Going home... Royal Bunei Airlines
Flights were booked, it was time to leave but this time with some trepidation as we were flying with Royal Brunei Airlines for the first time and the flight times and connections were horrendous!
It was our fault, we'd left booking too late and had been watching in dismay as flight prices rocketed to well over double what we might normally pay. I've flown business in the past for less than they wanted for an economy ticket on Emirates. However, a few weeks ago, Brunei finally lifted all their Covid restrictions and the airline, which had basically been grounded for 2 years, finally started taking bookings and reinstating some routes. To drum up trade, they were
cheap as fuck very competitively priced. I love the journey as much as the destination and having neither visited Brunei, or flown the airline, this was another box to be ticked. The wife wasn't so keen, but as she's tighter than a Scottish duck's arse, and so she didn't take a lot of convincing.
If anyone has never heard of Brunei, its in South East Asia and is a tiny part of the island of Borneo, shared with Malaysia and Indonesia. The King of Brunei is said to be one of the very richest men on earth thanks to oil and it is extremely Muslim, as we will see later! It's also 3 hours South-East of Bangkok which means a three hour sector to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (a good one to remember for the quiz buffs amongst you), followed by a 4 hour wait and then a very lengthy 15 hour sector to London...
The wife hadn't been able to visit the UK for almost 3 years, and although I had had a quick trip over last Christmas, the day we could travel over to see friends and family again in the UK had finally arrived.
It was a beautiful morning and felt like the awful weather and rainy season we'd been suffering with were over for the year as the first leg of our journey began with a 40 minute taxi ride to Suvarnabhumi Airport, getting there three hours in advance of our 13.30 flight to Brunei.
Swampy was really busy which was great to see although we were still all masked up of course! It's not mandatory to wear a mask now but people generally still do.
The evil Thai monster was still wearing its mask...as was the giant keeper of the treasure from Thai folklore...
We were first to the bag-drop having checked in online beforehand and with it being mid-morning, which is usually a quiet period, we were quickly through security and immigration and air-side where it was again great to see a bit of life, and the completion of the renovations had really spruced up the terminal.
Plenty of time for a pot of lunch before heading down to Gate F4 for our flight.
And there she was. The rather smart looking Royal Brunei Airlines Airbus A320 which would carry us to Brunei. We'd read some pretty good reviews of the airline so were quite looking forward to the flight, although there was one strange anomaly. No alcohol whatsoever!
The gate was busy, but not overly so and the flight about half full. Leg room was a little better than most A320s and with it being quiet, there was lots of room to move around to a more preferred seat.
The other cool thing about this aircraft is that it was the first A320 I'd ever flown that had seat-back entertainement. I've flown possibly hundreds of sectors on budget airlines A320s such as Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Easyjet so this development was going to make the 3 hour flight absolutely fly by.
Not only was there entertainment, there was a great selection of movies, both old and new to choose from. To be fair, there was some rather heavy editing to suit such a religious airline but it didn't spoil the enjoyment although some of the more violent movies were about half their original running length!
And so it was time to leave the blue skies of Bangkok behind and as we were pushed off the gate and even before the safety procedures. It was time for a prayer!
Four minutes this prayer went on for as we beseeched Allah to stop us falling from the sky in a fiery inferno. He must have been listening too because I'm still here to write this post...Cheers Allah old luv, as we say in Yorkshire.
Thirty minutes into the flight, another nice surprise. A full meal on a 2.5 hour flight, and you what? It was really nice. Beef or chicken of course so obviously being English and rarely eating Beef in Thailand, the choice was simple. It would have been better with mash and peas though but was delicious and the lean, tasty beef took the disapoointment that I was still eating rice!
As for the crew, they were all locals and were absolutely wonderful. Smiling, friendly and naturally chatty. Genuinely nice people. I stood up for a while in the rear galley and had a chat and a coffee as a couple of the crew gave me some tips for my night out in Brunei on the way home!
All too quickly, we began the descent into Bandar Seri Begawan and landed at just before 4pm local time. Disembarkment was quick and as it turned out, we were the only ones with an onward ticket to London so there were no queues at the transfer security checkpoint where the two most friendly and smiling security guards had us through and on our way into the departures lounge in no time.
Arriving in the departure lounge, we got our second surprise of the day. Now just remember, even though Brunei is a very small country, this is the only international airport in the capital city and the following photos were taken over the next three hours as we waited for the London flight.
As you can see. The whole terminal was closed. Nothing was open and we were the only people in there! It was like being in the twilight zone and really had us wondering what was going on!
As we sat there just trying to take in our bizarre surroundings, a smiling lady came out of nowhere and asked if we needed any change for the coffee machine as she was going home at 5pm! I gave her just £5 and she came came back with my BND$7 and happily chatted with us for a few minutes before explaining that there were only half a dozen flights a day both arriving and departing, and that all the shops closed at 3pm!
