The Brunei Best: Travel

It’s telling that when I sit down and think about the best things about being in Brunei, the first thing that comes to mind is getting out of Brunei. This isn’t because Brunei is a bad place to live, not at all. It’s just that Asia is such a huge and varied area, and being able to get to all (well, most) of it in not too long a flight is pretty darn amazing.

To be honest, we haven’t done as much travelling as we planned when we moved here. Out of the two and a half years we’ve been here, we’ve committed one year to growing a baby, and one year to raising a baby. These things don’t mean we can’t travel at all, but they certainly make it more difficult and less appealing. Add on a few months of settling in and getting visas sorted, a one month trip home, and The Engineer’s limited leave allowance, and our available travel time has actually not been all that high.

We have been on a few fun trips: to Chiang Mai for two weeks of chilling out with family; to Singapore and KL for long weekends and shopping; to the Philippines for snorkelling; to Kerala, South India (without The Engineer, but with my sister) for yoga and delicious food; to nearby Miri and Labuan for a change of scene. But the highlight so far has been our recent trip to Penang, Malaysia.

Penang is on the west coast of Malaysia, up near the Thai border, and is a 2.5 hour flight from Miri (which is a 1 hour drive from our house). We spent ten days there, which everyone said was too much, but which we thought was just perfect.

The first four nights we stayed in Georgetown, which is my favourite Asian city so far. There was street art and markets and hawker food and hipster cafés serving cold brew coffee and churros.


We stayed in the heritage district and could just wander around seeing what was interesting, or jump on the free city loop bus or a trishaw to explore.


We took photos and ate and chilled out and it was lovely.


Then we spent five nights in a resort by the sea. We hired a car and headed to the National Park and the Spice Gardens and Penang Hill.


We ate seafood by the sea, and up in the trees.




We relaxed at our resort.


We celebrated The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday by the sea and at the mall.


Overall, it was kinda perfect (despite the many moments of not at all perfect, like the non-sleeping too hot baby, the taxi driver objecting to our car seat, and the rat in our room).

When you have all of Asia to see, and a limited time to see it, it can be tempting to cram a lot into every holiday. But we were so glad to have the time to take it slow and go at a pace that worked for the whole family.

We feel so lucky to have all this on our back door step, and this holiday was a great representation of what we love most about being in Brunei.

We would love to go back. But, if we’re honest, we have so much left on the list, so there’s a pretty good chance that this was it. And if that’s the case, that’s okay, because it was amazing.

A first birthday letter

The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday was more than two weeks ago now, but we’ve been busy with various things, and I’ve been struggling to process all the feelings, so this letter is happening now. Better late than never, I say.

Dear E,

You are now officially one year old. And what a year it has been. It has been joyful, and hard, and surprising, and amazing, and tiring. We are both learning about each other, about the world. Of course, we haven’t always been right in sync. There are times where our needs have butted heads like I never imagined. But we’ve both come out the other end relatively healthy and happy, so I’m calling it a success.

When you were born, you were big and cuddly, and strong. You took a little time and encouragement, but then came rushing into the world with gusto. And these patterns from your earliest days have continued to appear again and again throughout the year.


At one month you were smiling and staring and loved nothing more than your parents. We hadn’t yet figured out what you needed to ease into sleep, and the evenings were fairly loud and uncomfortable. But during the night and day you were a curious wee dot who wowed everyone with those strong legs.

At two months you worked out how to roll yourself over so you could see the world from a new angle. You spent most of the time on your tummy (or cuddled into a parent) from then on.

At three months you were growing and growing. You were moving through clothing sizes rapidly, were figuring out new things all the time and were starting to move around a little. We were still struggling with sleep, but the evenings were a lot calmer.


At four months you figured out forward momentum and could commando crawl to what interested you, which revolutionised your play time. I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, and you showed me that I didn’t really (and probably never truly will).

At five months you worked out hands and knees crawling and how to get to a sitting position. You got your first teeth and tried your first foods. We were in New Zealand for most of the month, and came back with a completely different baby.

At six months it was hard to keep up with the changes. You were babbling, pulling up to standing, and going through your first bout of separation anxiety and we all caught more than one virus. I was tired and overwhelmed and it was a rough month. But we survived.


At seven months we made some changes to your sleep habits, and we all got a bit more sleep, at least temporarily. You took your first cruising steps, and continued to surprise everyone with your movement.

At eight months you finally gave up the carrier for your naps (with a little bit of encouragement from us. Or quite a lot of encouragement…) You continued to get faster at cruising around, started to let go a little, and got a whole lot more teeth.

At nine months you could stand on your own. You also started to clap and wave, and were losing some of your babyness. It was amazing to watch, but we definitely had mixed emotions about how very fast you were growing.


At ten months you took your first wee steps. We were so excited and proud, and you seemed to think it was no big deal at all. You slowly grew in confidence and walked further and further.

At eleven months you were walking more than crawling, and were starting to talk. Your words weren’t English, but were adorable. Combined with a lot more pointing, you were able to communicate more and more every day. Your favourite thing was to stare out the window and watch the birds.

And now, at twelve months you are just starting to run (or at least you want to!) You’re a real little kid, and an amazing kid at that. You love to wander around outside, and are very good at letting us know when you want a cuddle. You are very serious about your playing, and when we’re out and about. But for your favourite people you always have a smile (and often a present).


I share these milestones not because the actual milestones or their timing is important, but to show just how far you have come. But with all that growth and change, you remain the same E underneath. You take a while to warm up to situations, but once you’re confident you go for it. You’re a bold little explorer, but like to have the safety of a parent watching out for you. You’re a scientist, running experiments all the time to figure out the world and your place in it. You’ve got your opinions, and you’re not afraid to show them (loudly if necessary). You are cuddly when you want to be, but are first and foremost an independent wee soul who needs to work everything out for yourself.

This has been the most amazing year of my life so far, and I can’t wait to see how you take these things and build on them in the years to come. I haven’t always found it easy to keep up, but together we made it.

Happy birthday E. I love you.