Brunei is an incredible and surprising place, full of beauty and wonder, so how did I end up sleeping next to the weirdest, grossest, creepiest bastard in the whole country? I woke up early to a sunny morning, scoffed a balanced breakfast of a packet of chips and a can of Red Bull, then heard the first signs of someone else being in my hotel – a couple having a noisy, grunty root in the next room. Shit, they were having a good time! They were knocking furniture over and I could hear the bloke screaming, “I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming… wait, no I’m not… oh, I just did!” at the top of his lungs. I had a chuckle to myself, and then grabbed my stuff and stepped out the door.
Just as I was locking up, the door next to me burst open and a fat, bald, sweaty bloke wearing only a tiny pair of undies fell out of it, panting, then gave me a wink.
“Bloody hell, mate, you and your girlfriend sounded like you were having a good time,” I grinned.
“Oh yeah… my… girlfriend,” he replied in an American accent, looking round suspiciously.
He introduced himself as Cled and stuck out his hand. I shook it happily, then asked him where his girlfriend was.
“You’re shaking her,” he laughed, and I snatched my hand away.
“Well, gotta run!” he chuckled. “Miss Righty was just the warm-up! Now it’s Miss Lefty’s turn, and she’s one kinky bitch!” I watched his slimy, bulbous body disappear back into his sex grotto, vomited heavily into a pot plant, then went down to meet my tour bus.
Wait, tour bus? No, no, no! Turns out I’m the only person in whole city who actually wanted to go on a tour, so I was on my own with two locals, in their car. Well, at least I’d get personalised service.
I can’t for the life of me remember their names, so I’ll just call them Cheech and Chong, for no reason other than the fact I think it’s funny because smoking pot is punishable by death in Brunei and they almost certainly don’t smoke the herb. Anyway, they were good blokes, and pointed out a bunch of cool stuff as we drove out of Bandar and into the countryside… which took about 10 minutes. It’s not exactly a big city.
We hooned through forests, occasionally passing cars going the other way. As we travelled further into the middle of nowhere, it occurred to me that Cheech and Chong could easily shoot me in the head and take everything I had (about $25 in Brunei cash and a half-eaten packet of Twisties). But they didn’t, luckily. Instead they took me into some sorta nature park and took me for a tour through some sorta boring museum. You know the type – photos of animals, a few stuffed beasties and fuck-all else. There was, however, a great view from the back deck, out of a crocodile-infested lake.
From there, the boys took me for a quick bushwalk, pointing out the various trees and vines and ferns, and what they were used for in olde-timey medicine (for some reason, most were used to give old blokes stiffies. I though about grabbing some for Cled, but decided it would be like handing a tin of petrol and a box of matches to a pyromaniac). The weird thing was that the trees and shrubs were very, very similar to the patches of rainforest back in Gosford – it felt like I was strolling around in the bush back home, which was comforting. I didn’t find any filthy old sploodge-covered pornos here, though, which was disappointing.
Next stop was a truly breathtaking lake, with a rickety old wooden footbridge taking us across to the other side. Bizarrely, there was a toll of a few cents to cross, and my guards dropped the cash into an old ice cream container that was tended by no-one. In Australia 1) no-one would pay the toll if there wasn’t anyone there and 2) any cash in the bucket would be stolen, along with the bucket. Brunei, eh, what a place!
We ended up on a tiny island with a few picnic tables, and Cheech told me traditional story about a giant turtle while he had a ciggie. When he got to the part of the story where some dude supposedly gathered up a bunch of wood and built a ladder to the moon, I wondered whether he had more in common with his namesake than I’d given him credit for.
It was a truly beautiful spot, though. Still water all around us, running into deep rainforest, with a handful of rotting sheds standing like ghosts amongst the green. The absolute silence was broken only by occasional boats puttering through the sunshine. I would’ve liked a swim… if the water wasn’t full of bloodthirsty crocodiles.
I could’ve stayed there all day, enjoying the view and chatting to the boys, but time was marching on and I was getting astronomically hungry. Back into the car, a drive through more forest, and we were at a near-deserted shopping centre in a tiny, nameless village. It’s kinda earie just how few people there are in this country. We ducked into a restaurant and I ordered some sort of traditional chicken meal and a giant glass of tea, which came with the ingredients – tea, milk, brown sugar etc – layered, and tasted great.
