Kota was brilliant. We love it there. There’s no specific reason, but EVERYONE who had been there before was just happy to be back. Had a lovely day, pootling through town, taking different routes, marvelling at how much had changed in the two years since we were last here. “Traditional cucumber sandwiches” at the new Le Meridien hotel means, oddly enough, TOASTED cucumber sandwiches. Well, cucumber and lettuce sandwiches made with toasted bread, anyway. Very odd!
Brunei was nice enough, I suppose. Waiting over an hour on the quayside for a shuttle bus into town didn’t go down well, though! The place is, surprisingly, much poorer and scruffier than I imagined a tax-free country with petrol subsidised at 14p a litre would be, but apparently there is a two-tier society. Residents and citizens. Citizens get free healthcare, free education and every year the Sultan GIVES AWAY one hundred and sixty houses. Non-citizens don’t get any of that and, even if they marry a local, they don’t get the benefits for ten years. A good way to stop marriages of convenience, but one which inevitably leads to a Haves and Have-Nots society. No where near as opulent and outwardly monied a city as I expected.
They dropped us at the most expensive shopping mall they could find (as usual) and there are only twenty or so taxis in the whole of Bandar Seri Begawan, which makes getting about tricky, especially after you miss a kerb and fall badly… Yes, I’ve done it again! This balance business is really starting to get on my nerves now. Nothing sprained, believe it or not, but i’ve bruised the muscle that runs down the outside of my right calf, which makes walking an ooh ow exercise. I’m sure it’ll be fine in a couple of days (luckily we have two sea days now, which gives me time to recuperate before Penang and Phuket) and I’m grateful it’s not as bad as when i went down on Oriana, but it’s annoying nonetheless. I’m also distressed to have to inform you that it looks like chocolate is a major trigger of my dizzy attacks. Poo.
On the upside, today i went to the art auction on board and although i was tempted to buy three pieces, i resisted all urges to raise my hand. And then they did a raffle and i WON a piece! Yippee! Divine reward for my frugal and restrained behaviour maybe?! There are a couple of pieces that, if they haven’t gone by the end of the cruise, i am seriously tempted to put on my plastic. Dad keeps saying “Where will you put them?” but that’s just silly. Just because I’m homeless now, doesn’t mean I always will be!!! And we all need to fill our walls, right?! Silly daddy.