Archive for the ‘Brunei’ Category

As stated in the previous post, Borneo is divided into a Malaysian and an Indonesian part- yet, in all this, one should not forget the Sultanate of Brunei, which also has its share of the island, if a small one at that. It is a tiny country, completely surrounded by Malaysia, and even broken up into two parts, meaning that when travelling overland from Western Malaysian Borneo into Brunei and further into the Eastern part of Malaysian Borneo, one acquires 8 stamps in one’s passport….(exit Malaysia, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia, exit Malaysia, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia….).

Mosque Brunei

Mosque Brunei

Brunei owes its riches to oil that was found offshore and has thus managed to keep its independence against its bigger neighbours. There are no taxes, there is free healthcare for everyone, and there is a sultan, who, by constitutional law ‘can do no wrong’. Hmmmmm. Alcohol was officially banned in 1991, and the country is certainly more strictly Muslim than most parts of Malaysia.

There is not all that much to see in the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan- the watervillage is definitely the most striking sight. Entire suburbs of the city are built into the vast river, on wooden stelts, connected by narrow plank walks, transport is by tiny ships. We spent some time meandering through the maze of alleys between the houses- many of them dead ends, so there was a lot of backtracking.  Yet, there are some other curious sights- maybe curious is not quite the right word. The sultan’s brother achieved fame of a rather doubtful nature by nearly ruining the sultanate during his time as financial supervisor- he commissioned the construction of buildings of such pompous, megalomanic dimensions that it is hard for the average person to imagine. The completion of a palace intended as guesthouse for the sultan’s visitors cost an incredible 1,1 billion dollars (additionally, he bought himself about 20 planes and 2000 cars….).  After he was stripped of his responsibilities, the sultan transformed the building into a hotel, to at least fix some of the damage by earning a little money with the golden palace. We went there to have as look around- the lobby sure is impressive, full of marble and gold that it is, but the rest reminded strongly of the average 4 star holiday hotel- so where did all that money go, one wonders????

Hotelpool

Hotelpool

We ended our stay in Brunei with a boatride along one of its rivers that meanders through the jungle, and another walk in the dense forests of the sultanate, before setting foot into Malaysia once more.

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