“A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures”

2 12 2014

I’ve first heard of Brunei in my 10th grade.  Our Geography professor used to call us in front of the map, tell us names of capitals, ask us to point the country on the map and tell him the name. When he said “Bandar Seri Begawan” my mind went blank. You see, the previous year I had failed geography for one trimester and it was one situation I never wanted to find myself again. I redeemed myself by answering his next two questions and forgot about Brunei until a lovely day this year in June.

I was surfing the Tedoo.ro Facebook page and they shared a super offer for Australia with Royal Air Brunei. I emailed Alex and we decided that day to go to Australia, with a 5 days stop over in Brunei. And the planning began for what transformed in our own very #EpicTrip 🙂

Every time I told friends we are going to Brunei, I got the same chuckle and question: “Why would you go there? Go to Malaysia instead!” Hmmm… I am very glad we went. I am only sorry we didn’t stay the full 5 days and went to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. We wanted a taste of KL city. Well, it was bitter! Next time I am going to Malaysia, I will skip KL entirely 🙂 I guess I’m not made for city life anymore… huge buildings, noise, dust, pollution, crowds and crowds of people and tourists.

But let me go back to Brunei.

It was lovely, everything was really lovely. I remember thinking that it must be the kindest place on earth. We checked the market, took a boat ride into the sunset, walked the city streets in the evening and for the second time in my life I was impressed by a hotel: The Empire Hotel and Country Club! I learned Sunday while I was doing a bit of research that “it was originally built as the residence of the Sultan’s younger brother, Jefri, who until 1997 was Brunei’s minister of finance.” We did not stay here, we are backpackers after all 🙂 But we spent a few hours walking on the beach and enjoying the sun and the silence. On the day we were supposed to go back, bask in the sun and get a tan it rained and we stayed in.

My favorite part about Bandar Seri Begawan was Kampong Ayer, the water village! 8 kilometers of wood houses built on large pillars along the Brunei river. I’ve read it has around 30 thousands inhabitants and it’s the largest of its kind in the world. Our guide was the boat rider, who showed us around and told us stories about people and his own family. They have two boats and this new house in the water village, where he lives with his wife, two children and his mother-in-law. He showed us the schools and the mosque from afar, the most interesting houses and the best stories about each.

I think these were some of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever had. On this boat, laughing with him and Alex, learning about the river, Brunei’s history, palaces, kingdoms, fishing, the simple life… How random of us to go to Brunei! How random of us to take this specific boat ride and experience this moment of pure perfection. How random and how lucky!

There’s much more to discover about Brunei. And I hope to do it one day 🙂


Paradise was behind these windows…

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Hello Paradise

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If I’d believe in marriage… this place screams HONEYMOON!


Alex and the sea


Have I mentioned how much I love trees?…

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The  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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Boats on the Brunei River

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Evening walk…


This place must have a history… maybe it was someone’s home long time ago, perhaps it will be again one day.


The mosque again… and malls on each side 🙂 Ahh, the modern world.


So we went back to the river to search for a boat


We took our time walking, mesmerized by the sunset


The scenery becoming more and more alluring


We watched fishermen, wondered about their stories…


And then, the next day, created a story of our own 🙂


Glimpsed pieces of paradise and wondered what’s inside…


Daydreamed about a river-home of our own, a place to write stories about lovers and fish 😛


Talked with the river and laughed at its spunk…

Said thank you at the end... it was time to go back :(

Said thank you at the end!… it was time to go back 😦

“I’m Going on an Adventure!”

9 06 2014

Again 🙂

This year has been all about traveling. 10 brand new countries to add to my growing list as I’ve been inspired by a friend to have a traveling objective before turning 30… yup, 30 countries before turning 30 in October… and it’s totally happening! And I am not counting Romania, as I was born there and lived in Iasi for a huge chunk of my life 🙂 But you… you must GO and visit Romania, it is absolutely beautiful and you will fall in love forever!

So about this big trip I am talking about… It will be epic: Brussels -> London -> Dubai -> Brunei -> Kuala Lumpur -> Melbourne -> Tasmania -> Sydney -> Great Reef Barrier -> New Zealand -> Melbourne -> Brunei -> London -> Brussels/Amsterdam (I haven’t decided yet).

The tickets are bought except for London -> Brussels/Amsterdam and it’s happening a couple of months from now, before I am moving back home in Romania for a short while, with the noble purpose of writing my master thesis, finishing my secret project and taking my driver’s license!!! Lots to accomplish by the end of January 2015 :), and EVERYTHING just makes me so happy.

My sister told me something on the phone the other day, after I told her about my epic adventure. She is worried because it feels like I am racing to do everything and see everything before I run out of time somehow. What she said made me think; realize most of my life I just felt sort of immortal. Yes, I know I am not. I don’t want to live forever, I also don’t hope to die young. But for sure, I do want to see everything!!! And I am a careful traveler and my partner in “crime” is smart and as careful and just great!

I started traveling around Romania in 2005 and in the summer of 2006 I left the country for my first trip outside. I felt in love with Vienna and Paris and Monaco and Cannes. Hated the smell in Venice and was too tired to like Amsterdam. I don’t remember anything about The Hague or Brussels. It was one of those super lousy bus trips. We were traveling by night and visiting cities by day… And then I entered Louvre for the first time… ❤

I swore off organized bus trips in those 3 weeks but my passion for traveling grew to be one of the few exclusive things that make me incredibly happy. I read travel blogs and write down lists with things I want to experience, places I want to see and food I just have to eat. And then I go! I am not talking about fancy traveling. I am talking about taking my backpack and exploring. And yes, sometimes taking the bus 🙂 I did it in India, in Brazil and in Thailand and in lots of other places… of course, not for 3 weeks in a row… We fly low-cost and use youth hostels and backpackers heavens… We eat delicious street food while we walk around with starry eyes.

I grew a lot as a traveler since spending 6 months in Ghana in 2009 without even having my own photo camera. I believe traveling changed me for the better and I cherish my photographs more than any other of my possessions. I don’t always have time to blog about my adventures and some moments are so precious that I don’t want to share them with anyone else… But if I were to give one piece of advice to a large group of people… I would say: Travel and see the world! And do it with respect for the people and the country you are visiting.

I hope you all found the things in your life that make you incredibly happy and I hope you enjoy these things as much as possible!

Me happy 😛

Ghana 2009, picture taken by Emma with Klepo's camera :)

Ghana 2009, picture taken by Emma with Klepo’s camera. Can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years!

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