Tag Archives: Brunei

3 Amazing Ways to Experience a Waterfall

Water is an essential part of life

Our bodies contain about 60% water and we need to drink water everyday to replenish our cells. Our planet’s surface is covered by 75% water and our search for hospitable planets are governed by the search for water. Waterfalls are the perfect metaphor for how powerful and beautiful water can be.

In this post I’d like to share three amazing ways in which I have experienced the power of waterfalls on my travels. Of course, I have to start off with the question:

Awkward or Amazing?

Amazing!

1: Sitting underneath a waterfall

In Brunei, my brother and I hiked through the jungle to the Teraja waterfall. En route I had to remove several leeches from my breeches. The waterfall plunged into a small lagoon, which we had all to our selves. After a brief picnic, we swam to the waterfall. I decided to get as close as I can and sat down right underneath the waterfall. The water came down thundering and the droplets pounded my shoulders and back like rubber bullets. The experience was exhilarating and cleansing. I wanted to scream at the top of my voice to compete with the thundering sound of the water coming down on my head with a surprising amount of force for such a small waterfall.

Such a small waterfall, such tremendous power
Such a small waterfall, such tremendous power

2. Sliding down a waterfall

In the jungles of Ecuador we visited a lagoon for a bit of swimming. The lagoon was the last pool of water in of a cascade of waterfalls leading up to one of the Amazon tributary rivers. We wandered a bit deeper into the jungle to explore some more lagoons. At one point we reached another  waterfall and the guide showed us that it was possible (if you are brave) to slide down the waterfall and to follow the current back to the lagoon. Our G-Adventures tour guide seemed a bit skeptical, but I decided to take the risk. So I had to sit on a very specific rock and then let the water take me. The slide itself was only about a meter before it dumps you into an abyss of water. The pressure of the water was immense and it took me some time to get up (I also had to adjust my bikini). My exit was graceful with all my hair slapped over my face, but it was one of the most adrenaline-fueled experiences I’ve ever had.

Water slide, anyone?
Water slide, anyone?

3. Canyoning/Canyoneering

Canyoning involves repelling down waterfalls whilst strapped in a harness. In Baños, Ecuador we went canyoning with José and 2 dogs. We scaled four waterfalls of 8 m, 12 m, 18 m and 25 m respectively. The first two waterfalls was small enough that we could scale it down directly in the stream of water. It’s an amazing experience to lean back and skulk down the waterfall while the water splashes in your face. For the larger waterfalls, we came down the sides, but trust me, you get an amazing amount of respect for the force of the water crashing down next to you. For the fifth and final waterfall, we slid down like a water slide – a very bumpy one!

Look mom, no hands!
Look mom, no hands!

Life List Entry: Slid down a waterfall

If you can think of any other ways to enjoy a waterfall, drop a comment. Otherwise head to the About awkward and amazing page or the Hire Me page to learn more about the blog and my freelancing career

 

Brunei Darussalam: An Unlikely Cultural Diversity

Awkward or Amazing?

Amazing to experience completely unexpected sides of Borneo. Brunei is not the obvious tourist destination in Borneo. Apart from its lack of attractions, the Bruneians’ love of paperwork can make it quite difficult to get here, especially for South Africans. Even so, experiencing the place that my brother calls home at the moment was incentive enough to visit this tiny slice of Borneo. So, one somewhat unsettling Air Asia flight and 3 visa applications later, I find myself amused by the unlikely experiences I’ve encountered here. Let’s start with the expected.

The Sultan of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei’s wealth and car collection is probably one of the most famous things about Brunei. In fact, every business sports photographs of the royal couple, each in their own frame according to decorum. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien looks quite dapper in his gold suit. The Queen Consort, Saleha Mohamed Alam, looks like she’s desperately trying to remember her husband’s full name.

