Beyond the Postcard: A Resort in the Mist.

Continuing the upward momentum from the previous post, here are images from my recent working trip into the rainforest of Brunei Darussalam, a journey that had me drive from my home in Seria to taking a long boat to Ulu Temburong. So where do I even begin to describe what it’s like in the remote Ulu Ulu Resort accessible only by long boats called Temuai or by helicopter for the fortunate few?

The journey: from Seria to Kianggeh jetty in the capital – 1 hour 15 mins | Board speedboat to Bangar town, Temburong – 45 mins | Bangar to Batang Duri jetty – 30 mins | Long boat to Ulu Ulu Resort – 30 mins. Passport NOT required.


© Jan Shim Photography

The weather continued to be challenging as we arrived Batang Duri jetty and we made sure the bags that housed our camera and video equipment were protected. The inclement weather had given me an opportunity to see how ill-prepared I might have been for the trip given the risks my camera and lenses faced surrounded by so much water! The storm and gray sky had in fact created a mood that’s better illustrated below—misty rainforest heightened by the sense of adventure from the raging waters. The resort, the history of which escapes me, is presently managed by the folks at Sunshine Borneo Tours. This was my first trip to the resort and its surroundings and it certainly won’t be the last judging from the on-going improvements Sunshine is doing to the place.


© Jan Shim Photography

The Canon 20D takes a swim! David and I made plans to leave the resort as early as 5.30 AM on the longboat in otherwise zero visibility lit only by a couple of torch lights. By the way we reached what was the beginning of a 30 mins walk towards “Waterfall 1” there was sufficient light and the walk in the cold upstream waters was refreshing. And slippery. The idea here is to avoid stepping on the larger stones that are often slippery but there are occasions where this is completely unavoidable. On our way in, we made several stops to photograph the streams where the available light was just right!


© Jan Shim Photography

These water shots were captured on the way to the waterfall. On the way out, I made an unavoidable but preventable mistake of hanging the 20D on my shoulder. Unavoidable because my Lowepro Mini Trekker was packed to the brim with the EOS-5D/24-70/70-200/100-400/. Preventable because extra precautions could have been taken ie carry the 20D/10-22 in a waterproof bag such as an ALOKSAK. A regrettable action that is neither difficult nor expensive to have undertaken. (see Travel Notes).


© Jan Shim Photography

By the time we got back at the resort at approx 9 AM, the sun’s gotten too strong for any more nature shots so I diverted attention to the more subtle items around the place. Shame there was no one kayaking that morning although there were frequent day-trip visitors to the national park.


© Jan Shim Photography

One of many long boats with visitors to the rainforest. You’d be pleasantly surprised just how popular the national park really is with tourists even on a week day. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like during peak periods.


© Jan Shim Photography

At the Two-River Terrace right upstairs of where the kayaks are stored, there’s a a traditional BLOWPIPE that’s used by natives to hunt. While not exactly a Swiss Knife, the idea of two-in-one has long been in existence with an integrated spear for hunting or self-defense.


© Jan Shim Photography

Blowpipe darts used in the blowpipe are/were attached with feathers. The ones you see here are made from palm fronds with a lightweight stopper to make an air-tight seal.


© Jan Shim Photography

The resort today is pretty much barebones and the creature comforts are limited to generator-powered electricity from 6 in the evenings to 6 in the mornings. There’s also no phone communication and no internet access but for everything else that requires power, you can charge your batteries or power up your laptop for offline work. I brought 6 sets of full charged batteries for the camera to limit our baggage to essentials items only.

In the evenings when the lights come on, the resort’s transformation best described and captured through low-light photography—beauty beyond what our eyes register and appreciate.


© Jan Shim Photography

With the exception of power and communications facilities during the day, the Club Lounge comes alive after hours with decor that easily rivals and exceeds the standards of other similar lounges in town.

Here’s a shot from the jetty at 6 AM when we left for the waterfall. Simply illuminating!


© Jan Shim Photography

Expect the unexpected. As with most resorts and hotels, there are different rooms catering to different needs and requirements of guests. It’s hard to imagine just how lavishly furnished certain rooms are if you’ve never seen it before. A compelling reason to publish these pictures is to help promote the resort, eco tourism by providing useful information to would-be visitors to remove general doubts. I apologise if this post has taken away the element of surprise through discovery.

