Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Saturday 3rd May - the Long Journey

London - Dubai. After an early start on a very cold morning in Essex, I arrived at Heathrow in plenty of time, and feeling pretty relaxed, thanks to a nice leisurely drive by Mark, and an empty M25. I managed to get a window seat, as I'd hoped, and luckily sat next to a very nice man, who was flying to Dubai to spend a few days with friends. We chatted for a lot of the flight, so the time passed pretty quickly.

Before the plane takes off, they bless the flight, and a prayer is read out, which was a nice touch. On the down side, as the airline is Muslim, there was no alcohol on board, which just hadn't occurred to me - I was looking forward to a couple of vodkas to help me sleep on the second leg of the journey! There is a screen at the front of the plane, with a map of the journey, how far to our destination etc - nothing unusual there. Every now and again, a picture of a plane was shown, with an arrow coming off it - it took me a while to realise that this was showing the direction of Mecca. I didn't see anyone kneeling to pray though.

I was really looking forward to tucking into some breakfast, so when they started serving food at 10 o'clock, I thought 'great!' Unfortunately, they'd started serving lunch - lamb stew or sweet and sour chicken! Of course, I managed to eat some!!

We eventually landed at Dubai after 6 hours and 40 minutes. I couldn't see much as we came into land, as it was a bit hazy. I had 20 minutes to stretch my legs, before we were due back on the plane, also just enough time to get a bottle of vodka from Duty Free ($12.50!). It was then time to settle down for the second part of the journey.

Dubai - Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan) Yet more dinner was served at the start of the flight - I'd have loved a glass of wine or a vodka to go with it! I tried to get some sleep, without much success, so this flight went a lot slower than the first one, unfortunately. 2 hours before we landed, they served breakfast - scrambled egg with a raw-looking chicken sausage. Thank god for the chocolate muffin that also came with it!

As we came into land, the skies over Brunei were clear - I could see a beautiful beach with a winding river behind it. My first thought was that I must find out where it was. Everything was really green (no surprise there then) and the houses looked beautiful. I then caught a glimpse of the Sultan's Palace - I was really excited to finally be arriving.

I got through immigration pretty quickly, and didn't have to wait too long for my suitcase (always a nervous moment!) While I was declaring my vodka at customs, I spotted Steve pacing up and down outside - fantastic! I was so pleased to see him!!

I just wasn't prepared for the heat and had a bit of a shock as I walked out of the terminal - it felt a bit like being wrapped in a duvet that had just come out of the tumble drier!

The air-conditioning in the car was very welcome as we set off back to Steve's apartment, and I got my first proper look at Brunei.

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