Sunday, 6 August 2017

One day trip to Kuala Belait

Just back from a day trip to the most southern end of Brunei. Now I am relaxing at the Empire Hotel making use of its free wi-fi and delicious shakes. As I type I am sucking back a coconut and mango bomb. It would be a fantastic bomb if it had a shake or two of Malibu, but I am sure my liver is liking the break in this alcohol free country.

Kuala Belait (KB) is the 2nd city in Brunei and it is right on the border of Malaysia. My impression of it from my 2 visits there in the last 10 days is, Shell Petroleum is the heart and the oil is its blood pumping life into the surrounding areas. You cannot miss the Shell presence, from the oil fields to the pipes to the storage units to the Shell workers housing compounds and of course the petrol stations. Although ironically we nearly ran out of petrol in the Shell hub, thankfully we didn't have to dig in the ground to fill the tank, but we were close.

KB is a about 120 km from Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the capital of Brunei and the 1 road there is a smooth ride for most of the way. Once you get into KB there is a huge tea pot sculpture and from there you are able to navigate yourself into the city. Go straight and turn left until you hit the river. The main drag is one street and it is deceiving, you see it and think, hmmm is that it. Fortunately, that isn't it, there is so much more, you just need to walk down the little narrow allies off the main drag. Behind the main street you will find great little boutiques with fashions from Singapore and Hong Kong, knock off labels from various other countries, food halls and restaurants filled with locals on their lunch breaks having bowls of noodles for BND$2.00, tailors cutting beautifully flowing cloth to make baju karongs (the traditional dress for women), hairdressers playing with their hair, stall holders selling fresh vegetables and fish and people many people fanning themselves waiting for life to pass by or work to finish.

Away from the main drag are the beaches and the river. The water at the beaches is brown but apparently not from dirt, they are brown from the silt. So you can swim all you like but do ask the locals where the crocodiles are. There are places where they are and aren't, make sure you are in the aren't places.

KB is a nice little city with a real local feel. What you see is what you get, a relaxed, slow moving but perfectly functional city/town. It also has the the benefit of being close to Miri in Malaysia, close to shops which are cheaper and places for other forms of entertainment not offered in Brunei, like a quiet beer at the pub, or a rowdy drink at a club.

I can't recommend any place in particular to go to in KB, as I was only there for a few hours and I will have to go back and investigate, but if you make it there, make sure you hit the back streets for a good local vibe and feel.

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