I finally managed to get a few days off starting Thursday until today. If you think that I have not been working very hard, let me tell you that this is only my second leave (3 days) since last January (5 days) and before that my last holiday was in October 2004. So in the space of 20 months, I have only taken 8 days off (and yet I am entitled to have 60 days off in a year). Do I hear any sympathy out there?
Me, the wife and my 6 year old decided to spend the precious 3 days as a local holiday. This is one of the irony of life - previously we can't really afford to go out the country much even though it was easier taking holidays but nowadays when we can afford it, we can't take the holidays! But we are grateful. It allowed us to discover a few more places for our local holidays right here in Brunei. Even better right here in the District of Brunei-Muara all within driving range. I am really sorry for KBians (but I was born there) or Tutongians (I went to my first school here) and even the Temburongians (my prep school) but I will get to write the more interesting places in these other districts eventually.
So, local holiday. At 6 am - went off to Bukit Merkuching at Jalan Subok. I saw the Home Affairs Minister officially opening the trek up this hill about a couple of months back and thought why not have a look. You have to drive a fair bit into Jalan Subok until you hit Kampung Belimbing (there is a sign) and slow down until you can see a sign on your left hand side. There are two signs (one is a round sign saying something like Selamat Mendaki Bukit Merkuching), ignore this one - if you go through here, you will find yourself in someone's backyard in order to get to the Bukit. Instead, go on about five simpangs further, then you will see a bigger rectangular sign. Go in, passing through a housing estate but at least this one has a proper car parking place. Then you go up the hill passing through someone's pineapples and other local fruits gardens. You get up to the hill and you get to see a fantastic view of ...... (drum rolls) ...... Kampung Belimbing. That's it. I mean that's it. There's nothing there up on the hill. I am trying to figure out why the Minister officially opened the trek until my missus mentioned that it was the Kampung itself which initiated it. I guess you have to go up there yourself and find out. It's a nice trek up the hill, my 6 year old ran all the way to the top, so it's not that particularly hard. [By the way, BB had this to say about the Bukit "...Additionally, they can also take a closer look at a variety of flora and fauna that are found in this area..." After all that long trek, flora and fauna?]
8.30 - went off to Pantai Serasa. I haven't been there for quite a while. The place has literally grown. I mean grown bigger. Where there used to be sea, now there is land. This is one successful reclamation work that Brunei has done. I remembered a few years ago thinking just how long the Serasa spit will last. I can assure you with the reclamation work, the spit will last for quite sometime yet. We went there not to go to the beach but to the huts selling fishes and crabs and prawns. Yes, the seafood there is the freshest and beats even those in Jerudong. So, fresh food lovers, Pantai Serasa at 8 in the morning is your best bet.
9.30 - went off to Pantai Muara. Just off the entrance to Pantai Muara has become completely fortified now what with the new Marine Base and the expected arrival of our naval battle frigates. Only the entrance to Pantai Muara is the last unguarded place. The area has been completely renovated by the new Environment, Parks and Recreation Department (JASTRE - Jabatan Alam Sekitar, Taman dan Rekreasi). There are better walkways, children play area but no sotong tutuk. Apparently the sotong tutuks only come on Sundays. When we were there, lots of kids came. The playground is free afterall and the kids will be exercising all day - can't buy any snacks! All the stalls are closed and apparently only opened on Sundays other than this one Ma Cik selling mangga wani!
The Louis Mini Zoo in Tutong, the Berakas Forest Recreation Area and the Bukit Shahbandar Recreation Area are next. But I will reserve that for future blogs. The mini zoo is particular interesting - it raises all sorts of issues. But the important lesson of today is that there is enough local happenings to keep a local tourist happy.