Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BRUNEI 101: LIVING IN BRUNEI


When I arrived here in Brunei last 5 March 2008, I thought, I was thrown in a ghost town. Aside from Brunei’s airport was packed with animosity for a newbie’s perspective, it was so freakin empty. 

Seriously, I guess, there were just around 20 people considering that it was already 9 am. No one could blame for such an impression because I left the Philippines at 7 am and it was jampacked with cramming people – locals and foreigners.

My friends predicted that after three months, I will be back in the Philippines. They were confident I wouldn’t bare the independent life and homesickness. I proved them wrong. I have been here in Brunei for a year and 3 months now. And honestly, it was a liberating and learning experience. I braved to come out of my comfort zone.

I learned a lot from working overseas. Not only I enjoyed independent living, I have also become more responsible, mature, God-fearing, and driven. On top of that, I learned to absorb cultures, learn customs and traditions, understand Islam, see strong and dynamic governance, zoom into the lives of hard working Filipinos, and mostly, find myself in this world.

Now, let me share to you the wonderful things I learned over the years and counting of my stay here in Brunei.

THE MALL With the gargantuan malls surrounding our beloved Philippines and packed with international brands and sparking local tags, anyone could certainly become shopaholic. In fact, in the Philippines, one whole day is not enough to check all the shops in one mall. Just see Mall of Asia or Megamall for that matter and you’ll surely be overwhelmed with its structure and offerings. That is the reason why I was so surprised when I came here in Brunei

The shopping complex here is small; there are few choices of brands; there are a lot of expensive items which you can find in DIvisoria or 168;and you can finish checking every corner of the mall within one day. Seriously, at that reality I missed SM Malls, Green Hills, Market Market, 168, Divisoria, and 168! Super! 

But here’s the deal. If you are here in Brunei, here are some of the tips I can give. If you want to do some grocery, you can check Supah Save or Hua Ho (For cheaper prices). If you want to do some serious shopping or you’re craving for some brands, check out Hua Ho Malls (the equivalent of SM). If you want to stroll, do some window shopping and buy some authentic branded stuffs, you might wanna try The Mall (yes, that’s the name of the mall) or Seri Q-lap Mall. If you wanna watch movies, you can go to The Mall, Seri Q-lap Mall or experience The Empire Cinema! If you want to check out where other foreigners like Indians, Indons, Chinese, etc., hang around, Yayasan Complex is the right place for that. Just imagine Hong Kong’s big parks swarmed with people.

SMELL. If you have a sensitive nose, better be prepared if you arrive or will live in a foreign country. Do not doubt yourself if you know to yourself that you take a bath three times a day. Sometimes, it’s just surprising that even in the early morning, a fatal aroma from someone would spank you effortlessly. Just beware because the smell has migraine-causing impacts!

FASTFOOD. Believe it or not, Jollibee is very popular here in Brunei. It has 11 branches
all over Brunei. So if you miss the Philippines, you can taste home at Jollibee. 

Then again, since this is an Islamic country where pork is not allowed, there are limitations on the food offerings. But good thing is, they served chicken in big sizes and the gravy has its signature taste. Relatively, KFC is all over Brunei too.

STARBUCKS. If you are a coffee addict, or should I say, a Starbucks fan, forget it. Here in Brunei, they only have Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Well, aside from that, you can also check other shops which serve coffee drinks. You might want to check Au Lait for that matter.

MCDONALDS. Brunei is a territory of the bee, Jollibee. Contradictorily, there’s one Mcdonalds here in Brunei and it is found in Gadong, near The Mall. McDo Brunei doesn't serve rice.

TRANSPORTATION. Brunei is a very rich country because of its oil and it offers flexible loans among its people. With that, everyone seems to have a car. Although that is the case, the country still provides public transportation which most foreigners avail. And that is the Purple Bus. 

