A month of unemployment preceding my departure would surely result in me being extreamely organised by the time I left on my long journey to London. But of course it seems impossible for me to do anything till the last minute so 10mins before I’m due to leave for the airport I am still throwing everything into my pack and trying to figure out where I would spend the night in Auckland on route to London.With a cheap flight of course comes complications. First of all it is from Auckland which wouldn’t be so bad although the flight was early on Sunday morning so that meant a night in Auckland on Saturday. So leaving Christchurch at 5.30pm began a long arduous towards London. I had opted for a 24 hour stopover in Brunei but the flight there went via Brisbane where we had to get off the plane and re board. Then the flight to London went via Dubai where again we got off the plane and re boarded. So I arrived in London Tuesday morning, tuesday evening NZ, which ended up around 3 full days of travelling.Flying to Auckland I somehow had a first class seat, not sure why. People who pay for first class on domestic flights are just strange, its an hour flight and the difference is so minimal, I could feel people looking at me wondering why I was there. Who knows? I enjoyed the extra leg room anyway and watched the amazing sunset above the clouds as I headed north. Arriving in Auckland I took the overpriced bus at $15 into town, changed to another $3 bus and walked around in the dark following some vague instructions I had scribbled down on the back on a paper bag till I found the house of a friend of a friends mum who had kindly agreed to take me in for the night. Had a chance to repack my bag a bit better and then she dropped me off at the airport at 8am the following morning which was super nice and saving me another $15 bus!
The flight to Brunei was long and uneventful with terrible movies and average food- the usual. We touched down in Brunei at 6.30pm local time where it was 30 degrees and mega humid. I had booked into a hostel but the tourist info guy told me its often closed and not very reliable. I took my chances though as surely I had booked in and the next option he informed me was a $70 a night hostel. I managed to negotiate a ride on that hotels shuttle which is free for guests but I would be paying $20. The shuttle dropped me at the hostel then went on to take the rest of the guests to the hotel then the driver would return for me to pay him once I got change from the hostel to pay him as the driver had no change for my $50 note. Of course the hostel was locked, dark and very closed. The driver returned luckily as he needed his money and was kind enough to help me out by ringing the hostel but no luck. Its dark, hot and I’m tired. The hotel was really the only option but if the driver took me straight there I would have to pay the walk-in price at $90. Plus the $20 shuttle. Not being very happy I managed to get the driver to call the airport guy where I negotiated the room for $70 and a free shuttle. Way too much money for me but more interested in sleep and air con at that point. So I ended up in a flash hotel room and luckily found a kiwi couple who changed some NZD into Brunei $ for me so I could actually pay for the hotel!
Brunei is a small Islamic nation on the island of Borneo which is shared with Indonesia and Malaysia, so most people are of Malay ethnicity. Its oil-rich, run totally by the Sultan and very very Islamic, totally alcohol free and a giant mosque dominating the city center. I wandered down to the mosque and watched the men leave after the evening prayer time. It was nice and warm sitting , much nicer after months of cold at home. The mosque looked beautiful lit up and the call the prayer echoed out of the minarets. After a while some of the men came over to me and invited me inside the mosque for a special tour once I dressed up in some suitable clothing- a long coat and head scarf. It was, like most mosques, golden and beautiful inside. People are very friendly here and they get very little tourists through it seems, I only ever saw westerners in the hotel.
The following day I had till 5pm till my shuttle left, there isn’t a whole lot to do and it was pretty quiet as it was some sort of holiday weekend. After making full use of the free hotel breakfast I managed to hire a longboat at $15 for an hour to take me round the water villages which seem to make up a large portion of the city. There is massive rivers all around the city and whole neighborhoods are built on the water including schools and fire stations and police stations with boats. Ajid, my lovely driver sped me around past the mosque and schools and then out into the rain forest where we saw monkeys on the edge of the water. Great way to spend a morning.
I had a break in the air-con of my room before checkout then I wanted to go see the Sultans palace so waited for a local bus which the hotel told me went that way. While waiting I was approached by an older guy who sat and talked to me, which I could tell was not going to end well. He asked me if I was travelling alone then lent closer and asked if I was a prostitute…well of course single females are always prostitutes. He explained a little more bluntly what he would pay me for. I really couldn’t believe he would actually be asking this and I laughed at him and told him I was actually fine thanks. He was undisturbed and sat next to me for a bit longer then asked me to lunch. I just looked at him and told him he should leave now, he just smiled and took off. Random. Anyway I eventually get on a bus which I stay on for too long and end up at the Malaysian border (it is a seriously small country). The driver is really nice and I just stay on the bus while it goes back to town and he points out the palace which is behind huge gates and totally closed off to the public. So I at least got a nice 1 and half hour tour through the country for $2. I manged to get myself some prescription glasses for cheap and eat some yummy food, but couldn’t find any internet to get in contact with my friend I was staying with in London. Hoping for the best I hoped on the plane and endured the 17 hour flight via Dubai where I used the free internet trying to get into facebook to get my firends contact details. Unfortunately facebook wouldn’t work and time ran out so back on the plane for the last 8 hours where we touched down in Heathrow and 6.30am Tuesday where I had very little idea of what I was actually going to do.