Information? Let's hope you don't need any as the desk was also unmanned. The really annoying thing though was the Internet wasn't working. oh, and other annoying thing was that the coffee machine robbed me of $2 and never gave me a coffee...we did ring the helpline number on the machine only to be told be by a recorded message in English that they too had closed at 3.30pm!
The terminal was actually a really nice space...which I got to know intimately over the next few hours!
Just five departures in the following 24 hours.
That's the robbing bastard coffee machine. You and I will meet again in another couple of weeks my friend...
Which seat shall we try next dear?
I was tempted...but managed to resist.
Time ticked on and as it approached 9pm, just an hour before flight time, I was beginning to get a bit nervous. Surely someone else must be catching this flight? I watched the board carefully for any notice of cancellation but none came. What is going on?
I will just mention at this point, if you're a smoker. Cigarettes, like alcohol are not sold in Brunei although if you're a non Muslim, you can bring them into the country but every last stick MUST be declared and a duty of 50cents (USD) per cigarette paid on arrival! There is of course absolutely nowhere to smoke at the airport.
My anxiety was misplaced as flight arrived just a few minutes later from Melbourne, Australia and almost all of the people were transiting here before travelling on to London. I say all of the people, at the gate as we started to board at 9.30pm, I counted around 65 people in total for a 15 hour flight on a very new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner with almost 260 seats onboard.
After again praying to Allah for a safe journey, we left the tarmac at exactly 9.55pm for our almost 15 hour hop to London. At least we were flying in the right direction this time.
The cabin was airy and spacious with lots of legroom. The seats were very comfortable and this is important for a fidgety, impatient old bugger like me, especially when I can't have a glass of wine to help me relax and hopefully sleep. The other huge plus for me was the electronic window blinds were not being controlled by the crew which is the case on many of the airlines that fly this aircraft and is really annoying.
The big touchscreens were bright and again featured huge numbers of movies and TV shows, as well as information and music.
The aircraft's seating was configured in a 3-3-3 formation and with there only being 65 souls onboard, we all shuffled around and had a full block of three seats each and there were still many seats to spare.
The cabin was a really nice and relaxing environment and again, the crew were just absolutely lovely!
The 26 passengers in the full business class must have been seething as we lolled around in our 3 seats!
Soon after takeoff, our evening meal appeared. A choice of chicken or beef, again. So I went for the beef. Again, but this time...
I couldn't believe it. My prayers had been answered. Peas and mash! The fact the plane didn't crash and my food fantasies were fulfilled were as if Allah was sitting on my shoulder!
The meal was simple and the portions weren't massive but it was really tasty. Obviously it could have done with a glass of red or two to wash it down but not to worry, soft drinks, tea, coffee and water were free flowing and you could go to the galley and help yourself to snacks. Even the butter had salt in it and wasn't the usual unsalted, disgusting nonsense that they usually serve over here.
Two hours down, thirteen to go and time to relax as I adjusted my three blankets and three pillows across a full row of three seats and settled down to the Christmas classic, Gremlins after which, I dozed off.
Two hours out and it was time for breakfast and my new found friend on my shoulder had me covered yet again...
Almadullilah! Baked Beans! this trip had started well. Extremely well.
Again, a little stingy on the portion sizes but delicious.
By the time the meal service was over and everything was tidied away, we were starting our descent into Heathrow, landing at 6.25am.
It had been an epic, long flight but it had been smooth and due to the space we all had in the cabin and the fact we flew in darkness all the way meant we could catch some sleep and it wasn't too bad an experience.
Arriving as only the second flight of the day into Terminal 4 meant there were no queues at immigration and within 20 minutes we were out into the arrivals area and ready for the train ride North...
So that's where I've been hiding for the last few weeks. In the UK, trying to avoid social media and eating chocolate but it is great to be back and hope everyone is happy and healthy. Time for morning prayers I think...
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Pot for lunch sounds like my kinda joint. Sorry the mask things are still so fashionable there, they never really caught traction in the states.
Nice trip Nathen.
They've become so programmed here, even Brunei didn't do damn masks and it took some getting used to not wearing them back in the UK and we haven't bothered since we got back to Thailand as there is no longer a law to force us to do so but we have had some mean stares.
Hope you, and more importantly, the wife are OK back in the US and you're getting some new adventures planned. Take it easy fella and thanks :-)
An airport to yourself that is pretty cool albeit bizarre, and so glad the prayer to Allah worked!
It was completely bizarre, at 7pm in the evening too. Any other airport would be buzzing at that time! Getting those baked beans converted me!
