Friday, 31 October 2008

Experiencing every aspect of Asia

We went out for dinner last night to the ILotus, one of the better restaurants here in Brunei, and had a lovely meal. They are known for their 'coconut prawns' but we also had some sweet-and-sour fresh fish fillet and some honey & ginger chicken, with seafood fried rice. It was all so yummy!

We were all very full when we got home, and no one had any room for dessert, or even coffee. Mum didn't feel very good and she actually threw up before going to bed, but we thought that was just from over eating a bit. Until - I woke up by Nathan telling me that his farting had come with some consequences...

Then it all broke loose, he kept going back, and letting it out from all directions - I struggled all night, not to start vommitting and was actually ok to drive the kids to school this morning.
When I came back, it turned out Mum had continued to be sick all night, and Dad had just started as well! Yes, we have been so charming the bunch of us all day!

I managed to go and pick Linnea up, but one of our friends offered to bring home Lucas later when she saw the state of me - and we have all spent the rest of the day on the sofas, and in the cool air conditioned bedrooms, feeling pretty sorry for ourselves.

Now, we seem to have got rid of it all, and we had all had some dry toast (yay...) for dinner. The kids weren't with us, so they have been all go all day (we're feeling really bad we couldn't take them to their Halloween party tonight though, but what can you do?) and now we are going to try some tea!

I guess, food poisoning is another thing you have to try at least once here in Asia, part of the experience, huh?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

School excursion to Bukit Shabandar

The kids in Lucas' year group went on a school excursion this morning, to the recreational park Bukit Shabandar (where I normally do my exercise runs) to have a look at the jungle and the flora and fauna there.

We tagged along, I like these excursions and to see the kids in a different environment. They always behave so well, it's so nice to see!

Today we took the walk around the lake, and the kids looked for different animals and fish; they listened to the sounds of the jungle - and we were even lucky enough to see a turtle in the lake!

While the kids had their morning snack, Mum and I hiked up to the top of the first hill (out of the nine!) to catch some of the nice views. It was hard work because it was really hot by now, but we got up -

- and down!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Jerudong Park

Since it wasn't raining tonight, we decided to have an early dinner and go to Jerudong Park with the kids. Again - we hadn't been yet (!), so it was a first for us as well, a bit of a rekkie!

Jerudong Park was built in 1994 in conjunction with the Sultan's 48th birthday celebrations. It was the largest and most expensive amusement park built in South East Asia, and back in the day it was a state-of-the-art theme park. During it's first few years of operation, Jerudong Park featured no admission fees and free rides.
At the peak of its glory, the 57 ha big park was packed with visitors who had a selection of more than 30 different rides to choose from, including the first suspended looping coaster in Southeast Asia.
Big artist as Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were flown in to perform in the park, and everything was free!

However, the number of visitors and tourists has dropped significantly since then and the administration has started a small admission fee. Now there is just a few rides still open, but it was still nice for kids our kids' age. It's like one big playground.

There was just one other little group of people there, otherwise we had the whole place to ourselves. It's like a ghost town, slightly spooky, but the kids had a good time trying out a few of the rides:

Just before we left Morfar and Nathan took the kids on the bumper cars. We thought we would never get them out of there! They all had so much fun driving around and crashing into eachother - the kids were laughing so hard and giggling so much at every crash, but I'm not sure who had most fun actually...

The market

Sometimes I go to the market here to buy my vegetables, and to get fresh fish and prawns. I like the markets, everything is so fresh - and cheap!

Today we went to the market in Bandar Town, which is supposed to be a market not only with food but also handicraft items etc. It's located along the river and is on every day. I just have never been before, cause I rarely have any reasons to go to Bandar.

I wasn't too keen though on this one I must admit... Sure, it's interesting to see all the different - and to us, strange - vegetables and things they are selling, and all the different fish, both fresh but mostly dried (for snacks, uuuh!). But the fish smell at 9 am wasn't very pleasant, so we left the market after having snapped the obligatory photos, and went for a walk in town instead.


Recycled phone cards:

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A religious morning

This morning we went to see the two of the most important landmarks in Brunei, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque.

