Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brunei: How Safe Is It for Women Travellers?

just how safe is brunei?

It could be their strict law enforcement.

Or it could be the fact that most of Brunei Darussalam's people are well to do and well-educated that committing a crime doesn't even cross their minds.

I've been reading from travel books that it's generally "safe" in brunei. But being the ever skeptic that I am, I don't usually buy into those stuff unless I experience it first-hand.

Here's how Brunei fared:

I knew I wouldn't be meeting my host Gillian right away since she was teaching and won't be able to slip away from the university until about 5pm. I got to Bandar Seri Begawan two-ish and figured it would be difficult to fluff around the city with a huge bag slinging on my shoulder. So I texted her asking if I could leave my baggage outside her flat. "It should be safe for you to leave it there," came her reply.

"Sweet," I thought.

When I came back 5pm, I was greeted by Gillian and saw my bag inside. After exchanging short pleasantries, she showed me my room and toured me to different parts of the flat. I immediately noticed that her place was surrounded by sliding glass doors/windows. Coming from a country where it's not safe to leave windows open and "security" is a major concern, I almost instantly inquired, "What time do you usually shut the windows?"

"I dont, it's safe to keep it ajar. I don't totally close it but leave a bit of space to keep my papers from flying because it can get windy during the night," she answered.

Great, here i am worried about security and she's concerned with flying papers!

Well, that's good to know!

the view I wake up to each morning

Previously, I wrote how rare it is for people to walk since most locals are expected to drive their own vehicles. Thus, if you're not "most locals" and wanna go and visit the Places of Interests, you either have to take a bus or walk. Luckily, the one I wanna see (Brunei Museum) is accessible by bus. Glancing at the map, I surmised the nearby places of interests would be walk-able.

It took me 2 hours to wander around the museum, and by the time I got out, it's almost past lunch time. The receptionist said that there's an eatery in the vicinity. After walking a few hundred meters and still no sign of the eatery, I decided to stop at the nearest (and ONLY) grocery store. I got myself a cup of yogurt and isotonic drink. The middle-eastern-looking shop owner and his friend eyed me as I downed my yogurt. I told them I was a Filipina touring brunei, and asked how far my next destination was from the shop.

"15 minutes, 15 minutes," they replied.

"I can handle that," I judged.

"Where are you going? Bandar seri begawan?"

I nodded and repeated my next destination.

The shop owner offered I ride with his friend. "He's going to Bandar. He will take you. Bandar you said?"

Hesitant me responded, "No thanks, I can walk."

But the friend insisted, "I go to bandar. Come."

Stealing a look at the scorching road, I caved in.
And prayed, "Lord keep me safe from this stranger".

This should be quick. I reckon if it's a 15-minute walk, we'll get there in 2 or 3 minutes. I learned that he was Pakistani and that he had a Filipina friend before named Rosario Garcia. Then we sat awkwardly the entire time. Nothing scary happened. Soon I realized that the 15 minutes they were talking about was not a 15-minute walk but a 15 minute drive!

I am just so glad that I hitched.

I got off and was endlessly saying thank you in all the languages I know

Terima Kasih!


So is it safe in Brunei?

You bet!


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