The purple bus has numbers. It’s coded. A specific bus has an exact route which is paired with an accurate schedule. With that, you can’t be late if you want to reach your destination on time. However, just bring a hankie or a towel to cover your nose when you ride the purple bus. Seriously, it’s smelly. Additionally, all buses are fully air-conditioned. Just imagine the smell trapped inside.

MONEY. For Filipinos who would want to experience Brunei, the normal rate here is BND1 = 30 Pesos. However, that sometimes changes depending on the economy. Believe it or not, food is a bit expensive here. If you’re really saving or you want to work in a budget, you might want to do “TAPAO” or make “BAON” or simply try a one dollar meal called “Nasilemak.” Nasilemak is as similar with our very own BINALOT. It has rice and chicken with sauce.

GREEN ENVIRONMENT. If you are a nature lover and you prefer a rural environment, you’ll definitely love Brunei. Not only will your eyes be pampered with luscious forests, marvelous mountains and fantastic flora and fauna. You will also love the serenity coupled with a clean and fresh air. This is not a polluted country and you will totally enjoy jogging in the morning or simply strolling in the afternoons. In fact, when my father visited me, he fell in love with Brunei's super clean surroundings.

BLOWING OF HORNS. Back in the Philippines, it is normal to blow horns instantly especially on traffic jams. But here, you better behave. Blowing of horn could be read as being “rude,” “impatient” and “impolite.” Of course, you wouldn’t want a police coming at you if you do such impatient act. Unless there’s an emergency, do it!

WEATHER. Weather is unpredictable here in the Abode of Peace. There’s so summer, no spring, no autumn, and no winter. A sunny afternoon could just become wet in a blink of an eye.

TRAFFIC. I admire the Bruneians’ driving attitude. They are disciplined and they know the real meaning of “give way” or “beri laluan.” They stay on one lane. They follow traffic lights. They don’t cut somebody. They give way if there’s an emergency. They give way if the traffic light is broken. With that, you’ll definitely enjoy driving in this country. It is very safe.

CARS. Cars here in Brunei are right-handed and mostly are automatic. So if you are used to left-hand driving, a right-hand could be bit challenging.

DRIVING. If in the Philippines, you can “pay” just to get your driving license, sorry, but here in Brunei, they’re very strict. In order to get your license, you have to pass their written examination and the practical test. However, if you already have an existing license, you just have to convert it to a Brunei one.

BOOKSTORE. As a book lover, the first thing I searched in Brunei is a bookstore. To me, bookstores are my comfort zone. Surprisingly, here in Brunei, there’s a few bookstores and there’s few selections of books. That’s the reason why I shopped a lot of books when I went back to the Philippines last April. On top of that, the books here are a bit pricey. You would rather download a free e-book for that matter.

HAIRCUT. If you like to have a fabulous haircut at a reasonable price, visit Xaxa Saloon in Gadong. Aside from you’ll only get BND12 (wash and cut), you’ll also feel at home as Filipino barbers pampered you with stories, “mga kuwentong barbero!

INDIAN/CHINESE SHOPS. Believe me, if you want to get the best deals on items, visit an Indian or Chinese shop and you’ll get hot finds – cheap items but of good quality.

DVDs. So you love to watch? Whether it’s a series or a movie, get your viewing fix at the nearest CD shop. In my case, I always buy at Chong Hock at the Mall. Five movies cost BND10. Hey, that’s already cheap for a pirated one here in Brunei. Some shops sell 1 DVD for BND4 or BND5. Pricey right? But I suggest, if you’ll stay longer here in Brunei, better grab your favourite series in Divisoria. I tell you, one season here in Brunei will cost you almost BND25 or 750 pesos! Just wrap your pirated CDs properly so they won’t be seen in the airport.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks, very informative as I am planning to travel to Brunei.

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  2. this is a big help for me!! (my bf will be working there soon) i just hope he gets to survive there like you did! =) thanks for this post

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  3. Hi there! Thanks for your comment! If your boyfriend goes to church, he can see me sing every 9:30 mass - solo, responsorial psalm. Just thrown in your questions if you have more. I will be glad to guide you.

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