Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia, Sabah on one side and Sarawak on the other, is one of the worlds wealthiest countries, thanks to their plentiful supply of oil. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of 415,717, approximately 10% of the population of the small country that I hail from, Ireland. With one major city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and the rainforest beyond, Brunei makes a good stopover en route to Melbourne or other destinations, like Sabah, on the Royal Brunei flight network. But what do you do when you get there?
A couple of hours journey outside of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei is a former government scientific research station, turned rainforest retreat. The journey there is terrific, beginning in what is referred to locally as a flying coffin (gulp), a small covered boat that can fit approximately 20 people and whizzes at speed through the murky river waters. At one point through the open window, we spied the eyes of a crocodile, brown and shiny, as we sped by. A quick bus trip in between brought us to a smaller long boat, and my favourite part of the journey. The boat dashed in the open air and the water splashed as we soaked up the views of the lush rainforest and frequent small rapids in the warmth of the sun.
Ulu Ulu stretches along the river, all dark wood and low buildings nestled among the trees. A central restaurant area is surrounded by walkways and rooms (the rooms varying from luxury to more budget options). All rooms felt isolated and private, so after a quick arrival snack (sweet pandan pancake and rice with chicken in a leaf), I stole a few hours to relax. We finished the evening with dinner, which was traditional Brunei fare using local ingredients, some grown at Ulu Ulu itself.
Greetings from a very sleepy corner of the universe. I thought that travelling back west from Melbourne would be easy peasy, but it turns out that, well, it is a bit tricky. Perhaps only if you get up at 4am to climb 850 steps into the Brunei jungle, when what you normally do is busy but not all that active. For whatever reason, my legs hate me and sleep is evasive. Terrified by my clear lack of fitness, I now think of the gym. But then swiftly of making marshmallows. Ahem. Or is that Amen?
We stopped off at Brunei on the way back from Melbourne. Brunei is one of the worlds smallest and also wealthiest countries, tucked away on the north coast of Borneo. Brunei is surrounded by Malaysia and has a similar food culture, with its own unique twists.
Food and wine lovers, take note: Brunei is a dry country. You are allowed to bring in two bottles of wine (and must declare them, excess will be confiscated and I should know, it happened to me), but it is well worth a stop off to explore the food markets, the beautiful mosques, see some monkeys, crocodiles (yes!) and spend a relaxing night in the rainforest.