Brunei

Saturday July 6

Up at 0600 for an 0700 departure into a calm morning. We did manage an hour of sailing before the motor had to go on again. It was a pleasant 33Nm motor sail always with some pressure in the sails.

Out ETA was 1300 and Allan was chasing us over the radio by 1230 to see where we were. We dropped anchor in the Kuala Belait River in front of the Boat Club at 1315.

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Allan’s assistant, Dora, was at the club waiting to take our $20.00SGD Visa fee and our passports. She also had one more form for each of us to fill out. Fortunately she had carbon paper this time so the triplicate form was not such a chore.

The message came back that the 3 boats were to up anchor and move to the Customs Jetty. Allan went into bat for us but the “New Man” in the Customs Office was flexing his muscle not his brain and the only compromise Allan could negotiate was for us to take all the alcohol stores we had declared to the Customs Office. So we loaded our declared beer, wine and spirits (a fraction of our stash) into the dinghy, then into Allan’s car, drove to Customs, unloaded it all into the Customs Office. By now the “New Man’ was beginning to sweat. He was realising how stupid and pointless the exercise was and that all he had achieved was to piss us all off immensely. Welcome to Brunei! Land of the “Nodding Donkey”. Seems to apply to more than the oil pumps. Sharia Law where the Burqua is banned and lots of Mosques. From our observations in Brunei and Aceh, Indonesia these versions of Sharia Law have a lot going for them as social management systems for large communities. There is none of the extreme stuff practiced in Saudia Arabia.

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We managed to fit in a G&T before heading off for a guided bus trip around the oil fields before dinner with the locals at the Boat Club.

The smorgasbord dinner was excellent and we got to meet and chat to the Club Commodore Sybrand and his wife Suzanna and daughter Valerie. From Holland on a 3 year contract, Suzanna is a financial lawyer with Shell and Sybrand has taken time out from his career to study for his MBA. Lovely people and we enjoyed a great and open discussion about the joys and woes of working and living in Brunei. It is getting more difficult for expats now due to positive discrimination toward the Bumiputra (local indigenous Muslim Bruneian’s) and political correctness. A very enjoyable evening.

The river current through the anchorage was up to 3-4 knots we estimated.

Sunday July 7th

An excursion today to Labi Falls. Our local drivers could speak no English and had poor instructions from Zahir, Allan’s English speaking employee. The drive out was over an hour past some interesting road island art work. Yes! It is a teapot.

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Then the drivers had no idea where to take us; we were out of cell range and at the wrong Long House. Fortunately a local woman pointed us in the right direction  so we arrived somewhat belatedly for the start of the walk.

It was a lovely 40 minute walk through the primary forest  jungle, although quite tricky in places.

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The Falls are very pretty and we enjoyed a refreshing swim.

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Back at the Longhouse we were give a plastic bag each, containing a segmented plastic container with 4 different foods. Another plastic container of bamboo shoots and a prawn. A plastic knife and fork and a zip lock bag containing a fresh pear and a packet of biscuits packaged in heavy duty plastic. And the locals are totally oblivious to the plastic waste issue.

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After lunch we had a go at bursting balloons at 10 paces with a blow pipe before returning to the boats. Sybrand and Valerie came out for a visit on Gemini Lady.

Monday July 8

Last night the generator played up again. Hunting and running rough causing the inverter/charger to drop out all the time. In the cool of first light I pulled off the fuel lift pump again for a closer look. This time I found the source of the white plastic I had discovered last time. There is an annular plastic ring inside the lift pump that supports the “O”Ring seal on the pumps cap. For some reason this was breaking down. I eventually found that a piece of 22mm ED heater hose fit in snuggly so I trimmed a piece to the same height as the annular ring. This provided a sealing base for the “O” Ring and cap.  I just hope heater hose doesn’t break down in diesel.

We departed late, behind Aquabago and Illimite and we left the river with the current assisting but little wind, although dark clouds were forming.

Up ahead we could see the other yachts rounding up under pressure. It got to us soon after and we took off for a sleigh ride, caught with a full main up again.  As we sped up a kamikazi Spanish Mackeral jumped on the lure.

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Strong gusts up to 34knots accelerated us up as high as 14.7knots at times. Again I kept the boat running square downwind to keep even pressure on the hulls. The squall seemed persistent and we could see no breaks in the dark clouds so I made the call to round up and drop the main in the next lull before the sea state built anymore. All went well and the main was in the bag and Gemini Lady proceeding a bit more leisurely under genoa alone. Typically the clouds soon broke, the wind eased and we changed to screecher for the final run up to Jeradong the Sultans private harbour.