Chong didn’t have a lot to say, but Cheech was more than happy to talk about sport, work and drinking with me. Drinking, but isn’t this a dry country?
As a Christian, it’s cool for Cheech to drink in private, and he can bring in 12 cans of beer across the border from Malaysia every 48 hours. So what he likes to do is drive out to the nearest border, where a bunch of pubs cling together. From there he gets absolutely shithoused, dumps a couple of six-packs in the boot and weaves his way home.
“Don’t you worry about getting breath tested?” I asked.
“It’s a dry country,” he replied with a grin. “We don’t have breath tests.”
Shit, this place gets better and better!
With that, the tour was over bar the ride home. It wasn’t a great tour – and pretty disappointing compared to the trip I’d wanted to go on, which involved a canoe ride down a river and a walk along a boardwalk through the jungle canopy – but the lads made it a fun day and I even handed them a tip at the end.
I had time for a quick nap and a dip in the pool, then it was back into bustlin’ Bandar for a proper squiz at that water village. This time, rather than dipping my toe into it, I plunged head-first into the maze of brightly-coloured huts that stretched out over the water for as far as I could see.
There’s a specific ‘tourist’ area of the village, and I certainly wasn’t in it, and as I wandered further into the belly of the beast I felt more and more out of place. But not once did I feel anything close to fear, or as if I was in danger. Everybody smiled at me, said hello, waved, followed me around chatting. There’s no real poverty out there at all, just a peaceful lifestyle and happy people.
In the middle of the shacks rose another huge, golden mosque, which looked both completely out-of-place and incredibly fitting at the same time. Brunei really is a wonderfully surprising country, and not in any way how I suspected. Those visions of a barren, Middle Eastern-style place were as wrong as a Wayne Swan budget.
With the sun plunging below the skyline and the village rapidly descending into darkness, I hit the frog and got out of there. With walkways going this way and that, and the village turning in on itself, I didn’t think I’d make it out without the fading light of the Asian sun.
I took another wander along the waterfront, again marveling at the speed boats zipping around, before stopping off at the same restaurant as the night before for a bite. This time I added a bucket of chips, so by the end I was as full as a fat girl’s shoe.
It was nice just sitting there by the water, watching happy locals wander about and enjoying the incredibly laid-back atmosphere. If only I had a pretty girl there with me, it would’ve been perfect. Ladies? Anyone? Hello!
I took one last walk around the town, headed back to the hotel, grabbed my towel and went down for a final swim before knocking off for the night. Of course, the pool was deserted… except for a blubbery figure in a dark corner.
“Cled! How’s it going, bro?” I asked, and the chubby pervert let out a pained hello. He was pushed up against one wall of the pool, and as I got closer I could see that he was struggling with something, as if he was trying to get out of the water but couldn’t.
“You right over there, broski?” I enquired, putting down my towel.
“Yes, yes, feel free to leave me alone,” he spat, and waved me off. Something was obviously going on, so I walked closer and fuck me dead if Cled wasn’t buck naked, his arse cheeks shimmering like two heavily-cratered moons under the water! And then I realised why he was so panicked and embarrassed – his dick was stuck in the pool filter!
“Don’t be embarrassed, dude,” I laughed. “Who hasn’t decided to fuck a hotel pool filter and ended up getting their schlong sucked into it?”
He was red and sweaty and telling me to get out of there, but I couldn’t leave the poor prick stuck like that, so I went in and told the bloke at reception what had happened – that Cled must’ve slipped, lost his trousers and somehow fallen penis-first into the filter.
“Mr Cled must be very clumsy,” he chuckled, “because that’s the third time he’s done that this week!”
With a swim out of the question, I packed my back and lay back for a snooze, with visions of the beautiful Perhentian Islands – and the next day’s horribly long trip to get there – floating around in my brain like a fat dude with his dick caught in a pool filter.
I originally wrote this in May, 2012, shortly after washing my right hand with bleach.