A Travellerspoint blog

January 16 2011

Royal Brunei Airlines - THE TRIP IS OVER

overcast 25 °C

Well I haven't had a moan for a while, so here goes

The on-line reservation system is good, the people on the customer service number in London were very quick to answer the phone and very helpful and check-in at Heathrow was a breeze, and, in fact, the actually in-air travel was fine. But, the Royal Brunei staff would have trouble organising a piss-up in a brewery

At the departure gate at Heathrow there were 6 staff members; excellent you might think but unfortunately only 1 of them was checking the boarding passes and passports so we queued for ages and the plane left 1/2 an hour late

When we got to Dubai for our 1 1/2 hour stop, it took 1/2 an hour to get off the plane and into the airport as they have devised a very cunning method of counting people off (and back on)

When we got to Brunei at 10:15am, there was no information anywhere about where we should board the shuttle-bus to take us to our transit hotel. We looked outside the arrivals lounge but there were no "Orchid Garden" buses. The tourist information office there made a call and advised that we were not now staying at the Orchid and should go up to the Royal Brunei office just around the corner; here we were told to wait while they tried to sort out what was going on. After changing their minds a couple of times, we were staying at the Orchid after all and the bus would be along soon. So after 30 minutes of hanging around we were off to the hotel. At reception we were told that out booking had been cancelled at the beginning of January, by Royal Brunei. They made a few calls to the airline and got nowhere and so eventually the manager just said "check them in and I'll sort it out later" - very kind of him. We then asked what time we should get the bus back to the airport and 7:45pm was suggested

We slept soundly for a few hours and then decided to have a quick look at downtown Bandar Seri Begawan and the river. The hotel bus would take us in at 5:15pm and reception said we could easily get a taxi back at 6:30 or so. Downtown must be one of the most boring places in the world (apart from Byron Bay in the rain) but we had a walk around and watched the water taxis zooming between the quay and the villages built on the Ayer River. Then came the hard part - we could not get a taxi, we could not see a taxi, and none of locals had any idea where they might be. After 30 minutes we decided to call the hotel, but the number they give on their room card is an answer machine only. Getting just slightly panicky, I asked a girl in a pharmacy if there were any hotels nearby from where we could call a taxi - "no". She tried to call a taxi but could not get through. Getting just a bit more panicky, she suddenly suggested that her husband could give us a lift for the cost of the petrol, and 20 minutes later just before 7pm we were back at the hotel with a pleasant 45 minutes before the bus left for the airport which I confirmed as soon as we got back to the room. Thank you pharmacy girl and husband

And surely that's the end of the story? But no, there's more. Just as we sat down for a 1/2 hour of relaxation, the phone rang and the news was that we were booked on the 7pm bus and it was waiting for us. Fortunately we only had carry-on bags so a few minutes later we were on the bus, only to then spend an agonising 2 1/2 hours waiting and queueing in what is definitely the most boring airport in the world

So the old saying that "you get what you pay for" proved to be true. In our defence, I should say that when we tried to book a flight back to Australia, it was when the snow and ice had been around for just a bit too long and I'm sure that every Australian in the UK was trying to get out. For 3 days I tried to book on-line with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai, Qantas etc. but every time I selected a flight and went to the payment page, the flight had been sold out. And so to Royal Brunei Airlines (and GBP 660 one-way)...

The most exciting picture I could take in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan

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AND SO TO BED

Posted by kforge 18:19 Archived in United Kingdom

January 15 2011

Starting the long trip back

overcast 11 °C

Today we left Cockfield and drove to Russell Square in London. Our satnav was determined to take the most convoluted route onto the M11 and we ended up going via Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow - very scenic but very slow. Then it decided that the best way into London was through the area where the main Olympic stadia are being built! I can't believe it only took 2 1/2 hours with all of this messing about. The good thing however, is that this horrible Garmin nuvi 205 satnav was stolen or removed for security reasons from my case at either Heathrow, Dubai or Brunei's aiport

We stayed at the very comfortable Grange Blooms hotel a few metres from Russell Square (GBP 128 per night) where the garden actually backs onto the British Museum

