Day 14, Sunday, March 9, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

My next 2 ships, the Crystal Serenity and MS Amsterdam, are both in Singapore today. It turned out though that the Crystal Serenity was in a brand new terminal while the Amsterdam was in the traditional cruise terminal.

The morning started out very well with clear skies and modest wind and temperatures for my 2-mile walk on the promenade deck. Also becoming a part of my morning ritual, I checked the Crystal website for a cabin assignment, and as yet have not been given one.

Brunei shares a small portion of the Island of Borneo with Malaysia and Indonesia. The Sultanate is an absolute monarchy, although the population seems rather pleased with the way he has been taking the country. It is rich in oil and has a high standard of living with essentially no taxes. We pulled up to the dock in the port of Maura, about 18 miles from Bandar Seri Begawan, just before 7AM. The country has been a monarchy since the 14th century, and the current Sultan is the 29th ruler. He took over from his father in 1967.

My half day tour left at 8:15AM. Lim was the best guide I have seen on this voyage. He is a university student and ethnic Chinese; his grandparents immigrated to Brunei in the 1960’s and he is a Brunei citizen. While Brunei is a pretty conservative Islamic country it is less restricted than some others, for example most women do drive there.

After a 30-minute drive to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, we made our first stop at the Royal Regalia Center. Built in the wake of the Sultan’s 25th anniversary in power, the large center has a central open lobby and a u-shaped ring of displays. Photography was forbidden except in the lobby. There were displays of many kinds of memorabilia including some of the Sultan’s and family’s garments but the most impressive were the coaches. The one used in the inauguration was on display in the lobby, and was powered by 24 attendants each behind and in front of the coach. An even bigger coach used for the 25th anniversary parade was in the private area, powered by an engine but with the 48 attendants pulling for show.

Our next visit was the Jame As’r Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, built by the current sultan. We got a brief look inside (again without cameras) the large structure, an open space both ornate and simple. The Sultan seem to like building Mosques having features corresponding to their numerical position, this Mosque had 29 steps leading up to the prayer room, while the one built by his father had 28 minarets.

Our other major stop was Kampong Ayer, a 30,000 person community built on stilts on a river stretching along both shores. We boarded a water taxi for about a 10-minute ride to a local house where we were served tea and a snack. A network of walkways carries water and sewer connections, and has elevated bridges over passageways allowing boats access to the interior of the village. The village has typical services including mosques, schools, and a fire station with an apron for land based engines at one end and a boat slip at the other.

The Sultan’s home sits on something like a 1.2 square kilometer parcel secluded in trees. It is open to the public a few days a year but our views were from a park at the edge of the grounds and from the water village. With the riches coming from oil, the Sultan is quite generous with the people, including free education and medical care and homes for people who cannot afford them.

We returned to the Symphony just after 1PM. The port was pretty busy with freighters loading, what looked like a training ship in port, and maintenance in progress on the Symphony’s tenders. All aboard was 4:30 but the afternoon was more like a typical sea day. Jay Wolff gave a 4PM presentation on the founding of Singapore. I was out on deck just before sailaway. Louis sang at 4:50.

Lead singer Colleen Williamson gave her cabaret show “Life on the High C’s” at 5. Regrettably, I only stayed for a few songs as the interdenominational worship service was at 5:15. All 6 of us were together today at table 73 for a lively dinner. As I was leaving for dinner I noticed disembarkation packets sitting on mail slots. I have not gotten any official instructions yet but see that the Symphony and Serenity will be very close together in Singapore.

The evening entertainment was a variety show combining the musical comedy of Steve Stevens followed by Philip Wojceichowski at the piano. I understand both will be going over to the Serenity with me.

Today’s parting shot comes from the humor of Steve Stevens. He was talking about the differences in language between Brits and Americans. He started with a few like “I say lift while you say elevator” and “I say petrol while you say gasoline”, and finally “I say eternity while you say Presidential Campaign”. Sad but true.


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1 Response to Day 14, Sunday, March 9, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

  1. Terry Markowitz says:

    Roy. I just had to write to say how much I enjoy your writing. Ms Williamson was on the Voyage of the Vikings with us last july and was a highlight!

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