We started out with the beautiful Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar city. We had dressed appropriately in long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, as you should, but it was actually unnecessary since we got robes to put on at the entrance anyway.
This is the mosque that celebrated 50 years this year, and is known as one of the most beautiful mosques ever built.

As usual by now, we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the mosque but we walked around the outside and took some nice shots.

On three sides the mosque is surrounded by an artificial lagoon, at the center of which is this beautiful replica of a 16th century Royal barge; used previously for religious ceremonies such as the Koran reading competition.

We were actually not allowed to move around too much inside the mosque either, so the visit was pretty quick.

We then decided to go and see the other mosque as well, the one we usually call the "Big mosque" or the "Blue mosque". It has a sea-blue roof and shimmering golden domes - and it's the biggest mosque in South-East Asia.
The Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque was built in commemoration of the Sultan's 25 years as ruler of the country and was officially opened in 1994. The structure is absolutely grand, the largest prayer room fits 3000+ men!
Not only the mosque is magnificent, but it's surrounded as well by a lovely park full of fountains and flower beds.

We had a very nice morning visiting these beautiful mosques AND the normal warm and sunny weather is back too, it's all good!

I must explain one thing though:
I haven't done any sightseeing or visited any "tourist spots" previously during our time here in Brunei, for this reason - I knew we were going to have a few guests and I was going to do it all now, and probably again and again. So I saved it and now I have seen more in ten days than in the past 15 months - and this blog has turned in to a proper "travelblog" for a while! :)

Monday, 27 October 2008

A new Zlatan?

Linnea started a new ASA (=After School Activity) today - football!
It's one of the dads (who is also a teacher at the school) together with some older students who are having a free period, who has started a little half-an-hour ASA for the littlies.

Nathan was there today, since it was the first time, and he took these pictures:

He said she seemed to have lots of fun, and she learned a lot of new "moves", that she also showed us when she got home.
The kick:

The head bow:

And the arms-out-to-catch-a-ball:

The Lego empire

Mormor has been really busy since she has been here. Her mission has been to build ALL Lucas' Lego - and she has done it with great passion! Actually I'm not sure who has had most fun? (Daddy has helped too, to be honest, Mummy has mostly tried to sort the pieces with no great results...)

Here is but a glimpse of the Lego empire:

The whole of Lego City has been constructed, and the Star Wars, and the Mars Mission, and the Batman, and the Indiana Jones and... well, you get the point. ALL of it!

Here she has started to take on the Duplo, that Linnea now has inherited. She is almost done and Linnea is thrilled to have some Lego all of her own!

Both kids have been playing with the Lego & Duplo for hours and hours on end these last few weeks. I love hearing them talk and tell their stories, and take part in their very imaginative play (today the garbage guy celebrated his 100th birthday f.e, with a climbing wall and a big playground for all his friends!).

A cultural morning

This morning the kids were back at school and we took the opportunity to go and explore a couple of places here in Brunei they probably wouldn't be so interested in: the Brunei Museum and the Royal Regalia building.

The Brunei Museum, located along Jln Kota Batu:

Again, I got a pleasant surprise, as I hadn't expected much - but we spent over 2 hours in the Brunei museum, wandering around browsing the different exhibitions.
It displayed a huge gallery of Islamic art, a history of the oil and gas industry in Brunei, with little models and everything; and an ancient ceramic collection from a shipwreck, which sank 500 years ago.
Furthermore it had a Natural History gallery, that showcased the fauna of Brunei in an exciting style. For example I got to know a bit more about all the different snakes we have here, not that I needed to know some of those things...
There was also a gallery with Traditional Brunei Culture and at the moment they are having a special exhibition about the Omar Ali Saifudden Mosque, due to it's 50th anniversary.

Unfortunately you weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the museum, but on the other hand entrance was free - so that was positive!
Same thing at the Royal Regalia Building, no entrance fee, no cameras - and no shoes here!