The Money Room in the museum is fascinating especially this 1847 Valentine cheque of love:

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6am Sunday saw us driving a wonderful traffic-free 'tourist" route through Shaftsbury Avenue, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Piccadilly and into Knightsbridge past Harrods and the V&A Museum to pick up the Cromwell Road out to Heathrow Airport - certainly the best tour of this part of London I've ever done

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Posted by kforge 17:35 Archived in United Kingdom

January 13 2011

Clare

overcast 14 °C

It's been raining since we got back from Devon but today was just overcast and the temperature soared to an amazing 14C. So off we went to Clare, one of the lovely villages near Bury St Edmunds that we could definitely live in (Clare, Cavendish, Long Melford, Hartest and Lavenham)

Elaine and Jeni trying to decide if they can afford the Moorcroft vases in the window - no, they were GBP300 each:

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Strolling through Clare we came across an old house - 1473!

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Posted by kforge 11:03 Archived in United Kingdom

January 9 2011

Leaving Sidmouth

sunny 5 °C

We left Sidmouth early (in the rain of course) and decided to head towards Lacock in Wiltshire on the small chance that it might stop raining. And it did! From there we drove in sunshine back to Suffolk

The whole of the amazing Lacock village is owned and run by the National Trust - do not miss it if you go anywhere near Stonehenge

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A very important Tudor brewery:

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Posted by kforge 13:56 Archived in United Kingdom

January 7 2011

Last Day in Sidmouth

rain 4 °C

Our last day in Sidmouth proved to be the same as all the other days - very cold and raining

Jeni walked the dogs in the rain (as she had done every day)

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We walked along the Sid River and then the beach to Jacob's Ladder in the rain

We escaped from the rain for a couple of hours to see "The King's Speech" at the old Radway Cinema - and really enjoyed the flim

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Posted by kforge 13:46 Archived in United Kingdom

January 6 2011

A Longer Trip to Aveton Gifford

semi-overcast 5 °C

Today we drove to the other side of the Exe Estuary to visit friends Mike and Lynne in the the small village of Aveton Gifford. They then drove us down to Salcombe for lunch in the quayside Victoria Inn

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On the way back Mike took the scenic route to show us the South Hams area which includes the Art Deco Burgh Island hotel where an Agatha Christie Poirot was filmed (Evil Under the Sun)

Posted by kforge 11:04 Archived in United Kingdom

January 5 2011

A Short Trip to Branscombe and Lyme Regis

rain 4 °C

Branscombe is just a couple of miles from Sidmouth. It's thatched cottages meander down a beautiful valley almost to the sea and it is supposed to be the longest village in England - and yes, it is very long. Unfortunately it was bucketing down with rain so we moved along the coast to Lyme Regis, just over into Dorset. After a short retreat into a cafe at the harbour (we seem to be doing a lot of retreating down Sidmouth way), we managed a short walk up and down the hight street before the rain swept in again. So we're now back in the house in Sidmouth about to watch a DVD and drink lots of tea. Snow is forecast for tomorrow or Friday and we are supposed to drive back to Suffolk on Saturday

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Posted by kforge 06:17 Archived in United Kingdom

January 4 2011

A Short Trip to Topsham

overcast 3 °C

We drove a few miles to Budleigh Salterton this morning and what a really disappointing place it is (especially in cold rain). But then went over to the Exe estuary to Topsham and what a lovely place that is. It used to be the port of Exeter

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On the way back we did a quick visit to the Donkey Sanctuary just outside Sidmouth – Jeni was very happy!

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Posted by kforge 06:06 Archived in United Kingdom

January 3 2011

In Sidmouth

rain 3 °C

Steve, Louise, Madison and Haden came over from Tiverton to visit us. Our walk down to the Esplanade along the River Sid and over the ford was wet and very cold but after escaping into a cafe for a half hour or so, the wind dropped and the rain almost stopped - a good walk was then had by all

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Posted by kforge 02:24 Archived in United Kingdom

