Friday, June 17, 2005

Part 1: Brunei and Dubai Sound Similar, Don't They

(Postings fairly brief as I'm limited to net cafes. Oh, general notice I'll hopefully also get to email: The c*nts @ Vodafone fucked up my roaming function so until I get that sorted my mobile is useless. So please don't be mad if I don't respond to your texts or calls; it's just likely I'm not getting them, let alone able to reply.)

6:30pm local time: My first step on foreign soil at Bandar Seri Begawan airport, Brunei Darussalem. Pretty much getting off one plane, getting off another, cough. I'd say the first leg of trip was OK but not phenomenal. Take-off was certainly a thrill and I was lucky enough to be seated next to a lovely old dear from Bowral who liked a chat but who also understood the sacredness of silence. It was the screaming, whiny infants surrounding us both that desecrated the silence. As a gay man, I've realised that, contrary to popular opinion, I am not anti-The Family, merely anti-The Obnoxious Manipulative Brats Whose Parents Obviously Don't Watch Super Nanny Enough. Does this make me a bad person? I think not.

Royal Brunei has so far left me luke-warm as an international carrier (not that I have many against which to compare). The gorgeous Bruneiese (?) female flight attendants, surely none heavier than 40kgs, their porcelain doll faces framed by thin yashmaks, were cool at best, surly at worst. No smiles and little interest in going the "extra mile" (yes, the first of many bad travel puns) for their customers - at least, those in cattle class - emanating from their tiny frames. Plus my telescreen was inoperative so no films for 7 hours. I tried to drown out the torturous sounds of the nursery from hell with Elgar, Mahler, Kylie, Kate Bush, hell, Faith No More - but to no avail. Needless to say I was relieved when we arrived in the viscous sauna that is Brunei.

I did manage to get a couple of pics of a very striking mosque (which, apparently, wasn't even "the impressive one"). Otherwise flying over the city felt not unlike flying over the Sydney Hills district - lots of newly-built, ugly McMansions. I don't imagine Baulkham Hills would be so ridiculously humid, however. Still, the airport was an educational half-hour leg-stretcher. The monitors showed calming nature images with English subtitles to complement the sound of the recorded native tongue, assuring us that we "are in no doubt that the only God is Allah" (or some such). Not sure if this was a regular channel in this country or just stock footage filmed specifically for the airport. Either way, this combined with the Allah blessing each flight piped through the cabin before take-off left us in no doubt as to who calls the shots in Brunei. I mean, I guess unofficially it would be the Sultan, but officially...

I don't think it's quite hit me that for the first time in my life I have actually stood on non-Australian soil. It took over four hours of flight before Australia was finally left behind, a reminder of the might and majesty of my island home. I know 98% of people reading this have already been abroad and I'm sure I sound adolescent, but that's sweet - I love being an 7-year-old adventurer again, sitting in quiet awe as when I would be taken up to the cockpit.

Brunei - Dubai: I have a new neighbour on the plane now and thankfully no infants in sight or hearing. Fun times ahead! I'm wondering if I should introduce myself to my new neighbour. She looks harmless...If only she were the two beefy Poms I was eavesdropping on while waiting in line to go through security at BSB airport. Their conversation ranged from Sydney/London comparisons (apparently, the latter makes the former seem a "friendly, relaxed" place by contrast - uh oh), recent girlfriend break-ups and the Da Vinci Code. Loverly. Hrm, oh well. Onward adolescent traveller...

1 am local time: Dubai International airport for re-fuelling. Impression of Royal Brunei has risen sharply: new male flight attendants are far more professional and courteous, screen is working and as well as movies there's endless music and games to choose from. It would appear I'm good at Chess again. Dubai looks not unlike Las Vegas from the air: this is definitely the Arabic-by-geography-only, Western imperialist-by-soul city I've been told about. The airport was grand enough for me to warrant taking photos (I realised by the end of this trip I will have been to 9 airports. Excessive?)

Credit is running out here, so London escapades to come in next installment. Chowder.


At 18/6/05 2:17 pm, Blogger Miss Ember said...

Ooo, keep up the most excellent TravelBlogging! It's like Adrian Mole with a passport (Pandora-less and queerer, of course).

Looking forward to the next installment of an Australian Penguin in Lon-don (hopefully from Marks and Spencers' Food Hall).

At 18/6/05 6:14 pm, Anonymous bazza (Crows Mascot-I wish) said...

Actually Miss Embers we found that Sainsburys and Tesco food areas, turn out a decent take home meal . Marks & Spencers though do the best baked lemon cheese cake...define.
What we loved in the supermarkets was the wine areas, Australia came under the discription "New World Wines" Makes one feel, so sort of, clean!


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