TRIP REPORT: Manila - Kuala Lumpur via Brunei

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Written by Matjaž Nose

Flight Manila (MNL) – Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN) data:

Flight number: BI686
Flight date: 05 April 2019
Operated by: Royal Brunei Airlines
Aircraft type: A320-251N
Aircraft registration: V8-RBE
Departure time: 21:25
Arrival time: 23:30
Flight duration: 2h 5m

Flight Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) data:

Flight number: BI871
Flight date: 08 April 2019
Operated by: Royal Brunei Airlines
Aircraft type: A320-251N
Aircraft registration: V8-RBF
Departure time: 09:00
Arrival time: 11:20
Flight duration: 2h 20m

There were some discussions among commentators of this website whether trip reports not related to EX-YU topics should be published on this website or not. As expected, there were argyuments for and against with no clear outcome. I will try to satisfy both commentator teams with this trip report!

I admit, this trip report has nothing to do with airlines registered in EX-YU area, the airline I am going to introduce does not fly to EX-YU destinations and probably never will, it does not operate EX-YU built airplanes, but hey, the traveller and writer of this trip report (me) was 100% YU resident in the past and he still is 100% EX-YU resident now, so I am sure there is a clear connection to EX-YU topics and therefore

I humbly beg our esteemed readers to accept this report.

Through the lines below I am going to introduce my Royal Brunei Airlines experience and give you some impressions of Manila, Brunei and Kuala Lumpur as well.

When travelling to Asia in April this year, I decided to make a 2-day stopover in Brunei while flying between Manila and Kuala Lumpur. I decided to try Royal Brunei Airlines although there were other cheaper options available. But I really wanted to experience this little known airline and their A320neo aircraft.

My first flight was from Manila to Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital of Brunei). After staying for two full days in Brunei, I headed to Kuala Lumpur. Both flights were operated by Royal Brunei Airlines, utilising their A320neo, almost new, airplanes. Their fleet currently consists of 15 aircraft with an average age of two and a half years. They deploy their Dreamliner fleet (5 aircraft) to Melbourne, Jeddah and their only European destination, London Heathrow. Asian destinations are served by their A320ceo and A320neo fleet (9 aircraft in total) with the exception of nearby Malaysian Borneo towns of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu which are served by their sole ATR72-600 airplane. The airline was established in 1974 and Brunei became independent from the United Kingdom on 1st January 1984. The country is located on the north coast of the island of Borneo and has a population of around 430,000.

I bought my Royal Brunei tickets directly on their website around two months in advance. I paid around 300 € for this open jaw ticket. If you plan to visit Brunei, the cheapest flight deals can be found for departures from Kuala Lumpur. You can easily find round trip tickets for as low as 100 € or less and you can choose among Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and low cost Air Asia carriers for direct flights.

Manila's most interesting area is Intramuros. The world sounds very Spanish as the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years in the past. Take a phone book and you will ask yourself whether you are in Spain or in the Philippines - names and surnames listed in the phone book are, yes, Spanish. Have a walk inside Intramuros (its meaning is ''within walls'') and do not forget to visit Fort Santiago which is located inside this historic walled city.

Intramuros Manila

River traffic in Manila

Good seafood can be found in Manila

I like airports, but I must say that Manila is not one of my favorite ones. It was crowded, humid and almost all flights were delayed for half an hour to an hour on average, including mine. The flight to Brunei departed with one hour delay, the reason we were given was air space restrictions around Manila airport (incoming flight from BWN was on time though). I was hungry and thirsty enough to eat a bowl of instant noodles and drink a cold San Miguel beer before boarding the airplane.

Airbridge was used to board our A320neo aircraft. The cabin interior looked really nice and new. High quality in-flight entertainment monitors were really responsive and easy to use.We were served hot meals and drinks, but no alchohol was available aboard Royal Brunei Airlines. Islamic travel prayer was also broadcast before departure.

The actual flight time was a bit less than two hours and we arrived to BWN airport with approximately one hour delay. I remember it was so cold during the entire flight that I had to put on my cardigan. I almost asked the cabin crew to re-check whether they had really closed the doors…

My dinner at Manila airport

Boarding gate for BI686 flight to BWN

Welcome messages in Malay and English

Some of the Philippine islands below us

Flight route of MNL-BWN flight

In-flight service

In-flight entertainment

BI686 was a cold flight

Map of Brunei

I arranged the airport pick up at BWN airport with the hotel I stayed at. Once I was through immigration and a colourful entry stamp was placed into my passport, I collected checked-in baggage and shortly after I was on my way to the hotel. I stayed in Brunei for three nights (two full days) and I advise you spend at least two days there. You can easily visit all of Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) sights in one day and spend another day exploring Borneo's nature by taking a day trip from BSB. There are some interesting mosques with glittering golden domes to be visited in BSB. Also, do not forget to visit Kampong Ayer water village aboard one of the local boats.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Entrance to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

