kuala Belait is basically an oil town (the teapot was sponsored by Shell) a couple of hours South of Brunei's capital. The main shopping street (Jalan Pretty) had enough cheap tat to keep the boys happy and enough photo opportunities to keep me busy.
It also had a lovely little cafe called Marilyn - which was our saving grace. We ended up going for breakfast and lunch most days
some of the best American pancakes I've had outside America!
 The staff were all lovely and made us very welcome 
(everyone in KB was friendly!)
NOT the best 'American Breakfast' I've ever had!! 
Beans on lettuce? It'll never catch on...
One of the nicest things about our stay in KB was meeting the teachers at the Hornbill School and their families. After Cleggy finished his training on the last day we all went for a visit. The school caters for the children of men and women in the forces stationed there - mainly Nepalese children.

This is the school council area
 Kenzie and GB having a little bit too much fun in the home corner!!
 a gong instead of a school bell!
 I would like this building in my garden:
We also visited the base shop - which was teeny...
but where you could buy anything!
The lights had gone out (apparently a common occurrence) but everyone continued to shop in the dark. 
Just adding to the surreal experience...
The high up counter was brimming with condom brands from the 70's, with names like STUD!!
and it seemed to run on an old fashioned chit basis!
Cleggy, shopping by the light of his phone
Back at the school we had a treat - some locally made momos. Incidentally by this time in the trip my thighs now have the texture of a momo!!
We were very well looked after - two of the team hosted us at their homes - and it was great to see what it's like to work in a British school on the other side of the world.
Unfortunately we weren't expecting such invitations so I had to dig deep to find 'thank you' gifts to take (especially since you can't buy wine!)

Here's where my crochet came in handy - I managed to make a jar cosy and a string of hearts. I only wish I'd had something other than teeny tiny doily thread!!

A lovely night hosted by a Nepalese teacher, Aparna
 Shortly after this photo GB got a fish bone stuck in his throat. After some panicking and tears (from Geordie) Aparna produced a magic potion (I THINK it was lemon and honey!!) which solved the problem. At which point an exhausted Geordie fell asleep.
The Deputy Head of the school (who had arranged the visit) kindly got a pass for the boys and I to use the local health club. Which doubled the amount of activities available!!
Unfortunately the club was in the next town - but we were told we could 'just get on a purple bus'.
So, feeling bold, we did!
 The boys had fun in the pool and I managed a little time to work on that cobweb scarf I've been making for about a year.
Not sure I'll ever finish it, never mind wear it!!
What I hadn't thought about was how to get home. 
I presumed a purple bus would come back the other way but when I asked everyone at the club I got a blank look (pretty much everyone here drives, which is why the public transport is so limited).

The couple of people who did acknowledge the notion of a bus told me they came by 'now and again'.
I had begun to fear that meant every other day!

I found myself with my precious boys, at something possibly resembling a bus stop, with little money, no phone signal and one small bottle of water between us.

If a bus hadn't appeared I'm not actually sure what I would have done.
(gone back to the club and cried, presumably)
But eventually a bus came - and we somehow managed to get off at the right stop and find the hotel!
On our last night in Borneo (or so we thought!) 
we had a drink at The Officers Mess. 
I have no experience of this kind of thing - and it's just as I would imagine an Officers Mess in Borneo to be. Steeped in history and decorated with elephant tusks and tiger skins from days of yore.

Most interesting were the solid silver goblets - all inscribed with the name of a soldier who has fought for the regiment. 
Mine (filled with Pimms) belongd to a Gurkha from 1907.
 The mess was on the beach - where we stayed to watch the sunset one last time.
I'd always wondered why the country hadn't capitalised on their beaches - hundreds of miles of yellow sand, warm water of the South China Seas, a constant temperature of about 30°....
Obviously the oil means there's no need to attract the tourist - but when I saw the signs for killer jellyfish and heard tales of salt water crocodiles you couldn't get me off the beach quickly enough!!
The boys had a last play in the warm golden light

(whilst I kept my eyes peeled for crocs!!)
 The Teen decided he liked a camera (bout time!!)
I got my final Borneo selfie
And we almost got a decent family photo!
And the sun set
The following day we made our way back to the big city 
ready to fly home.
Our flight wasn't until 9pm but we had to check out the weird hotel by 11 so after the drive we ended up having about 5 hours to wait. 
Until we discovered the plane was delayed until 3am.

The ground staff arranged for all the passengers to travel to a 'nearby' (not) hotel 
where one poor man checked in all 250 of us!
It took him some time. 

It was the strangest place - it looked like it had been opened especially for us (maybe it had) 
We had a very bizarre meal, followed by a snooze, in rooms that smelt horrible and had (lots of) cockroaches!!

When we got back to the airport it was heavily populated by people in purple! There were some brilliant photo opportunities but I just couldn't get close enough!!
(by this point I'd started to think I might be hallucinating!!)
When we eventually got on a plane it turned out they had a new Ferrari stuck in the hold (WTF?)
so we sat on the plane for an extra 2 hours as they tried to remove it.

All in all the journey took about 39 hours.
It was GRIM!!
(especially since I can't sleep on a plane, or in a room with cockroaches)

This is Dubai from the plane (our stop over destination) shrouded in fog (which was why our flight was delayed in the first place)
It was like another planet
Thank goodness for beautiful blues from the windows
Borneo was a wonderful adventure and I feel very blessed to have been there. Malaysia is now up there as one of my 
favourite places in the world.
Alongside Devon, which is where we're heading next!!
Fee x
This collage at the new Airport in Brunei is made out of tiny bits of paper - beautiful!


  1. It has been wonderful travelling with you. Such an adventure. I hate cockroaches too and there was a massive one in our ( I promise ) very clean home in Southern Spain last week. Yukkkkk! Dead!!!!!
    We live in Devon when we are in the UK. Have fun x


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  2. Thanks for taking us along with you Fee, it's been amazing. :)

  3. What a trip! OMG!!!
    Such fabulous photos and lots of purple!
    love Jooles x x x

  4. Fee, this is an amazing report of your travels with your family. I actually think that you've got the makings of a novel here, or at the least, a magazine article. The way that your photographs and text worked together, I truly felt like I did have a very good impression of all that your family experienced.

    I cannot say that I would have loved to be there with you, but can definitely say that I am very grateful to you for letting the rest of us in on this particular adventure.

    Home must have looked very, very good.


  5. Wowzers Fee, sounds like the most awesome trip away! I made a cuppa and sat down and had a read of your last 3 posts. Such gorgeous photos, I felt like I had experienced it too in a small way, so thank you for that. It's lovely to see such beauty.


    p.s I don't want to know what you do with chix feet! x

  6. So good to 'see' your face every now and then dear Fee! Your boys grow up to be sooo lovely (don't tell them, it's probably totally the wrong thing to say hahaha).

  7. Lolololol I was looking for some other completely unrelated thing and stumbled here. I'm from Borneo. Reading all this from a tourist view just cracks me up (not that I can't related to the feeling about crying when there's no proper public transport, I've been on vacation and met situations like this as well). It's true our public transport here is not tourist friendly. And we're so used to the food here so hearing it's superbly weird makes me amused as well xD (lettuce on beans is defintely normal here hahahahaha) We wouldn't think its weird, but now we know it is, we have something more to laugh about xD (Easily amused).

    All in all, just wanted to say hi and glad you finished your trip without incident. Plus I'd like to applaud you for putting up a very positive front all through your narrating above. (like saying the view makes up for a lot of things, its nice of you.)



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Thanks for stopping by.
I LOVE reading your comments!
fee x