The Kingdom of Brunei
Posted by yachtcamomile
Finally got internet coverage so I can continue the tale of our adventure.
After stopping at the island of Pulau Satang Besar we continued on our journey North East. There wasn’t time to visit Kucking and so we motored about 50 hours until we reached Miri (I’m pointing the pencil at it) on the Sarawak coast. We arrived at the marina entrance on 23rd June about an hour before low water and we knew the entrance was shallow. We had a tense half an hour as we slowly edged towards the entrance in a 1-metre swell watching the depth dropping. Fortunately it didn’t go below 1 metre below our keel. Bill had calibrated the depth transducer before we had entered as it had been set wrong. First things first – air conditioning on. The plan had been to check in and do some shopping but the next morning I discovered the marina was right outside the town and a taxi was needed to get there. I managed to get a few bits of shopping in a local shop. After which a plan B was developed and we decided to move on to Brunei. Originally we didn’t think we would have time to visit but after talking to friends who said fuel was the equivalent of 15p a litre the decision was made.
We didn’t want to do any more night sailing because this coastline is littered with oilrigs and their entourage of supply ships so a day sail to Kuala Belait was planned. We passed many oilrigs on the way mostly a fair way out to sea but some were closer in.
We entered Kuala Belait at 4pm and motored up the river for about a mile and a half before dropping the anchor. In front of us was a bizarre sight as this was the base where the rigs were built and there were a row of them along the riverfront. They were a hive of activity until 5pm when it was down tools and home time. It left an eerie silence except for the cicadas chirping in the untouched jungle opposite.
We left at 5am the next morning for the 63 mile journey to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei otherwise known as BSB. There wasn’t any wind so we motored all the way arriving at the entrance channel just after 6pm leaving a beautiful sunset in our wake.
The container port looked striking in its pink glow as we approached the anchorage. Fortunately there was enough light coming from the land to guide us in.
The following morning we took the dinghy into the yacht club. It had a wonderful colonial feel about it.
Camomile sat and waited for us.
I’d heard there was a FREE washing machine, yippee, cruiser price. The lockers were emptied and all the washing was taken ashore; don’t know where the next washing machine will be.
While the washing was churning away we sat and used the free internet service to download emails and facebook then enjoyed a delicious meal.
They even had a swimming pool but we didn’t get a chance to try that out. We contacted Allan Riches of Sailmail who, its reported, can arrange a fuel run. His van was booked that day but it was arranged for Zahir to pick us up the next morning with our jerry cans and take us first to a supermarket then on to a fuel station. We retired to Camomile for the evening. Sharia law has limited the bar to soft drinks and beer so we opened a bottle of wine on board instead.
Zahir was a funny little man in his early 30s and insisted on calling us Mammy and Daddy even though we had given him our names, quite weird. It took almost an hour to drive into the city during which time Zahir ‘grilled’ us about out life. We in turn found out a lot about Brunei from him. Contrary to popular belief the people don’t lead a suppressed life, far from it, Zahir was extolling the virtues of the Sultan and how he looks after everyone handing out money to the children at the end of Ramadan and inviting the whole country to his palace for Hari Raya (the big feast at the end of Ramadan, their equivalent to Christmas). Also they have no income tax, no capital gains tax, no VAT, free schools, free health care, all in all they have a pretty good life. The supermarket was bizarre because it was full of English products, some of which were from Waitrose, right down to the price printed in pounds on the products, although they were being sold for the equivalent of twice the price. I managed to get some things that I haven’t seen since Australia like yoghurt mixes for my yoghurt maker, cranberry juice and really nice museli. I filled the supermarket trolley and it was loaded into the back of the van before we moved on to the fuel station. Bill was really pleased because it was B$0.31 a litre which is the equivalent to 15p a litre….. 15P A LITRE! That’s the cheapest we’ve found since Gibraltar, luckily Bill had borrowed some jerry cans from the yacht club.
As we drove back to the yacht club Zahir took a different route so we had the chance to see a bit of the town. There were some very modern buildings on the way as well as some traditional ones like this Chinese temple.
BSB is home to the biggest water village in the world. Founded at least a thousand years ago it has its own schools, mosques, police stations and fire brigade and is home to an estimated 20,000 people.
On the opposite bank there were large car parks with luxury cars parked in them, many of which belong to the water village residents.
We stayed at the anchorage for a second night so we could enjoy another meal in the Yacht club but the following morning we had to leave. If time had allowed it would have been great to stay another couple of days and explore further but we needed to keep heading north to catch up with the rally. This chart shows us just outside BSB and the rally were at Kota Kinabalu and travelling north to the tip of Borneo so we weren’t far away but we wanted to stop at the duty free island of Labuan first for a little alcohol!