Important note: When enquiring with Sunshine, be sure to ask about the different rooms available to avoid disappointment.


© Jan Shim Photography


© Jan Shim Photography

Beyond the Ulu Ulu Resort lies everything else that have attracted tourists from all over the world. Explore the rainforest streams, Canopy walkway, Kayaking to name a few. The left photo below shows the first steps of a total of 1226 steps. The suspension bridge that attracts countless visitors during the day also attracts countless species of insects to the lights at night. In the interest of maximising our time there, we decided we defer the Canopy Walkway to our next trip (we have recently seen and photographed the top of the Canopy Walkway from a helicopter so we were not that motivated to carry over 10 kgs of equipment up there).


© Jan Shim Photography

The lesser known activities often explored by professional photographers and videographers in this remote part of Brunei are research, documentary, birds, flowers, macro images of the insect kingdom essentially all that make up the fauna and flora of the rainforest.

The National Flower of Brunei Darussalam is the Simpur or Simpor as it’s often spelt. Pictured here is a budding Simpur seen along the corridors of the resort and they blossom into large yellow petals in full bloom. Incidentally, this photo was taken by a Sunshine staff (Chuan) exploring my EOS 5D/70-200mm.


© Jan Shim Photography

Here are two opportunity photos of a resident at the resort, the Pygmy Squirrel, the world’s smallest squirrel that literally fits in your palm. They are hyper active and can be seen darting across floor boards or on the trunk of a tree just long enough to catch a glimpse before they disappear!


© Jan Shim Photography

Aren’t these moths extraordinary? These were captured on a sunny morning of Day 3 at the suspension bridge. On one of the steps leading to where the moths were was a huge black cicada measuring around 5 inches. One supposedly scary looking insect was no match against all the glorious colours of the moth colony. I shot these with my EF24-70mm fortunately with macro capability I was able to get pretty close to capture the features with sufficient details. The left moth has what appears to be a fur coat. Quite the irony! On the right is one for the air force, a camourflage moth resembling a Stealth jet!


© Jan Shim Photography

Our host SUNSHINE made sure we were well looked after and assigned guides who not only helped us with directions and equipment but were clearly knowledgeable of the rainforest habitat that made them invaluable. Great work guys and thank you! For more information, check out Sunshine’s tour packages.

People I Met

When you venture into unknown territory, approach with an open mind expect to be surprised. One of the things I enjoy is meeting new faces and there’s nothing I enjoy more than meeting a fellow professional photographer from abroad who coincidentally was staying next door to our villa. It was an honour to have met JORGE Camilo Valenzuela, a French pro photog and author of Au Coeur de BORNEO whom I exchanged life and work experiences during tea and dinner (not forgetting to mention his Malboro smokes).

Travel Notes
If you’re not spending the night at the resort, chances are you’ll have all your important items in the wallet and travel bag. Be sure they are all protected from the elements. Temburong is one big wetland, better to be safe than be sorry.

ALOKSAK Element Proof Storage bags with patented leakproof/airtight seal that are tested and approved by the Navy Experimental Unit and certified waterproof to 200FT/60 meters are inexpensive and can be found at NAAFI in Seria or GL EXTRA in Kiulap, BSB. Different sizes are available to fit anything from the contents of your wallet to a 15″ or 17″ laptop!

Related Tourism Links

Related Nature/Wildlife Links

46 thoughts on “Beyond the Postcard: A Resort in the Mist.

  1. We pass by Temburong a lot but because of the LACK of publicity, we never gave much though about going beyond Bangar.

    After all although everybody knows of the Temburong National Park, how many actually knows of whats there?

    Besides boat rides to a place so isolated with resort that is probably rundown and very basic (because of the LACK of publicity again) is not really that attractive – especially for the semi-adventurous folks like many of us.

    So this kind of resort – which I can see beat all the resorts in Kinabalu National Park (Sabah) – must definitely be used as a selling point and they MUST also do more to promote this place instead of just labelling it as “Temburong, heart of Borneo” and nothing else.

    Kinabalu = Mountain, Danum Valley = Virgin Rainforest, Mulu = Caves.

    Temburong = ?

