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Borneo? Brunei?

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Oct 6th, 2014, 03:16 PM
  #1
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Borneo? Brunei?

Will be in Singapore on a business trip later this year and have a few days to spare and would like to explore a new destination. I've made many trips to Singapore and I've explored some nearby places (Bali, Melacca, Kuala Lumpar, Penang, Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Manila to name a few).

I have no interest in beaches. I am interested in culture and history.

I'd like to hear from people who have been to Brunei and Borneo (whether the Brunei part, Malaysian part or Indonesia part. What are the rainforests like, I get the impression that these are no different than in the Philipines, Thailand or various parts of Central America. Is there anything unique in the rainforests?

I get the impression Brunei has a few sights, is the country worth visiting? Is Brunei an expensive destination in terms of food/transport, etc.

Any advice on Borneo and Brunei will be appreciated. Thanks.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 03:41 PM
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I've been to both Malaysian part so Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak. I researched Brunei and decided there was no reason to try to include that.

If you just have a few days, I'd suggest Kuching. It is a charming city with a nice pedestrian-freindly waterfront area. There are some interesting things to buy like locally produced pepper and interesting crafts. There are also some worthwhile day trips, such as to Bako.

I've not been to the Philippines, but I don't know that the rain forests there are renowned for the wildlife. Borneo is. If you had the time, I'd highly recommend the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. It is located in the Danum Valley, the place one is most likely to see orangutans in the wild.

The rainforest where we stayed look very different to me than Thai rainforest, the country whose rainforests I am most familiar with.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 03:51 PM
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Thanks for the reply Kathie. The last time I visited a rainforest was in Panama, I was bored as can be as I'd seen exactly the same (or better) scenery and wildlife elsewhere. I do appreciate nature sights but don't want to see the "same old, same old" when I travel. The best rainforests for wildlife sightings I've seen are in Costa Rica.

I'd never thought of Kuching, I'll read information on the destination and check flight prices/schedules.

I appreciate your help.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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Other places a short flight from Singapore I'd recommend are Java (central and/or eastern, depending on your interests) and Bali, basing yourself in Ubud for the culture.

If you had more time, Burma is one of the most fascinating places I've been, but you'd need at least 10 days, IMO.

You might find browsing some of our photos to be helpful: www.marlandc.com
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Oct 6th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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Thanks for the link to your photos, Kathie. I've been browsing your website and it brings back many memories of my travels.

Funny you mention Ubud, I did that some years ago, also as a side trip from Singapore.

On my last trip to the region I had more time to spare and took 8 days to explore Cambodia, it was wonderful but very commercialized. I've always said I must get to Burma BEFORE that too gets commercialized, we'll see if that ever happens.

How similar is Kuching to Georgetown, Penang? I didn't care for Penang, much to my surprise Georgetown is Unesco listed and has some colonial buildings and historic sights. I did enjoy Melacca.

Kota Kinabalu is out of the question as it's primarily a beach resort.

I only have a weekend to spare it's not worth exploring Java as I won't have enough time.

In terms of flights my best connections/prices are for Bendar Seri Bergawan or Kuching. It's a toss up between these two places.
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Oct 6th, 2014, 09:13 PM
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KK is only a beach resort if you want it to be. There's enough to keep you occupied for a few days without going anywhere near the beach. Hire a car for a couple of days and head towards Mt Kinabalu.

We had a couple of nights in Brunei, staying in BSB. Did an exhilarating speedboat trip inland through the rainforests. Felt a bit like Indiana Jones.

From Brunei we got to KK by sea via Labuan. That's another exciting trip especially if the weather turns and the South China Sea starts to swell.

Had a few nights in KK, then flew Air Asia to Kuching for a week before backtracking to Brunei via KK and Labuan.

Brunei is a bit like Saudi Arabia with a smile.
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Oct 7th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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Sorry to hear you got to Cambodia after it became overrun. We loved Luang Prabang, Laos, but I know it has become much more popular sine we were there.

I don't consider Kuching very similar to Georgetown. There is a small museum with info about some of the local tribal groups. There are stores along the waterfront that sell local crafts, which are quite interesting.

KK is not primarily a beach resort, though there are resort hotels outside of town on the beach. In fact it's a rather gritty place, with the roughness I associate with the docks. LL's suggestion (above) of Kinablu is certainly an option, though we found the park disappointing after spending time in the primary rainforest.

Between BSB and Kuching, it is no contest as far as I am concerned - Kuching would win every time for me!
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Oct 7th, 2014, 10:11 PM
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Thank you, Kathie and LancasterLad for your helpful replies.