December 31 2010

Sidmouth

overcast 10 °C

The snow finally cleared from Cockfield and most of southern England on Tuesday which was just as well as we had to drive down to Devon to take up a pre-arranged house-sit in Sidmouth. We stayed with Steve and Carole in Little Waltham on Tuesday evening and then headed off into thick fog on Wednesday, and continued driving in fog for 5 hours right into Sidmouth

Rob and Jo arrived on Thursday from Shropshire and today Neil and Kyra are coming up from Cornwall. I'd like to say that we'll all have a great time walking along the coast paths in glorious sunshine now the weather is a toasty 10C BUT, this warmer weather has just brought fog or really grey skies. Here's a photo I prepared earlier - maybe next week will be sunny

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Posted by kforge 00:49 Archived in United Kingdom

December 23 2010

Yes we have snow

snow -2 °C

It started snowing seriously again on Saturday the 18th and since then it's been very difficult to do much at all. We've had a few trips to Bury St Edmunds, Lavenham, Sudbury and Long Melford but they've all been very short and very cold

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Posted by kforge 09:46 Archived in United Kingdom

December 14 2010

Shrewsbury

overcast 2 °C

Rob Poleykett decided to return from India last Friday and as his brother John (and Ros and Connor) looked like he would be calling into Shrewsbury on the way to Dublin, we decided to head up there (it's only 3 hours straight across the country)

And yes, everybody was there, even Jo. Somehow Rob managed to get a table at the Golden Cross Hotel (dating back to 1428) and a good time was had by all, especially those who had 2 pints of 6% Tanners Winterwarmer from the Wye Valley Brewery

On Wednesday after everyone else had left, Rob, Jeni and I drove the 10 miles to the lovely village of Much Wenlock and poked around in cafes, galleries and bookshops - we tried to get into the ruined priory but it was closed just like every other bloody English Heritage or National Trust property in the UK. Why can't they stagger the closure of properties so that the many tourists who don't want to come here in summer, can actually see something. Come November 1, pretty much everything closes

As soon as we got back to Rob's place, he ripped several parsnips out of the ground and made us soup

Much Wenlock2

Much Wenlock2

Posted by kforge 08:41 Archived in United Kingdom

December 12 2010

Twickenham

overcast 2 °C

A 2-hour drive from Little Waltham around the dreaded M25 brought us to our friends Niall and Karen in Twickenham. After lunch in the Orleans House Stables Gallery we strolled along the tow-path by the Thames and passed Eel Pie Island where the Rolling Stones had early gigs

This VW campervan is used by newly-weds and contains a very neat, champagne fridge

Twickenham - wedding VW with champagne fridge

Twickenham - wedding VW with champagne fridge

Posted by kforge 08:23 Archived in United Kingdom

December 11 2010

Little Waltham

overcast 2 °C

We drove down to Little Waltham (near Chelmsford) to stay overnight with Steve and Carole. We dropped into the Dog and Gun pub for an excellent lunch and then Jeni helped Carole decorate their Christmas Tree

Little Waltham - Jeni helping with the christmas tree

Little Waltham - Jeni helping with the christmas tree

Posted by kforge 08:02 Archived in United Kingdom

December 10 2010

Satellite Navigation (SatNav)

sunny 1 °C

There seems to be some very underhand goings-on in the satnav world. When you buy a satnav you get normally get 1 free software upgrade to bring your maps up-to-date. When I tried to do this with the Tom Tom (an expensive and very recent model that included UK and Europe), I got a message telling me there was not enough memory on the satnav to do the update. After hours on-line and calling the help-desk, I finally got Tom Tom to admit that the update would not fit on the satnav and was finally able to get a refund from Halfords

This week I decided to buy a Garmin (nuvi 205 with UK and ROI only) with fewer features and a much lower price than the Tom Tom. And can you guess what happened when I tried to update the maps? Yes, not enough memory!

It would seem that some manufacturers are putting in just enough memory for the maps that they initially supply and that this feature of offering a free upgrade is, in reality, pure deception. I will keep the Garmin as it only cost 57 GBP (instead of 169 GBP for the Tom Tom) and as it does help arrivals into towns and cities; I will just have to put up with incorrect speed limits and missing roundabouts

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has actually managed a trouble-free upgrade

Posted by kforge 00:42 Archived in United Kingdom

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