Day 10: Wednesday
Now it was time for a proper exploration! We got great photos of the mosque at night so after our (complimentary) breakfast at the hotel we set off to get more photos during the day. Our plan was to spend the cooler parts of the day out and about and explore the city’s most famous museum, the Royal Regalia, in the middle of the day; however that didn’t go like we’d thought.
On our way to the mosque we stopped by a local open-air market that was a couple blocks away from the hotel thinking that we would pick up some snacks and souvenirs. Unfortunately the market was majority fruit and veg with a few dried fish stands thrown in the mix just to make my stomach churn a bit. Thinking we’d be there longer, we quickly made it from end to end in no more than 15 minutes. From here to the mosque was another short walk, so after taking photos and stretching our legs on the waterfront again, we were at a loss as to what to do with our time. I’d heard about a grocery store that stocked great local treats, so we found that (in the basement of a mall) and bought a few goodies pre-made and treated ourselves to a cakoi, basically a long, fried donut sliced in half and smothered with butter and kaya, a local coconut jam. YUM! Happy with our purchases and, after a short wander through the air conditioned mall, we hit the street again.
A bit of history and culture was just what we needed, so up past our hotel we went to the Royal Regalia Museum. You aren’t allowed to wear shoes in or take your camera, so we stripped ourselves of all possessions and spent almost 2 hours admiring gifts given to the Sultan from foreign dignitaries on visits, seeing his horse-drawn chariots used in his coronation and Silver Jubilee celebrations and other bits and pieces of his life. The museum was very well laid-out, with arrows pointing the right way and maintaining the flow. Happy with our visit there we stepped back into the humid afternoon.
We started traversing back to the waterfront for the other main draw of Bandar which is Kampong Ayer, or the stilt village. We haggled a great price for a 1-hr boat ride, and our driver took us up and down the river. He pointed out the Sultan’s old palaces as well as the new one in the midst of construction; he spotted some proboscis monkeys and we watched them for a while as well. One of the highlights was, after weaving around, under and through the stilts the houses are resting on, we stopped by a local school (also on stilts) to pick up his oldest son and take him home for lunch. We thought of asking to see the inside of their home, but didn’t want to impose; however his wife and younger son stood in the window and waved to us, which gave the ride a personal touch. We were gone almost 2 hours in total and tipped accordingly and, happy with our afternoon, headed out for some grub and beat the heat. What better way to beat the heat than with a cold drink? So we stopped and got some local 3-layer teas from a café before finding another local place with amazing food (and prices to match!) where we stuffed ourselves silly, then headed back to the hotel.
Taking some time to play on the internet and do some research on what we had just seen, we had some down time prior to our scheduled visit to the night market, which was arranged by the hotel. Geez we wish we’d gone here earlier, because once we got to the market (after our few hours of rest) we were in heaven – heaps of local produce, barbecues going everywhere you looked and sweet treats in almost every stall. We picked our way around and, even though we weren’t too hungry, snacked on a few local delicacies. On the drive back to the hotel we stopped by the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque for a few obligatory photos.