    Tourism folks, help the rest of us Bruneians so we know how to sell this place to others too.

    Because it is a pity if this place is constantly bypassed by tourists who would definitely come had they know, just because they don’t have much idea of what’s there and no locals can vouch for the place.

    p/s Great shots Jan and good job in making us realize that there is something to brag about Temburong after all.

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  2. wow that was really lovely, and the most amazing thing is that the gray skies didn’t take away the beauty from the land at all, that right there is a sign of undeniable beauty. those animals were interesting and amazing as well especially that pygmy squirrel. nice photos Jan, really nice

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  3. always love your photos uncle. always. heehee. it’s been years i think since my last visit to temburong (since uncle alai is no longer working there that is). i kinda missed the environment, it’s so peaceful. must go there nanti lagi for vacation ^^.

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  4. thanks for sharing those great shots taken in temburong. must really find time to go there and experience it myself. the place looks so serene and refreshing. kudos to a job well done!

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  5. Absolutely gorgeous Jan, thanks for sharing, I’m learning and paying close attention to your shots. I’ve decided to go with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens and should be getting it in a few days, thanks for everything.

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  6. Feedback… a lot of my colleagues are interested now and I mean even the locals!! If it suits their budget, they are on the next boat. We need to de-stress…

    P.S. I love the picture of the pgymy squirrel. You should have heard our squeals of “So cute!!” when we saw the picture. LOL

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  7. Jan,

    I can’t wait to get home and see these pictures. From what you wrote, it sounds like paradise. I would love to come and tour this area and take some pictures and come back to the US and tell everyone about this beautiful place. If they ever need an Ambassador in the US…I’ll be the guy with the camera. I’ll be on-line tonight and chat about the picthers then….

    Take care my friend….

    m~

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  8. Awesome pics! I must visit one day.

    Visit it one day and you’ll want to return another day!

    Kinabalu = Mountain, Danum Valley = Virgin Rainforest, Mulu = Caves. Temburong = ?

    Temburong = All that and more! It is our national ecological asset and a great fauna and flora showcase.

    Tourism folks, help the rest of us Bruneians so we know how to sell this place to others too.

    Sunshine Borneo Tours is the official operator of the Ulu Ulu Resort. I hope to work something out on a long term basis with them. Afterall, this falls squarely into the the business of promoting Brunei.

    Because it is a pity if this place is constantly bypassed by tourists who would definitely come had they know, just because they don’t have much idea of what’s there and no locals can vouch for the place.

    I’m not sure if Temburong gets by-passed by tourists, I do know Temburong is the Tourism Board’s pet and they have commissioned countless talents from overseas to promote. I only hoped that some day they invest in local professional photogs the same way too.

    thanks for sharing those great shots taken in temburong. must really find time to go there and experience it myself. the place looks so serene and refreshing. kudos to a job well done!

    Hi Nanette, Temburong could be the a Asia Inc Forum conference destination when the resort has electricity and communications.

    Absolutely gorgeous Jan, thanks for sharing, I’m learning and paying close attention to your shots.

    Oh, did I tell you photography is also a big can of worms? It only looks easy and if it can be learnt by “paying close attention” it would be called photo-copy!🙂

    Great piece as usual Jan, but I’m still not goin hahaha!

    We shall see about that!🙂

    Feedback… a lot of my colleagues are interested now and I mean even the locals!! If it suits their budget, they are on the next boat. We need to de-stress…

    You’ll be happy to know the folks @ Sunshine have read your post and are in the process of working something out. Stay tuned! No car, no mobile phone coverage, no stress—Instant gratification!

    P.S. I love the picture of the pgymy squirrel. You should have heard our squeals of “So cute!!” when we saw the picture.

    Yeah those “PICK ME” squirrels are everywhere though you have to be lucky to see them. In the 3 days I was there, I caught sight of them twice on the second time, they were two of them chasing one another playfully.

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  9. Hey Jan, very nice write up of the trip. I’m checking your sites daily! Oh yea, I’ve uploaded the group pic you sent me and I got a pic of the the Simpur as well, in full blossom.

    Check it out at my blog site too~ Thanks

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  10. From what you wrote, it sounds like paradise. I would love to come and tour this area and take some pictures and come back to the US and tell everyone about this beautiful place.

