Attraction/Town you are aiming to visit: Bandar Seri Begawan
Distance from Port: 16 Mile - 30 minutes by car
Mode of transport we used: Taxi US$40 each way
English spoken by locals: Many do speak English. We had no issues.
Ships tour necessary? No - safe and easy to navigate and negotiate
Hassle from merchants and taxi drivers: Minimal.
Standing in the long queue during ship embarkation, it amazed me just how grumpy people looked. I felt like shouting, "Hello people! We are on vacation. Be happy about it. It's not like you are in the line at the DMV! Smile for goodness sake. This wait will not last long and soon you will be eating a fabulous lunch...get some perspective!"
Of course, I didn't say any of that out loud (or at least louder than a mumble to My Husband!)
When a Fun Couple near us, the only ones laughing and seeming to enjoy themselves, caught our eye and pulled us into their happy time with some banter, it was lovely and it made the time fly by.
Our first port of call was Brunei. We docked in Muara, a thirty minute drive from the main town Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei is quite a wealthy country with it's own oil fields. Petrol and thus transportation is cheap.
It is also a Muslim country and quite devote. Friday (the day we were there) is a holy day and so lunch hours in places like the museums were extended, if the museum was even open at all. Not being much into museums, we didn't mind.
I think it's important to respect the sensitivities of a country you visit, especially if it takes very little effort as in this case - covering your shoulders and wearing longer trousers and skirts. Let's face is, very few folk getting off a cruise ship are supermodels - do we really want to see all that flesh anyways? Dressed appropriately, I felt perfectly comfortable here.
On the morning we landed in Brunei, My Husband and I were still at breakfast when the Fun Couple from Embarkation Day walked by and started chatting to us. Upon exchanging plans for going ashore, we quickly realized our independent plans ran along the same track, and we decided to team up and split the costs of the transport.
Princess Cruises was offering a "Bandar On Your Own" excursion for $59 per person. This is simply a lift into town without any type of tour. Had the four of us taken that, we'd have spent a total of $240 between us. That's the typical mark up the tours have. Instead we four traveled the same distance for $10 each, at a time that suited us, in a taxi.
We wanted to take a river taxi to the water village of Kampong Ayer. The cruise was offering a trip there, along with a cruise to "see" proboscis monkeys in the wild, and admittance to a museum for $239.95 per person.
Our local taxi driver dropped us at the river and we picked up a water taxi who would give us a one hour tour of the water village and out to the mangroves to look for proboscis monkeys - for $10 each. The museum was the only thing we'd miss out on... for $229.95, I could live with that!
The mangroves jungle looked dense and impenetrable - I wondered what snakes and creatures hung out in there.
Some of the buildings were beautiful. I wasn't sure what this was - another palace or a mosque? Perhaps if I'd been on a "proper" tour I'd know! The dome is at least gold leaf, if not pure gold.