I appreciate BKK airport picture, sometimes I have anxiety about these airports and now at least I know how big it can be and such. My most disliked airport so far is KL 😂 I feel like I have to wear jogging pants walking through it. Looking forward to more travel stories😃
BKK is the biggest buiding I hsve ever been in! KL is tiny by comparison BUT like everything involving transport in Malaysia, its totally a weird shape and completely confusing. Have you ever been to the railways station in KL? nightmare, everything is abbreviations and there are different lines and systems running in and out in all directions.
Both Bangkok airports are easy because although they're big, they're just in straight lines!
Brunei was so tiny but lovely. Might be a nice and extremely quiet trip for you, the people were so friendly. Flights direct to Jakarta and Surabaya
😂 HMMM I guess I really gotta wear something comfy and shoes. I haven't been to their railway stations but I took the MRT and it was pretty confusing. It rarely crossed my mind to visit Brunei but my mom is interested in visiting. So maybe one day!
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Great to read an update @nathen007 😊😎 I knew… hehehe
What a journey and so many waits. Eerie to be along in an airport hehehe 🤭
But you arrived and had some beef, twice and even baked beans hahaha 🤣
Enjoy your stay further. Until when are you there?
Have a good evening 👋🏻☀️
I just got back to be honest, now I need a break from doing jobs and chores for my Mum lol
Time flew by and I always really enjoy catching up with friends and family and simply eating, but it's nice to get back to my adopted home.
Now it's time to catch up with everyone in my adopted virtual home!
The empty airport experience was surreal but will be one of those bizarre memories that if I recounted the story in 10 years time, no one would believe me lol
Thanks for dropping by and I hope you and your other half are both happy and healthy. :-)
Hope the journey back home was good @nathen007 and home in a state as left.
Oh I sooo know… hahaha needing a break from a “holiday”
We have that too when we visit friends and family. Hopping around and seeing everybody. It is not really a holidays. And actually hard work hahaha 🤣 they don’t understand that.
Yep, I so know those feelings. 😉
We missed you here…
Yes, like all the other places I have photos from with nobody around, normally they would have been flooded with tourists.
Always happy to read your stories and see your photographs/ videos.
A lot happened actually. Guess what I made it to dolphin 🐬 2 days ago… in 11 months of being here 🎉🎉😎🤩 I am sooo happy about that. There is a post about it too 😉 YAY… happy me!
Further I am right in the middle of doing the logistics and all other paperwork for moving out of Spain.
Up to my 6th country of residence 😊
Movers pick up our belongings 16 December. Everything else is still a work in progress hahaha 🤣
Exciting times, new beginnings. We are “aiming” to settle down this time. Let’s hope… 🤞🏻🍀
Of course first a rental to explore the areas. (Have to find that one too first)
So yeah… all good here 😉👋🏻😊
Have a wonderful day today ☀️
Everyone in Brunei must be afraid of aeroplanes! This must me the most peaceful airport in the world! 😆
Lol..the whole country only has a population of 400,000 people so I guess there isn't much need for aeroplanes!
Hope you're well mate :-)
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Hello!! Welcome back home!!! How long you staying this time? Got time to see us?
Gonna check out Brunei Airline prices now for next year
Arrived back in Thailand on Tuesday! I only had a car for a week but it was a toss up between Weston and Yarmouth when I asked my Mum where she wanted to go for a few days. Sadly, Yarmouth won, purely on distance.
Brunei airlines don't have the biggest route map in the world and we had the flight changed coming back to add an intermediate stop in Dubai which screwed my one night stopover in town which was a huge shame but even so, worth checking them out for a trip to Australia or SE Asia, they were great to fly with.
Hope you're well and refreshed after year another cruise! You've caught the fabled cruising bug haven't you? Lol
Thanks for sharing, I love looking at pictures from faraway places.
I usually find it's not what I expected and it changes my perception of a place.
You absolutely hit the nail on the head ! That is why I love to see 'real life' posts from people around the world in places I'd never normally see, it helps one to understand how others live their daily lives and that breeds understanding and empathy.
That comment made my day. Thank you and best wishes :-)
I always love seeing the departure boards in airports - so exciting to see all the destinations. Glad you had a good trip. I've just been reading that West Yorkshire, well, Halifax, is the new filming capital of the world.
Absolutely. Nothing beats staring up at the boards in wonderment and making a mental note of the all the places that one MUST visit one day. There is always one destination I can never work out where it is !
I guess for the filming, we have Foggy, Compo and Clegg to thank. Only spending a few short weeks a year at home, it truly makes me appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the area I was brought up in.
Hope you're well Shani, I've been managing to catch your wonderful Needlework Monday posts recently, how lovely to see your community still thriving after all this time :-)
You take care :-)
and you 🙂
Hope your trip was fun?
Hi. Thanks for dropping by. It was fun but tiring. catching up on some DIY and chores for my Mum. She had saved up an never ending list of jobs that needed doing bless her lol
Lol.its nice you had a great time, I hope she won't bother you with jobs again lol
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