I've just booked a ticket to BSB. Why did I choose BSB, a few reasons:- flights were much cheap than Kuching (granted any savings on the flight will be wiped out once I book my hotel as these are no doubt more costly than in Kuching), flights to BSB aren't daily and fit my schedule perfectly.......and, the primary reason why I choose BSB is that I only have two nights to spare and felt that Kuching and it's surrounding area deserves more time and BSB and the surronding area can be seen comfotably within the time frame.

I will keep Kuching and KK in mind for another trip when I have more time to travel. Both destinations have daily flights from SIN so I'm sure to return to this forum and ask about each destination whenever I get around to travelling to these places.
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Oct 8th, 2014, 08:22 AM
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Do come back and tell us about your time in BSB. I know several people who have traveled there for business and have described it as the most boring destination they've visited. I hope you find more to interest you than they did.
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Oct 9th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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I'll report back on what BSB is like. I'm actually looking for a change of pace, a bit of relaxation and sightseeing. While BSB isn't on the tourist trail it'll be a good getaway from work and my coworkers!
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Oct 10th, 2014, 04:28 AM
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2014trip. Good for you. If anyone suggests to me that a place is boring, then that's a bit of a challenge.

Anywhere that's devoid of tour groups is a great place to be.

A little bit of homework will give you enough to do in or around BSB for some couple of days.

Definitely do so speedboat ride through the rainforests.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 06:52 AM
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LancasterLad, do you know which area of the country you explored when on the speedboat ride. I've been reading about Ulu Temburong National Park, did you visit this place? It's a day trip from BSB.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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Sorry, can't remember. All our notes are hand written and at home, which is about 10,000 miles away from where I'm sat in Bali Airport.

All I recall is going to the waterfront at BSB, seeing a speedboat trip advertised, and going for it. Very exciting as it twisted and turned as it sped up the waterway.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 07:51 PM
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Thanks for the reply, LancasterLad. Enjoy your current trip!

Kathie, I'll report back after my visit to Brunei.
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Oct 13th, 2014, 02:59 AM
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Hi 2014trip -

My husband and I went to Brunei last year primarily for diving, but we added a one-night stay at the end of our trip at the Ulu Ulu Resort in the Ulu Temburong National Park. Other than a small group of travel writers from Singapore on a press junket trip, we were the only guests staying there and therefore it was blissfully quiet and peaceful.

We did the package that included the night jungle walk and morning canopy walk and we loved both. I really enjoyed the night jungle walk because I love critters and I've never seen so many perfectly camouflaged frogs in my life! We were really hoping to catch a glimpse of gibbons and the famous rhinoceros hornbills, but we only heard the gibbon calls and saw the hornbills flying high above.

I'm a nature and wildlife lover and have been to Kuching (Bako National Park) as well and I'd rate it and Temburong equally, but Temburong definitely has fewer visitors (at least when I was there).

The city/downtown didn't do much for me. An employee at the dive shop was so excited that my husband and I wanted to try the local food that she and her husband took us to a favorite restaurant and showed us how to eat Ambuyat. On our way there, they gave us an impromptu city tour and we saw all the sights in less than two hours.

If you dive, Brunei has some of the best wreck diving in the region and the dive sites are literally empty because Brunei is only beginning to promote itself as a dive destination. Even though I'm usually not a fan of wreck diving, I had a wonderful time.

By the way, if you enjoy a beer or wine in the evening, remember to buy it at your departure city as the whole country is dry. Non-muslim visitors are allowed to bring in alcohol for their own consumption, but it must be declared at customs.
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Oct 13th, 2014, 04:53 AM
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Thanks for the info negodeia. We will be travelling through Brunei next year and confess that I hadn't thought of it as a diving destination. Which dive shop did you use?
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Oct 13th, 2014, 05:12 AM
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We went with Oceanic Quest. There aren't that many dive operators in Brunei and I believe Oceanic Quest is the most established and famous one. The dive operation is superb and professional, but the accommodation is simple. It's more like a youth hostel with shared bathrooms than a dive resort. There really isn't any other hotel option nearby. We know friends who chose to stay at the golf resort in town and Oceanic Quest provided transfer service each day. If we were to go again, I think we'd choose the resort as well simply because the dive shop is far away from town and there is nothing to do in the evenings.
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Oct 14th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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ngodeia, I'd never thought of Brunei as a diving destination either. I appreciate your comments on the country.

I've got my sightseeing itinerary organized, I'll be visiting BSB and will travel to a nearby rainforest too.
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Oct 15th, 2014, 01:29 AM
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Many thanks negodeia, I will take a look at Ocianic Quest once we have our dates finalised. They also seem yo have operations in other places we are visiting which may prove useful.
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Oct 15th, 2014, 07:10 PM
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2014trip and crellston - Have a great trip!
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