Saturday, November 24, 2007

First Impression

I worked and lived in Miri for three and a half years but I never once set foot in Brunei, even though it is merely an hour drive away. I had heard so much about it, some good, some bad, ok, mostly bad. Until last week, I was there attending training for a week. Finally I’ve got a glimpse of Brunei.

I flew into Miri on Sunday and drove across the border on Monday morning. First impression: it’s flat and deserted. This pancake flatness extended to the horizon, as far as the eyes could see. There is nothing but secondary bush. For a small yet rich country, the road is surprisingly bad: narrow, patchy and bumpy. Indeed, first impression is the most powerful and lasting; especially if it’s a bad one.

The first day of class finished around 4 pm. After class I checked into the apartment accommodation pre-arranged by the course organizer. I inquired at the front desk on where I could change some Bruneian currency, the lady replied that I could do that at a mall nearby, but the shop was most likely closed. Goodness, it’s not even dark out yet!

The next morning another attendee told me that he went into the town for dinner. He took a bus there, which took no more than 15 minutes. After dinner and a bit of walk about, he had to take a cab back into the hotel because the bus service stops running at 7pm!

Well, all are not bleak and bad in this country. Most of the daily needs and necessities such as education, housing, healthcare are free, if not heavily subsidized. In these USD100 per barrel crude price days, petrol is terribly cheap, 33 cents/liter. Cheap dirt! It’s almost a crime not to drive.

Local folks and foreigners alike, they told me that this place grows on you. As much as you despise it initially, and can hardly wait to get out, however as you stick around for a bit, you can’t help but love the peace and quiet of the land. Laid back lifestyle, friendly folks and safe society, it’s one of the best places to raise a family.

Unfortunately I was not here to raise a family. I checked out on Tuesday and commuted daily from Miri everyday.

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