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Borneo & Brunei - April/May 2011



Brunei - Sarawak

This afternoon we checked in at the 6* Empire Hotel & Country Club.
This is the most prestigious resort in Brunei. Actually, it's the only resort in Brunei. The entrance to the lobby of the hotel is like entering a grand palace. The 25 metre high central atrium has marble floors & columns, covered with complex Islamic arts & designs in shimmering gold leaf, glittering crystal chandeliers and staircases with gold-plated balusters laden with 370 tigerís eye gemstones & the handrails coated with pearl & semi-precious stones.

The rooms are the huge - the standard deluxe room at Empire has an entrance hall before bedroom & a door to a bathroom almost the same size as the bedroom. Our room had a view of the ocean. There are two large & luxurious armchairs by the glass door to enjoy the seaview. The table had been laid with beautiful & delicious chocolates & cakes for our snacks. The beds were king size too & very soft & comfortable. The whole room is elegently presented to a very high standard of comfort & luxury. The bathroom, with its own view of the ocean, is covered with marble from wall to floor with 2 separate glass doors to shower & toilet together with Mr & Mrs hand basins with gold taps & marble worktop.

The hotel also has Club floor rooms & suites & an exclusive breakfast room for the Club floor elegantly decorated with antique armchairs & tables. The Emperor Suite at the top of the hotel covers 666 square metres including a private indoor swimming pool & cinema. The top floor also houses the Empress Suite next door. Royalty as well as world famous figures have stayed at the Emperor and Empress suites.

There are several swimming pools in the well established tropical gardens. There is also a private sandy beach facing the South China Sea. There are golf, tennis, badminton & other watersports available at the hotel. One can stay here for a few days or a week to enjoy the leisure activities as well as luxury at this remarkable hotel.

We left the amazing Empire hotel next morning & moved into the 4* Radisson hotel and inspected other hotels in Brunei including the 4* Centrepoint & 3* Brunei hotels. The buffet dinner at Radisson that night was excellent with barbeque seafood (the squid was the best & tender), roast beef & lamb in western & Oriental style combinations. They were delicious. The roast beef & lamb are so well known locally that the restaurant was packed that night.

Next morning we started our Brunei city tour with the visit to the spectacular Jamí Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, followed by the Royal Regalia Exhibition Hall and a view of the magnificent Istana Nurul Iman, official residence of the Sultan of Brunei. After lunch we transferred to a boat to visit the water village, the largest water village in the world including school, police station & fire station. We also visited one family home in the water village. Afterward we rode further into the river, to see proboscis monkeys & birds.

Due to our evening flight from Brunei to Kuching being cancelled, we drove to the border & crossed over into Sarawak with minimal immigration formalities. We were transferred to another local car & drove onward to Miri to pick up a domestic flight to Kuching, arriving in the early evening & transferring to the 4* Grand Margharita hotel. This hotel is situated in an excellent position right on the river bank. We are using this hotel in our Superior hotels category.

Henry was to be our guide in Kuching. He picked us up next morning & drove us to the small market town of Bau to visit the famous Wind & Fairy caves. The Fairy Cave is a bit of a climb up many steps to get to the cave entrance & then more steps climbing up high inside the big open cave. There is a narrow & dark entry deep inside the cave but this requires expertise & special equipment & training to get in. The Wind Cave is a contrast. We were able to walk into the cave with our torches in semi darkness to look at bats & birds nests. The noises of the bats is deafening. Our torch was able to see them hanging upside down in the darkness of the cave. It was fascinating.

We returned to the city of Kuching to take a city tour including the Sarawak Museum, Chinatown, Tua Pak Kong Chinese temple, St. Joseph's Cathedrial, the Syariah Court, market & the Colonial Law Court House etc. By 5 oíclock we were boarding a boat for a couple of hours cruise along the river past Kuching city. It is a pleasant to see the city from the river & some of the outskirts on route. We were back at seven & Henry took us to the famous local food court of seafood restaurants on the top floor of a car park. It was a wonderful sight with open air seating in the centre of the open space surrounded by line of food stalls with beautiful displays of seafood. There were different kind of fishes, lobster, king prawn, squid, meat, wild mushroom & vegetables. We are using this seafood restaurant for some of our tours in Kuching.

Next morning we left Kuching & drove to the pier on the Lemanak River.

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Empire Hotel
Empire Hotel
Emperor Suite Private Pool
Emperor Suite Private Pool
Jamí Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque
Jamí Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque
Probosis Monkey
Probosis Monkey
Fairy Cave
Fairy Cave
Chillis in the Market
Chillis in the Market