Brunei Royalty
Brunei Royalty

While we unfortunately missed the opportunity to meet Their Majesties and sneaking a view inside the world’s largest royal residential palace during Hari Raya, we did visit the Royal Regalia Museum in Bandar Seri Begawan. The museum is dedicated to the Sultan’s coronation ceremony and was actually quite interesting. It included an impressive life size replica of the royal procession, complete with a cardboard cut-out crowd dressed in 90’s fashion (even though the coronation took place in the 60’s). My favourite part was the display of gifts from monarchs and ministers across the world, ranging from beaded Swazi necklaces to dazzling scale models of Mecca.

Islam and Sharia Law

One of the main controversies around Brunei is the 3-phased implementation of Sharia Law. As a Westerner and guest of the British Forces, I didn’t really feel the effect. Granted, I had to drink lime juice in an Italian restaurant instead of Chianti and eat chicken bacon (yes!). Clothing-wise I could go around Seria as I had in more moderate Muslim countries like Kyrgyzstan, but in Bandar I stuck to maxi dresses, leggings and covered shoulders.

Censorship

Being a Millenial, I’ve grown up with access to anything and everything online. Bombarded with masses of data, it’s my own prerogative to decide what is good or bad. Here though, someone decides on your behalf and conveniently removes whatever they think might influence you negatively or give you ideas. Let’s look at the censoring of Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag. According to Wheatus, it’s okay to listen to Iron Maiden, but if you bring a gun to school that makes you a ****. Brunei Authorities agree, but prefer to censor out the idea of bringing a gun to school AND calling someone a ****. I see where their coming from.

Gender segregation

One curious example of the accepted gender roles in Brunei reared its head on a boat of all places. We hired a water taxi to take us on a quest to spot proboscus monkeys in the mangrove forests near Bandar. The taxi driver quickly rearranged us so that my brother sat closest to him, not to balance the boat, but so that they could talk. Apparently his very informative commentary had to be directed to a man. I wasn’t offended by this, each to their own culture, but I was heavily offended when the man thought I was my brother’s mother!

Nepali Hospitality

It’s always a privilege to be invited to a party when you’re travelling in a foreign land. I was invited to the farewell party of one of the Ghurkha soldiers of the British Forces. He was on his way back to the UK and the rest of the regiment was ready to wish him well, Nepali style.

After failing abysmally to wrap myself in a sari, I ended up attending in a Western cocktail dress. With platform shoes borrowed from my sister-in-law I stood about 3 heads taller than the Ghurkha wives, which made me even more conspicuous.

After a series of speeches we were treated to some musical escapades ranging from traditional dances to a excellently harmonized rendition of a Nepali pop song from the 90’s that everyone seemed to know the words of. This spontaneously lead to a vigorous dance-off among the men, while the women boogied in their sari’s on the side. At first, I felt quite self-conscious about my status as a giantess, but the ladies’ enthusiasm was infectious and soon we were having the time of our lives.

The next week we were invited to lunch by one of the Ghurkha wives. And that’s where I discovered the most glorious morsel of Nepalese cuisine…fresh homemade chicken momos!

Wine Tasting, Polo and Poolside Shenanigans

Yes, that’s right. Wine tasting in Brunei. In return for my brother’s hospitality, I agreed to host a wine tasting to the British officers. I won’t lie, this was quite a daunting task, for a few reasons:

  1. I haven’t presented a wine tasting in 10 years.
  2. The variety of wine available at the only liquor store in Brunei (located on the army camp) was extremely limited
  3. While I know quite a bit about alcoholic beverages and their innards as an oenologist, I’m not exactly a sommelier and there was a big chance that my Sandhurst graduated audience knew their Sancerre from their  Chablis much better than me.

So, I rocked up with my geek chic glasses in the hope that they would make me seem smart and presented some random Chardonnay wines. Lucky for me, my guests were more interested questions that I DID know a lot about, such as the chemistry behind hangovers. Which probably explained why we ended up jumping off the roof into the garrison pool at 2 am. After some sophisticated discussions such as the possibilities of arranging a polo match, of course.

 

In the end, all travellers want to experience the authentic culture of their destination. While wine tasting, country clubs and saris are hardly the first images that comes to mind when you think about Borneo, I do think that my two weeks here a were pretty authentic view of life in Brunei.

 

Life List Entry: Danced at a Nepali party in Brunei