    Tourists/pilgrims exist for a reason and that’s to appreciate another country’s beauty with a foreign eye (and maybe an EOS eye!)

    Hey Jan, very nice write up of the trip. I’m checking your sites daily! Oh yea, I’ve uploaded the group pic you sent me and I got a pic of the the Simpur as well, in full blossom.

    Hey YC, thanks for having my Lowepro trekker on your back most of the time including the time you fell on the steps. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your bag. Nothing I can do except I hope you recover it or some kind soul returns it soon.

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  11. I only hoped that some day they invest in local professional photogs the same way too.

    Can’t agree with that any less. I’m hoping that recent clip has peaked an interest amongst the same group to invest in our local cinematographers too. However, as always, the grass is always greener on the other side.

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  12. Owh wow! FInally, I thought the chalet does not exist, yet. I’ve been looking all over the net for this place… *phew* Thanx for posting it up! Temburong here I gggoooo!!😀

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  13. Nice photos, did u take all these photos by yourself?

    Yes I did. All photographs and illustrations carrying the © Jan Shim Photography are mine including all writing and graphics on sidebar widgets! Where third party materials are used in my articles, acknowledgment goes to the respective copyright owner. Hope that answers you?

    JAN SHIM PHOTOGRAPHY is a registered business name in Brunei Darussalam and SHIMWORLD is the official website that showcases my photographs and writing. All images are protected by copyright law of Brunei Darussalam. For more information, check out Copyright. Lost in Translation.

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  14. Nice photos, did u take all these photos by yourself?

    Hehehe.. Lily.. actually.. I was kinda holding his hand when he was pressing the button…

    J/k.. hehehe..

    There are less than A handful of people I would call to get a photo job done properly and Jan is one of them🙂

    Like

  15. I was surfing to find a good photo album and have been evaluating Jalbum. I saw that you are using it. So far it looks good to me. You can drop me an email if you have time and let me know if you have any thing you don’t like about it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Like

  16. Hello Don,

    I am happy with JAlbum. I standardise my galleries to either Chameleon when I want a non-Flash gallery or BananAlbum for Flash where desired. I have used it for a couple of years because of its simplicity to create elegant looking galleries.

    Perhaps the only thing that bugged me when I upgraded to release 8.0.9 (and it’s probably not JAlbum’s fault) is the very annoying and constant repeated requests to perform a Flash Player update.

    I use Internet Explorer 6.x and the yellow bar …

    To help protect your security, Internet Explorer has restricted this file from showing active content that could access your computer. Click here for options …

    Followed by “Please update your Flash Player” Not cool !

    On top of that, I also noticed (excessive) lag when ADDing a folder or images. All in all, this ruins predictable, reliable and smooth experience I’ve had with JAlbum—I’m not particularly at ease that JAlbum is beginning to ‘bloat’ for the lack of a better word. I dont know what it is about software publishers feeling the need to innovate. I would invest more efforts to market the product instead of making the products more complex than it really need to be!

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  17. hey bro, am so disappointed cos u din bring me along 2 nat. park, cos i miss the oppotunity 2 learn how 2 shot NATRURAL in coutry tat we stay….anyway, u take a amazing photo…can summit 2 do other easi card liao..

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  18. Reminds me of the my 1st trek up to the canopy walk years ago, in the wee hours of dawn. The rising mist felt like one was floating in “heaven”! Thanks for the great photographs! Certainly a treasure to time to come. Great job as Ambassador for tourism Brunei!

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  19. Hi Jan, after reading your post of the resort, I made plan to visit it and finally we took a 3D/2N package with Sunshine Tour last Christmas. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. With my feeble legs, I made it to the Canopy walk. You got to do it and take photos up there from different towers. The view is spectacular, esp. at Sunrise. It’s a challenge having to lug along your cumbersome camera and gears. I made do with my hubby’s Canon G9.

    By the way, 3 of the photos of the resort you donated were on our Penan cards and they traveled far beyond Brunei! Thanks again for your generosity.

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    1. You got to do it and take photos up there from different towers. The view is spectacular, esp. at Sunrise.

      I’m sure it is but I think I got a better view from a much higher vantage point of the rainforest and it was during sunrise too. Spectacular indeed and breathtaking at the same time!

      Like

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