It was a very comfortable night tucked in behind the massive breakwater and man made island. Enjoyed having Gary and Noelle off Illimite and Kevin and his brother Grant off Aquabago over for sundowners.

Tuesday July 9

Quiet motorsail from Jerudong into and through the main port of Muara and on up the river to Mangrove Paradise Resort. The bridges we noted being constructed back in 2016 are now complete but not on the charts. Allan assured us the clearance of the lowest was 23m. (Gemini lady has a 21.5m air draft). This one was really scary but in the end no problem. The anchorage in the river is excellent with easy dinghy access and fresh water available on the jetty.

That evening Allan took us for a trip to see the city lights, dominated by stunning mosque.

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Then it was off to dinner at a local food court and market. Delicious lamb skewers followed by nut pancakes.

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Wednesday July 10

Cultural Immersion tour today. Starting with the Grand Mosque built to celebrate the 28th Sultan featuring 28 gold domes and about 5 tons of pure gold.

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The architecture oppulance and quality of finish are amazing and naturally the girls had to cover up in these lovelly gowns. Our friend Noelle from Illimete makes Jo and Lea look like hobbits

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Then it was off to the Sultans Palace. We can only go as far as the gates. Certainly looks impressive.

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Next the Sultans Regalia Museum which also houses the collection of gifts he has received from other countries and world leaders over the years.

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There was also the Maritime Museum, Technology museum a lunch stop somewhere in the middle then a visit to the Water Village for afternoon tea then a fast boat ride back to the Resort

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A fabulous day out repeating many of the highlights we saw back in 2016.

Thursday July 11,

Quiet day catching up on washing and boat chores. John went of fishing and we tried out the pool.

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Lovely dinner and movie night up the river at RBYC.

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Friday July 12

Up early for our trip to Temburong National Park. We did this trip in 2016 and enjoyed it just as much the second time. Fast boat ride to the other side of Brunei. This guy was guarding the town of Temburong

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Bus to the river then long boat up to the park.

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Arriving at the park we walked up the 747 steps broadwalk up to the canopy walk. 10 metre towers staggered up the hill had us above the canopy for a stunning view.

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Back down stream for a waterfall swim before lunch at  the Intrepid Camp Site

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Final stop back at the Longhouse we visited back in 2016 for afternoon tea.

Saturday July 13

Early anchor lift to catch the ebb tide out. We went under the bridge with 20cm more water than our entry. Still scary!. Anchored offshore from the Serasa RBYC in shallow water making sure we would still be afloat at low tide. We sent John and Jo ashore to the club as our representatives while Lea and I pulled apart the Port Toilet to fix a vacuum leak.

A swim while a load of washing was done and a nice lunch. Then it was time to frock up for High Tea at the Empire Hotel with Steve and Vicki off Ananda II. Stunning building and delicious food.

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Allan then took us for a drive around the Jerodong area including  the famous prince Jeffry’s Theme Park and the gorgeous equestrian centre with over 2000 stables and lots of Polo fields.

Great dinner put on by the yacht club required an extra effort to fit in after high tea. Great conversation with Ting, Allan’s wife about living and working in Brunei and new positive discrimination rules to theoretically help the locals. Effective result is dumbing down the the standards.

Sunday July 14

A morning run trying to burn off the excess food from yesterday. After lunch at the club we joined in the afternoon off the beach race. Lea and I took out Lasers and John and Jo took out a Hobie 16. great fun but abandoned the race in the end due to lack of wind. another evening trip to the great supermarkets and food court.

Monday July 15

The Sultans73rd Birthday Parade. We were picked up by fast boat at the Resort for the trip into the city then a short walk to the Parade ground stopping for a nice coffee along the way.

Lots of people about showing that the Sultan is a popular man. We were asked to do interviews by the local press and TV Stations.

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The Sultan arrived to a 12 canon shot salute and a fleet of motorcycle police escorts

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The parade ground was full of people

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The helicopters of the armed forces did a loud fly over. Many local groups were represented and all were super friendly and wanted photos

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Even the gardens were resplendent

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it was a great festive, carnival atmosphere and it was a nice end to our second visit to Brunei.

That afternoon we cleared out and sailed back into Malaysia checking into the Labuan Marina . The most run down marina in the world. Lots of rubbish, poor power supply and rats. Our beloved Kraken Bar from 2016 lay derelict together with the grand waterfront hotel we had enjoyed our Gala Dinner in back then.

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