Three years ago, I was invited by my best friend to visit her in Brunei Darussalam, a country located on the Northern coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia, where she used to work for few years. She sponsored my plane ticket and accommodation. I was very excited since this was a dream come true for me to travel outside the country. She told me, since there was no direct cheap flight from Manila to Bandar Seri Begawan a capital city of Brunei (that time Cebu Pacific doesn’t have a flight to Brunei, only Royal Brunei Airline offers a direct flight from Manila in w/c return ticket will cost you around $500). She said I must book a ticket thru Airasia using Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark to Kota Kinabalu (KK), a city in Eastern Malaysia, on South China Sea which is the capital of Sabah state. I was subtle that moment, a mixed emotion of excitement and fear for I’ll be travelling solo. Before confirming if I’m going or not, a lot of question has come into my mind. What if something happen to me along the way? To whom I am going to stay in KK? Who will pick me up upon my arrival at KK airport? What if the people who suppose to fetch me don’t show up? Where should I go from there? What should I do next? Staying overnight at the house of people whom I do not know and meet in my entire life?
My travel date came; I took a Victory Liner bus in Cubao and headed myself to Clark, Pampanga where I’ll be boarding at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. Finally, I’ve arrived at the airport after two hours of bus travel. I’ve checked-in at Airasia counter, paid my terminal fee and travel tax, filled-out the immigration form and headed to the immigration counter. Since it was my first time to travel outside the country, I was a little bit intimidated with the immigration officer, she began asking where am I going, do I have an invitation, how am I related to the host and where is my return ticket. I answered all her question and handed over my ticket itinerary. I told her that I am a banker and she asked what company I work for. I gave her my company ID and without hesitation she stamped my passport gave it back to me and headed my way to boarding area.
Not so long after settling at boarding area, true enough, I met someone who was also going to same destination, Brunei Darussalam. Yes, I am an extrovert person and conversing to stranger is not really a challenge to me. We had a wholesome conversation while waiting for boarding; he convinced me to tag along with him in the guesthouse where he will stay. For I am obedient, I chose to follow my friend’s advised and stick to designated guesthouse. It’s boarding time, we settled to our assigned seats. He was seated two rows behind me. The plane departed, and along the way, I met two girls who were also going to the same destination. We chatted and I’ve found out that all them will be staying in the same guesthouse. The same with the first guy I’ve met, these two girls convinced me to stay with them.
Finally, after two and a half of flying, we have arrived at KK International Airport. After disembarking at the immigration counters and made our exit to the arrival area, these people doesn’t stop convincing me still to tag along with them, we bid goodbye and separated our ways. For hoping that someone was already there waiting for me, I still declined their offer. Outside the arrival area, there were people holding a piece of paper with name of the person that they’re fetching written on it. There were also touts, asking me where I will go, do I have accommodation and if there was someone waiting to fetch me. I ignored them; my eyes were looking on those papers for my name. I was appalled, no one was handling a paper with my name written on it, I asked around if they knew my contact person and this man has told me that this person is not yet around and I should keep waiting. He even told me that if I want I can stay in his guesthouse instead and he can arrange my itinerary on the next day going to Brunei. I was anxious and terrified, when I saw that these three people I’ve met were now boarding in a van towards their guesthouse. I suddenly headed to them, telling them that no one showed up for me and decided to go with them.
It was late noon, while making our way to the guesthouse; I was amazed with the scenic beauty of KK. Big part of it is untouched and unspoiled. It is surrounded by the mountain and a home of Mt. Kinabalu which is famous for trekking and mountaineering. The town is serene and tranquil; perfect to unwinding if you are looking for a getaway from a hustle and bustle of a metro. It has pristine crystal blue water perfect to basking, surfing, diving or simply relaxing in a hammock under the tree while listening to the sound of the waves.
We have reached the guesthouse, settled ourselves in our assigned rooms and rested for a while. Since it was December and Christmas Eve, the host prepared some food to feast which includes lamb. Oh yeah, it was my first time to eat lamb and I like it very much. It was very succulent and palatable. But you have to eat it while it is still hot; lamb contains more fats than beef. I took a shower after dinner and went to bed.
We woke up at 5 in the morning, the boat from KK to Labuan lives at 7am, an island and federal territory of Malaysia, located six miles off the northwestern coast of the island of Borneo. I took a shower and then breakfast. Then at 5am, the driver transported us to the KK port. Our guesthouse host went inside the terminal to pay the terminal fee and boat ticket for us. Whilst waiting, we had an opportune time to take some photos, boarded, and then boat left at 7am. It took three and a half hour to travel from KK to Labuan.
We have arrived at the town of Victoria, Labuan at almost 11am. We off boarded and exited the port. Since our next boarding time was 12:30 noon and lives at 1pm, to reach our final destination, Muara port Brunei. We grabbed a lunch at nearby local restaurant. There were vast selections of Malaysia food; I chose chicken curry for it is my favorite. At exactly 2pm, finally! I have arrived in my final destination-Brunei Darussalam. My best friend met at the arrival area of the port. Fortunately, the guy that I’ve met throughout my trip was a son of my best friend’s friend. What a small world! We bid goodbye and traveled ourselves to Bandar Seri Begawan where my friend was residing.
I must say, my first solo travel experience was very memorable and rewarding. I’ve met new friends along the way, witnessed scenic view of the island of Borneo and ate lamb. Watch out for my article for I’ll writing my travel experiences in Brunei and I’ll be featuring the top places you must visit if you’re planning to go there.
Have you travelled solo lately? How was your experienced?