This palace/museum was most impressive! We spent just over an hour there, but could probably have stayed longer if it wasn't because we started to get hungry at this stage...
The Royal Regalia building was built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the Sultan's accession to the throne in 1992.
This museum is home to a huge collection of Royal regalia; including to mention just a few things the amazing Royal chariots, tons of gold and silver ceremonial armory, the jewel encrusted crowns used during the coronation and a replica of the throne, which is used by the Sultan on state occasions.
We also spotted the baby blue 'Order of Seraphim', given to the Sultan by our Swedish King Carl Gustaf during his visit here in 1994. (It's an order of chivalry, the foremost order of Sweden, only awarded to foreign heads of state etc.)

There was also an exhibition which fully documented the history of the constitution of Brunei, although we skimmed through that part pretty quickly.
But I must say, I wont hesitate coming back here for more with any other guests arriving, it was most exciting!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Change of time

Just a little note for my European readers - since you changed to winter time yesterday, the time difference for you is now 7 hours +.
That is Sweden/Denmark etc + 7 hours = Brunei time.
UK + 8 hours = Brunei time.

Just so you know. In case you want to call us. Or Skype. Or something. :)

Tasek Lama

It's been a very unusual weekend here in Brunei, it has actually rained non stop from Friday afternoon until this Sunday afternoon! Night and day - just rained and rained and rained... That has never happened before during the time we have been living here and normally I wouldn't be too bothered (we sure get enough sun), but it's a shame since my parents are here.

Today we took the kids to the Jungle Gym (indoor play center) to get them out of the house a little bit. It's only so much Lego you can build before even the most hardcore Lego fan gets a bit stir crazy...

When we got out of the Jungle Gym, it had actually stopped raining for a bit! Or at least, it wasn't pouring down, so we decided to go and explore one of the parks that is situated smack bang in the middle of town, Tasek Lama.

We actually hadn't been there yet, and I was really pleasantly surprised. It was super nice, really well looked after, had a nice playground for the kids, a 8m climbing wall and a lot of pretty scenery.

Of course, we didn't go around any long tracks since we had the kids with us (and the Dehlis, our Danish friends), but what we saw was really beautiful. Since it has been raining like crazy the waterfall was coming down in a raging speed and so were the little streams around the park.

Tasek Lama is a recreational park where loads of people do their daily exercise. Especially in the afternoons it's packed with joggers and walkers all around the tracks and hills.
Another crowd that hang around Tasek Lama, are these fellas:

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Rain, rain - go away...

... please come back another day.

We are in the wet season now. For sure. Last year I can't remember it ever bothered me that it rained or that it never really rained long enough to call it a rainy period. Now it does. Must be because my parents are here...

Mostly it rains for a bit every evening, which is ok - but today it has rained not only all night, but ALL day too. A lot.
Just when you think that it can't possibly rain any more, Mother Nature turns it up a notch more and let it pour so much the trees bend over and the roads flood.

So we have had a homely day, building Lego. Lucas whole Lego City is now built up and Mormor have moved on to the Duplo, for Linnea. Quite a mission but a good thing to do on a rainy day.


The kids all loved the new playhouse the other day at Linnea's party. It was a great success!

But Linnea has also been out there on her own several times, having her snack there etc.
It's a lovely addition to our garden and has really made our house even more into a home, now even the kids have their own little place to go and hang out in!

An important Anniversary

Five years ago today, I logged on to this Swedish parenting website for the first time. It took me a while to find my way around all the information, and above all - the over 300 different discussion groups.
You could discuss pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, kids clothes, traveling with kids, school, kids food, kids toys, having lots of kids, adoption, working with kids, kids names, kids with different illnesses etc etc etc. There was certainly somewhere to find answers to all your questions!

After a while I found one of these groups that I thought was really suited for me, a group for parents living abroad. I started reading and following the discussions, and slowly I started participating too. I found many of these mothers were in similar situations to mine, even though they might be living in different countries.
These Mums live all over the world, in Paraguay, India, UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Greece and so on. Some are married to other Swedes, some to people from their new country - and some are like me, married to a foreigner and living in a 3rd country, new to both of them.