A mosaic in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan

Kampong Ayer water village

Kampong Ayer's ''roads'' and ''streets''


The hotel staff in my hotel helped me book a day trip to Ulu Temburong national park. If you check the map of Brunei, you can see that it consists of two separate (separated by Malaysia) areas. Ulu Temburong NP is located in the other, smaller part of the country. This part is mostly wilderness with lots of natural sights and can be visited with organized tours only. First I had to take one hour ferry journey from BSB to Bangar. A flight attendant of Avianca Peru travelling around Asia also joined me for this trip – you see, there is so much ''aviation'' in this report! A lovely Bruneian lady picked us up at the ferry pier and drove us to the point where we boarded a long boat and sailed for another hour to start our jungle trekking.

After walking in very high humidity, you have to climb a metal staircase to start your canopy walk high above the ground. I do not know if I have to mention it, but that day I became a very generous donor of my sweat to a T-shirt which was completely wet by the end of the tour (take a spare one!). But it was worthwile, the views were great!

Canopy walk

Since I hadn't been flying for almost three days, I started to feel flight abstinence crisis. It was time to board another airplane, this time going to the capital of Malaysia.

It was a morning flight. BWN airport is a small airport, a kind of boutique airport. I liked it immediately and our flight departed on time.

We boarded through an airbridge, the service during this flight was very similar to the one on my previous flight, the flight time as well. After flying over the South China Sea we touched down at Kuala Lumpur airport ahead of schedule.

Both of my Royal Brunei flights had a very good load factor, I estimate it was around 80% in both cases.

In general, I was satisfied with both of my Royal Brunei flights and I can recommend this Asian boutique airline.

BWN airport

A Royal Brunei airplane ready for a morning departure (not ours)

Boarding gate for our flight to Kuala Lumpur

Pushback

A320neo winglet with RB logo

Flightpath of BWN – KUL flight

It is worth stressing that Kuala Lumpur airport comprises two terminals: KLIA main terminal and low cost carrier KLIA2 terminal. We arrived to KLIA main terminal which is used by legacy carriers. Air Asia uses KLIA2 terminal for example so take this into account if you plan to transfer at Kuala Lumpur airport or plan to take a bus from downtown to the airport as terminals are not very close (2km distance).

The immigration process at Kuala Lumpur did not take much time and after I was stamped in and collected my baggage, I was on the way to a bus terminal which is located walking distance from the arrival hall. I took a bus (ticket price was 12 ringgit or 2.5 euros for one hour journey) to KL Sentral station as my hotel was located nearby. KL Sentral station has excellent connections to other Kuala Lumpur metropolitan areas. All major metro or monorail lines pass through or terminate there.

My time in Kuala Lumpur was very limited, but it was still enough to visit the famous KL Tower (Menara KL), Petronas Twin Towers and spend a few hours strolling around and enjoying tasty street food.

Colourful entry and exit stamps of Brunei and Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers

Stunning fountain show near Petronas Twin Towers

Lastly, let me give you a tip for Petronas Twin Towers' visit. Go there in the evening when colourful lights are switched on and musical fountains display programmed animations in a magical performance of sound and water. With Sting's Desert Rose song in my ears I walked back towards my hotel. Next day, Qatar Airways welcomed me with open doors of their A7-BAO airplane bound for Doha on my way back home.


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Comments

  1. Great trip report! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for such a great trip report! Sure, we need here reports from other places, not just EX-YU. People from here fly to many interesting places and it's really interesting to read about it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 👍👍👍👍👍

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your comment and kind words on this report.

      Delete
  3. Please Matjaz, do not be a weakling. You don't need to justify yourself in advance in-front of those bigoted and ignorant people bothered by non 'Ex-Yu' (whatever that may mean) trip reports. Your trip report is excellent and i wish you to write many more in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't mean to justify anything. It was more of a joke :)
      I promise to write some more reports in the future.

      Delete
  4. Where did you fly back with QR?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zagreb. It was Zagreb-Doha-Tokyo Narita and Kuala Lumpur-Doha-Zagreb QR flight.
      I took Philippine airlines for the NRT-MNL flight.

      Delete
  5. It's more like city report than airline tripreport.I guess you didn't plan to make this report while you were traveling,that is why so few photos from the flights and from the airports.but anyway I liked it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that was the case. I hesitated before writing this trip report for this reason but at the end I decided to do so as not so many people travel to Brunei.

      Delete
  6. Great report, Matjaž... I like the mix of travelogue and flight report :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice trip report and enjoy reading this one. Thumbs up!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Matjaz,

    Great report wish we could see more of these in the future. Very informative and nice to see EX-YU people travelling the world and seeing different places and sceneries.

    Keep it up yours in Ex-Yu aviation!

    ReplyDelete

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