23 Feb 2013
I swear that the picture could have looked more beautiful and realistic and still retain that painting look, had it not been for my shitty point-and-shoot. Make no mistake about it: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques I’ve ever seen. The photos on this post are a toned down version of what you’d see when you actually go there. So go there.
The mosque is located just across Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, a shopping complex, and Taman Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, a public park. This is why Brunei rocks: all sorts of buildings (tourists attractions, malls, food outlets) are located side-by-side, so you don’t waste much time in getting to your destination. This saves the country millions of dollars by not having to spend it on building an efficient transportation system
(and using it instead to buy the Sultan’s Ferraris).
Before reaching, I stopped by at the Taman first (it means ‘park’ in Malay). It was one big patch of green with an adjacent waterfall and the Sultan’s face overlooking the entire area. The current Sultan, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has a ubiquitious self-portrait – if you haven’t seen him before, he is that one face you’ll see definitely more than one time in the city. And by that, I don’t mean the usual altar-sized pictures (though every household in Brunei has that), but large, billboard ones plastered on buildings.
In fact, I think I saw his portraits about ten times a day, and that’s just a rough average which actually could be higher. It must be so awesome to be the ruler of Brunei, being the center of attention at all corners of the nation. So awesome that I don’t recall even Jesus having that kind of publicity in a Christian country.
And so awesome that millions of dollars are spent on the Sultan’s portraits and Ferraris instead of donating it to the people who obviously need it more, but there are no riots on the streets.
Based on the inscription next to the portrait, I found out that this is where they have their National Day Celebration and Parade every year, and that I arrived two hours after the party was over 😦 Damn, after all that talk about the Sultan’s face, I missed the chance to see him in real life!
The tour goes on though, so I went around the big field snapping away. I was trying to take pictures of myself with the surroundings to prove that Ruzhi was here… however, I was travelling solo and didn’t bring a tripod along with me, so shooting self portraits was a real bitch – getting the camera to act on a self-timer, only to get pictures of Ruzhi-less blue skies because the damned camera failed to stand still and slipped back.
Also, running back and forth from the camera was tiring and made me look like an idiot.
Thankfully an old man noticed this lone idiot though (really, it was just all grass, the Sultan’s face and one foreigner) so he came over and asked me what I was doing, and I gladly replied and asked for his help. However, he produced pictures that still fall far from net publicity, and I felt rather embarrassed to ask him to do retakes until I liked what I saw, cos I didn’t know him in person.
The weakness of travelling solo, I guess. But I will still travel solo. Bleah.
After I’d finished taking photos, I then went over to Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. Technically, the opening hours of the mosque (meaning entry into the building, not compound) are from Sunday to Wednesday at 8am – 12pm, 1.30-3pm and 4.30 – 5.30pm, Friday at 4.30-5.30pm, while being closed to non Muslims on Thursdays. I arrived within the operational time, but wasn’t allowed to go in because it was closed on National Day. Bummer.
Going around the compound outside was no problem though as it’s open from 8am – 8.30pm daily. The scenery was simply beautiful! The white wall and golden dome blended very well with the surroundings, especially the sky and clouds, and both structure and sky shone together. It looked like a painting, which felt so surreal since it’s a real-life building. What I was just too beautiful that even my lousy camera failed to fail.
The viewing doesn’t just stop for the day; I returned at night! Places of worship have the privilege of being all lit up when it’s dark, heightening their beauty and divinity all the more, and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque was no exception. Bathed in yellow and green light, the mosque shone, literally and metaphorically.
I felt and still feel extremely satisfied with my pictures of the mosque, though my pictures certainly aren’t the best out there. Apart from camera quality, there is also the question of water pollution. You see, things were a lot more beautiful and heavenly many years ago. Take a look at these – I vouch that there was no Photoshop-ing:
Just look at how nearly immaculate that reflection is, which is perfect for both the pilgrim and traveller. Unfortunately, development causes pollution which destroys the Earth’s natural beauty, so the lesson is: travel now!
Visiting the mosque and Kampong Ayer made for a very good itinerary combination, especially on the first day. Touring them extensively was awesome and paved the way for the upcoming days with anticipation, and the places I went to on those days gave a very good impression as well.
It wasn’t just about the attraction within these places of interest; as I’ve said so many times on this blog, the relaxed pace of life is what gives all these places their ‘kick’. You could throw in just about anything into Brunei, from a mosque to a museum or mall, and it’d blend perfectly well with the happy, carefree mood of the country. The only exception would be adrenaline-high outlets like bars and nightclubs…they don’t go too well with the conservative and quiet setting.
So I’d like to think of Brunei as an urban countryside; its country theme makes you feel the joy of slow living, while on the other hand it’s urban enough to give you the facilities and goods that are usually lacking in a typical countryside.
I still have one more entry about my first day in Brunei though, which continues from Part 3, explaining how to get to Kampong Ayer by foot without having to pay for a speedboat. Typing and mashing away to publish the post asap. Ciao for now!