Five years later, I still log in daily to "my" web page. We are a steady group of friends - and yes, I say friends - who write and have short chit-chats daily. Sometimes about serious things, but mostly about not so serious things.
After a while though, as the discussions on this page became more and more personal, we decided we needed another forum; so we created a closed homepage, only for "us". To become a member, you would have had to been writing for a while on the open page, to be let in to the group. We are about 35-40, in the core of this group at the moment, and we share everything with each other - from small news to big.

We have had big get-togethers, in Paris, Amsterdam, L.A and several times in Sweden the last few years. Every year we do a Secret Santa swop and send Christmas presents all over the world. Together we are better than any encyclopedia, we can answer most questions and advise in many situations.
We have followed pregnancies from the blue line on the stick to the birth of each new baby (one even in real time, via the wifi in the delivery suite!); we have supported those who have been going through difficult divorces and/or lost their children to their exes. We have been there for them who have battled serious illnesses or lost loved ones, we have been there for scary job interviews and big moves. In every situation, we have been there.

I say friends, because I know more about many of these girls, than I do about a lot of the people who around me here, or even my old friends. I say friends because they understand so many things about my situation and my life, that no one else does.
I say friends because I have actually met about 20 (!) of them in real life in different contexts. (Some while we have been home visiting family at the same time in Sweden, some in their countries while I have been traveling there, some on a weekend we arranged in Amsterdam a couple of years ago, and some in the UK before coming here etc.)

I say friends, because these girls mean the world to me and I wouldn't know what to do without them. Happy 5th Anniversary!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Kampung Ayer

Today we went on a boat trip around the water village, Kampung Ayer, and out a bit from Bandar along the river. We started out at 8 am, to beat the heat, but actually today has been perfect since it's been a bit overcast, so it wasn't too hot at all. Plus, it's quite windy on the water, so it was ok.

I have done this trip once before, but I must say that we were even more lucky today, with our animal spotting.
We saw a big monitor lizard up in a tree, a black snake (also in a tree) with pink and yellow stripes, and loads of Proboscis monkeys in different places, loads!

We could go all the way in through the roots of the trees, and came really close to the monkeys, who weren't bothered at all about us visiting their "home". They just sat there and chewed away at their mangroves.
Unfortunately, I had brought my camera without a charged battery (duh), so all today's pics were taken by my parents. Try and see if you can spot the animals!

(This is just cool roots, no animals here:)

Not only did we see lots of exciting animals, we also went around to see some of the sights. Like the view of the Sultan's palace from the river, the two old Royal main palaces, the Royal burial site, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and of course - the water village.

The Sultan's palace, Istana Nurul Iman:

The Royal burial site:

The water village in Kampung Ayer, often also called 'Venice of the east', is home to about 30,000 people and it's completely self sufficient. It has it's own fire station, police station, petrol station, power station, museum, several schools, shops and everything else you might need out here.

Both the kids were extatic, as they were allowed to drive the boat:

We also got to visit a house out in the water village. It's quite amazing and hard to believe you are actually in a house on stilts, over the water. Mind you, 12 people are living in this house, it's a big household and I'm sure they are pretty well off with this water taxi business of theirs.
Lucas found a friend (or more like it, a TV) right away, and so did Linnea, she was fascinated with their baby mice:

We posed nicely in their little "show room":

Outside. You can get around most of the water village on these board walks. It's very well connected. Otherwise you take a water taxi which is very cheap.

After our tour, we went for a stroll in the capital. There is not much to see (there is some museums, the Royal Regalia building and a market - but we will do those next week without the kids...), but we took some pictures outside the main mosque:

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque just celebrated 50 years this year, and it's named after the present Sultan's father. This mosque is considered by most Bruneians as the country's major landmark.
It sits on an artificial lagoon and is the largest mosque in the far east. It stands at 52 m high and is topped with a gold dome made out of 24 ct gold, that virtually can be seen from anywhere in Bandar seri Begawan.
The dome is supported by walls of Italian marble, which also forms the mosque's columns, arches, and towers. The stained glass and the chandeliers were hand made in England, the granite shipped in from Shanghai and the carpets are Saudi Arabian.

Next week we will go and see it inside too.