Last Stop: Negara Brunei Darussalam

14 06 2009

I’ve been blessed with a gift of time over the last few days (as I’ll explain in the next post), so I had some time to write. I wanted to share a little bit about the last destination me and Tolik wound up visiting before we went our separate ways (him back to New York, me to Thailand to study massage for a week) – The Sultanate of Brunei.

When we were putting together our itinerary for the travel, Tolik succinctly described Brunei as:

“… The second word that comes to mind when Brunei is mentioned is Boring for B, right after antisemitism for A – the sultanate of Brunei forbids entry to any Israeli citizens. US citizens, surprisingly, don’t need a visa. Anyhoo, Brunei was worth the extra day to look at and check off an extra country… “

It’s a tiny country with a population of less than 400,000 people located on the island of Borneo. When I say tiny, I mean, so tiny that a cattle station they have in Australia that supplies them with meat is bigger than Brunei itself.

However, due to rich oil and gas deposits and protection from the British, it is quite wealthy. In fact, the nominal per capita GDP is over $50,000 – placing it #5 in the world. One step higher of the United States, actually.

But fortunately, the money is being quite well spent. In fact, they have invested US$1.1 billion in a luxury Empire Country Club and Hotel. Now that’s thinking about the future! I guess they are following Dubai’s trend in that respect.

It has about 3 major towns: Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait and Seria (also known as Shelltown, because that’s where Shell has set up its operations and most of the country’s revenues are coming from). Most of the people live within them – with a huge expat population in Seria.

We spent a night in the capital and visited the other cities in transit. All in all, Brunei turned out to be an interesting place to spend two days before heading out, but was probably not the top place we’d return to:

Mosque

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

Boat

Ceremonial boat permanently parked next to the Mosque. Nobody really knows what it does, though.

Water Village

The most interesting part about Brunei was a big water village in their capital. It was just fascinating to see something like this next to modern buildings and skyscrapers (by Brunei standards):

Boat

Water village

Boat

Closes up of the houses

Boat

Even the billboards find their way here.

Boat

Typical alley within the water village.

Boat

Used by people, bikes, etc.

Boat

Close-up of a house. Sorry - can't think of a better headline🙂

Boat

The evening descends on the village.


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