Relaxing cool breeze along the calm Brunei River complemented with some aromatic and flavourful Melaka Baba Nyonya dishes onboard the MV Sentosa cruise is an ideal getaway for one who needs to unwind over the weekend.
Tourism Malaysia Brunei Darussalam and Straits Central Agencies’ (SCA) recent river cruise let passengers experience Malaysia with a refreshing view of Brunei’s pristine mangroves and iconic landmarks.
The two-hour breath-taking trip which departed from the Queen Elizabeth II Jetty in Kg Dato Gandi saw a fully-booked cruise of 60 passengers, comprising of SCA’s customers and staff along with the Malaysian embassy and Tourism Malaysia personnel.
The one-day cruise took a customised route which was planned especially for the afternoon and sunset excursion, heading towards Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien (SHOAS) Bridge and Pulau Muara Besar.
Throughout the trip, passengers were briefed about the history of Brunei’s islands as well as the villages and landmarks found along the riverine.
The tour explored along the sultanate’s heritage trail where islands such as Pulau Keingaran, Pulau Chermin, Pulau Baru-Baru and Pulau Berambang can be seen.
Each island holds its own story and historical significance dating back hundreds of years ago with some islands still house valuable artefacts and archaeological finds.
Onboard, the narration given by SCA’s tour guide during the trip was informative as she touched on the islands’ many unique characteristics, entertaining guests with history lessons and folklores.
One of the fascinating islands is the Pulau Chermin. It is the historical site of a bloody civil war that happened in Brunei centuries ago which was known to be the temporary home of the 13th Sultan of Brunei who ruled the country from 1660 to 1673.
Moreover, not only the islands, but passengers were also ecstatic to see the sultanate’s latest pride, the SHOAS Bridge as the cruise passed under the mega infrastructure.
Many were quick to take out their phones and cameras for some photo opportunities with the iconic and breath-taking landmark in the background.
The bridge was named after our monarch’s late father who was known historically as the “Architect of Modern Brunei”.
The $1.4 billion mega bridge was first opened on 17 March 2020 to bring ease of commuters from Temburong District and the other three districts; Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait, as the country’s borders remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the brief pass beneath the bridge, the cruise then made its way towards the open water of Brunei Bay, where guests can visibly see the Pulau Muara Besar from a distance.
The island is home to the country’s refinery and petrochemical plant which is a joint venture between China’s Hengyi Industries and the Brunei government.
The scenic and tranquil round trip was best enjoyed with Malaysian Baba Nyonya cuisines such as traditional Nyonya Ikan Asam Pedas, Melaka Ayam Pongteh, Daging Rendang Masak Melaka and Sambal Udang Petai, among others – specially prepared by Kowira Café and Catering.
Furthermore, the trip back to the Queen’s jetty did not lack mesmering views along the river.
The daily lives of local villagers by the river, water taxi commutes, fishing on wooden footbridges as well as the rows of unique and beautiful designs of traditional and modern houses located on the nearby hills were among the beautiful sight to enjoy and appreciate.
To make the trip more interesting, guests had the chance to put on the Nyonya Kebaya dress for the females and Lokchuan clothing for males for some photo opportunities at the front deck of MV Sentosa.
The tour was attended by Charge d’Affaires of Malaysian High Commission Nadia Azura Mohd Nudri, Managing Director of SCA Hj Musa Hj Adinin and spouse Hjh Suraya @ Saudah Hashim, Director of Tourism Malaysia Brunei Darussalam Hj Ibrahim Seddiqi Talib, General Manager of Kowira Café Hjh Suraya Mangong and Operations Manager of Brunei River Cruise Daniel Hilma Sii.
General Manager of SCA Nur Khadijah Abdullah said that the collaboration was also in support of Brunei’s domestic tourism and that the river cruise is one of the local tourism initiatives hosted by the tour agency.
The cruise was priced at $43 per adult and $38 per child aged from 3 to 11 years old.
If you missed out on this round, worry not as SCA will be back with an evening Baba Nyonya cruise on 17 July 2021 (Saturday) from 5pm to 7pm.
Bookings can be made at 2230801 or 7244848.
Themed-cruise by SCA
The Baba Nyonya-themed cruise was not the first trip of its kind organised by SCA as they previously hosted the “Cherry Blossom Cruise” inspired by the Japanese Sakura season in the springtime.
For the sunset cruise, the trip took a two-hour upstream route into the water village at the heart of the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.
Upon reaching the city area, the entourage of the MV Sentosa was welcomed with the majestic view of the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge that stands beautifully above the waters of Kampong Ayer.
Guests were treated to a hearty dinner of Japanese cuisine and local favourites while enjoying the night view of the water village from the lower deck of the cruise.
On the front deck, people gathered to enjoy the stunning sunset as the gentle evening cool breeze brushes their faces.
The two-storey MV Sentosa has upper and lower lounge areas as well as front and back decks where passengers can go outside and experience the open views.
What’s fun about the Cherry Blossom Cruise was that passengers had the opportunity to take memorable family photos at the front deck while donning Kimonos alongside a mascot of Japanese’s well-known character Doraemon.
“It is part of our monthly cruise to promote domestic tourism. Our reception for the Cherry Blossom and Baba Nyonya was overwhelming as we had fully-booked slots for both cruises,” said Khadijah.
She further said that SCA is planning to have more themed cruises in the coming months and also caters to private events such as birthdays and anniversaries.
“Should people are interested to have their cruising adventure with us, they can just reach out to us regarding their plans and we will try our best to assist,” added Nur Khadijah.
Not just that, but SCA also has other river cruise packages such as Island Hopping and Proboscis Monkey tours.
For this package, the ticket was priced at $43 per adult and $35 per child aged 3 – 11 while infants below three years old are free entry.
Talking about the local tourism industry following the impact caused by the pandemic, she shared that the industry has been popular since the closure of the sultanate’s international borders.
“It is very enlightening to see that local residents are supportive with the (tourism and hospitality) as most travel agencies or tour operators are badly affected by the pandemic,” said the general manager.
Get the latest updates on local and international tourism from Malaysia Tourism Brunei Darussalam on their Instagram @tourismmalaysia_brunei
For more information regarding SCA’s attractive tour packages, reach them on their Instagram @straitscentral_agencies or contact 2243800 / 2230801.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN