Thursday, October 30, 2008

Relax in Brunei (2)

The public transportation in Brunei is lousy, for everybody owns car here (just like US…). The government bus is cheap (normally B$1 per trip within the Bandar Seri Begawan area), but the frequency is 30-45 min (the rule is 15-20 min, but, you know, it’s just the rule…), so most of the time you could only take taxi, if you don’t have a tour package. And the taxi fee is quite high, 10 min’s drive can easily cost you B$15 to B$20, almost same price as in Europe and Japan.

Our hotel (Orchid Garden Hotel) is a 4-star one, with a small swimming pool, gym, spa (they have the biggest Jacuzzi in Brunei, but the spa is only opened to male and female customers during separated time slots), etc. My favorite point about this hotel is the big, big guestroom, haven’t seen such a big room for quite a long time… The Chinese restaurant called “Vanda” here is quite nice, from a Chinese’ point of view, and it’s really value for cash, due to the 0-GST in Brunei.
See who has been here?

The royal palace (Istana, as in Melayu) is only open to public during the 3-day celebration of Hari Raya, so we could just take several photos outside the main gate. Cannot see much from here actually…

But the taxi driver we met was really nice: she drove us from the hotel to the Istana, then to the town centre (Bandar), only charged us $20 (normally at least $30), and she even waited till we finish the photo shooting at Istana! Actually Bruneians are quite nice people, who lead a relaxed and cozy lifestyle. We were always given way by the vehicles in the road, not like in most other countries where you need to “fight” for the road. And they are very glad to help you, in one way or another. When we visited the museum the other day, we originally had to wait for 30 min or even longer for the bus back to town centre, but the staff at the museum volunteered to ask the favor from a delivery driver to allow us to take a ride in her MPV. Lots of such things, maybe because Beuneians are just too free of time?

Melayu course #1:
1.Melayu follows a “reversed” order for adjectives and nouns. E.g. “Istana Negara” means “National Palace”, where “Istana” means “Palace” while “Negara” means “Nation”.
2.“Bandar” means “Port”. “Seri Begawan” is the royal title of the sultan who established this city as the capital.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Relax in Brunei (1)

Once upon a year, I will have this kind of rush for a leisure trip. This time, in the atmosphere of global recession, I picked Brunei, arguably the richest country in this world. Ironic...

This is a country covering over 5,700 square kilometres, but with only less than 300k people living in it. You can imagine how jealous I was when I got to know that, given that I was living in a small island of 600+ square kilometres and more than 4 million ppl.

The country is rich because one gift from the mother nature, oil. So they can provide free education and healthcare to all citizens, cheap housing (normally 300k B$ for a two-storey landed property with 3 bedrooms and a big living hall), cheap gas (No joke, in Brunei, gasoline is cheaper that coke, only B$0.50 per litre, and diesel at B$0.30 per litre), cheap cars (B$25k for a regular one, neglectable road tax and insurance), and even cheaper water & electricity supply (I read an ad on local newspaper, one bedroom in suburb area for rent, B$150 per month including water & electricity fee...). Now YOU should be jealous also!

In case you don't know, Brunei is under sultan monarchy, which means the Sultan has the absolute power. He is also one of the richest individuals in this world now. Because of the Islamic culture, there are many social rules, such like ban of alchohol. You can only bring in one bottle of wine or 10 cans of beer, and cannot drink in public (some restaurant might even refuse to "serve" you the wine you bring in!). Perhaps this is the main reason that Lonely Planet doesn't like this country, and only gives it 10 pages in a book named "Borneo" (Borneo is the name of the big island where Brunei, Saba, Sarawak are located in). I cannot even find a street map of its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan online. (There is one in the free tourism guide I got at the airport, but not zoom-in enough for walking...)

Actually it's quite convenient to travel to Brunei from Singapore -- at least two flights a day, and the whole flight is less than 2 hours. Best of all, Singapore dollars and Brunei dollars are exchangeable, so I don't need to bother about the money changer things.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just another Popcorn Movie -- Max Payne

A typical popcorn movie, adapted from some popular video game (although I never heard of it...), a lot of shooting, bombings, fightings, etc. But the plot is so lousy that you just can't wait to "predict" the next scene.

I cannot see any real "acting" from Mark Wahlberg. He is gorgeous in Shooter, but that does not mean that he can only be a "shooter", not even for always. A career in Hollywood nowadays means much more that shooting around with some extraordinary killing machines.

Western audience may still get fascinated by the "black angles", but go check out the Japanese movie Death Note triology! I'm pretty sure that this American version is just another copy-cat.
BTW they even don't pay much effort in the movie posters:
Looks familiar? Now look at these:
Now we can name them "Bad-Luck Gunman Trio"...

Friday, October 10, 2008

What the hell is this world?! -- Burn After Reading

Yup, this is the first sentence I can spell out after watching this movie, Burn After Reading.

Everything that we believed to be true, to be good, to be with hope, were tortured and torn into pieces in this movie. CIA is just another bureaucy, where the "leaders" can do whatever tracking or "erasing" they want, anyway everything will be "burn after reading" at the end of the day. In personal life, you and my wife, he and your wife, and someone with his wife, who knows. You think someone is tracking you down, but actually they are tracking me down (hence you are just a "by-product"). I have a plan on him, he has a plan on you, and you have a plan on who? The husband just lost his job, and the wife went directly to the divorce lawyer. The lawyer even taught the wife how to steal money from her husband's bank account!

There's a group of weird actors and actress in this movie (don't expect George Clooney or Brad Pitt to do anything "normal"). A quite unpopular plot, so you know that they are heading to Oscar, instead of box office. But the performance of the actors and actress are so good (given you can stand the F and S words, there are more than 60 such things in this movie), that you can really enjoy the acting, in spite of this rather uncomfort story. Trust me, if such an unhappy story happens to you, you will want to shout out some F or S words too.

Read the Chinese version:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My first fashion show!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a model, or fashion designer, or anyone that "works" for a fashion show. I was just invited to watch a fashion show, right under the T-stage, and that's all.
It's the Autumn-Winter 2008 series of Banana Republic @ Paragon shopping mall, Singapore. I'm not quite familiar to this brand. It seems that their design are mostly like "can-wear" ones, not those ones you could only see ppl wearing during a fashion show... But friend told me that this brand is quite expensive, compared to the low-profile design....

View more photos here: