Neither a luxury traveler nor a backpacker, Prime Sarmiento considers herself a “value-for-money” traveler. She splurges on the things she loves (yoga sessions, a clean and safe room with its own bathroom, healthy eats), and she scrimps on things she can’t be bothered with (gadgets, shopping, airfare). A veteran business journalist, Prime sometimes travels for work, sometimes for leisure, and sometimes just to enjoy the gift of solitude. Here’s a week-in-the-life of Prime working as a newspaper editor in Brunei.
Day 1: Monday
9 am – Oh goddess I’m so happy that I work as an editor in the newspaper as we usually work late. I’m a night owl and I love to sleep in. Time for some meditation now. Ommm.
9:30 am – – OMG. OMG. I have to go to the office. Now. HR just called and asked me to do a visa run. Otherwise, they can’t process my working papers.
10 am – Uncle S, the company driver is so funny. This visa run can be quite fun as I get to see how GREEN Brunei is. There are trees everywhere. Oh, is that a kampung?
11 am – So we finally crossed the border and now in Sarawak, Malaysia. This is Kuala Lurah. Quiet place. There are some stalls selling keropok (crackers) and some grilled chicken and beef. Oh they’re also grilling cow’s lungs too. Hmmm. But no thanks.
2:30 pm – Got my passport stamped in the immigration department. I now have a professional visa.
3:15 pm– I’m so late for the editorial meeting. Never mind. I don’t need to present the story lineup.
7 pm – I need to get the hang of this new editing system. Good for me that the IT staff are patient. Hey, why did my computer freeze? Help!
Day 2: Tuesday
12 noon – Yes I’m eating oatmeal porridge topped with red dates and cashew nuts. For Lunch. Rather, my version of [late] breakfast. And oh yeah, don’t forget the coffee. Lots of it.
3 pm – Scanning the net for some international business news. Have to look for macro economical indicators from China, Japan, South Korea as these are the major economies in Asia.
5 pm – So reporters are still writing their stories. Ok, fine, I’ll check my Facebook then.
7 pm – Nah I’m not in the mood to edit stories now. Might as well go out and have ice cream.
11 pm – I really need to finish editing and laying out the pages before midnight. Tsk, I have to work fast!
Day 3: Wednesday
12:30 pm – Sunny day. Laundry day. This is why I love living in a tropical country. I can just put all my dirty laundry in the washing machine. After an hour of washing, I can hang all of them in my balcony to dry, with the sun acting as an all natural clothes dryer.
2 pm – No time to cook lunch but fortunately there are lot of masakan (restaurants) near my flat selling cheap and freshly cooked meals. I am just finishing my nasi kampung – fried rice cooked with vegetables, eggs and some chicken meat. A filing meal which costs less than two dollars.
5 pm – Just finished editing two stories. I have to run as I want to go for some vinyasa yoga in a studio in Gadong.
6:30 pm – Sometimes, I don’t understand why I’m doing all these asanas when I so obviously can’t flex my body. Like now, I’m trying to do this downward dog pose and the teacher has to constantly lift my hips. And no, no no, I’m so not doing that headstand.
10:30 pm – I only have three stories and I have to fill up three pages. I’m officially f—-cked.
Day 4: Thursday
11 am – Hmmm my bathroom smells kinda funky. Time to buy some deodorizer. And where’s my toilet brush? I need to clean my bathroom.
2 pm – I finally discovered a shop that sells scented candles, essential oils and incense. It’s a bit pricey though as they were all imported from the US and Australia. But we don’t have so many choices here in Brunei and I really want my flat to smell good. Now I have to hurry as I’m off to an editorial meeting.
5 pm – Just finished teaching reporters the importance of having a nut graf. I hope to get stories now with better story structure.
7:30 pm – Wowee, my flatmate just grilled chicken breast and mushrooms. Thankfully I have wholewheat bread and some mustard. I can make a quick sandwich before I head off for another round of editing and lay outing. Oh, another coffee will be nice. It’s an all-nighter for us.
11:30 pm – Two more pages and I’m outta here. Yes!
Day 5: Friday
12 noon – Everything is officially closed (yes even that eatery selling nasi katok – steamed rice with fried chicken fand spicy sambal sauce – as this is time for Muslim prayers. I use this time to pray too, meditating, divining my cards, chanting, grounding my chakra.
3 pm – Sooo excited, just booked a tour to kampung ayer – the traditional water village. I’ve always been curious as to how the Bruneians live in houses built on stilts.
5 pm – Alamak! So many stories to edit. I think I need a drink. Oh wait a minute, alcohol is not allowed here. I need a cigarette then. Wait. That’s also not allowed here. Damn.
7 pm – I love jogging around this city, just walking around, appreciating the fact that I get to live in a clean, green and safe city. Hmm, there’s a mall nearby, I want to buy a pair of wedges.
Day 6: Saturday
11 am – Ahhhh, a day to relax and just vegetate, to enjoy reading my Kindle while drinking my brewed coffee.
3 pm – What better way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon but to have some vanity time? I just got my toenails painted hot red – perfect way to display my feet and my new shoes! Now, if I could only get myself an equally hot date….
7 pm – There’s no such thing as a nightlife in Brunei as bars are prohibited here. But my friend N and I decided to have a nightlife anyway by driving around Bandar Seri Begawan. Finally get to go into the city centre, known as Bandar, where I take photos of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific. It’s an even prettier site at night.
Day 7: Sunday
12:30 pm – Get into these water taxis to visit Kampung Ayer – the so-called Venice of the East and Brunei’s heritage site. The century-old water village is home to more than 30,000 people and has its own mosque, restaurants, shops, schools, a hospital, potable water supply, electricity, and even a fire station! And the best way to explore this village is to use the wooden foot bridge that connects one neighborhood to another.
2 pm – If there’s one thing that I admire about the Malays is that they’re house-proud. They love decorating their homes, they like something colorful, ornate, sometimes bordering on the kitsch, deeply personal.
3 pm – This house is one of the must-visit homes in Kampung Ayer! The owner is a carpenter who likes to collect stuff, use them to decorate the family home and then paint the house with a particular color that suits his fancy every six months! As of this moment, he’s in the mood for blue and pink. So everything is in blue and pink.
Prime is still discovering Brunei and working as a newspaper editor. She believes that traveling solo is a rite of passage for every woman and encourages women to travel on their own via her free e-course on solo female travel. She’s also part of the GypsyGals, and you can check out Prime Sarmieneto for more travel inspiration.