Stopping Over in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam

in travel •  9 months ago 

DSC_5434.jpg

On my tour around Borneo, I was to come across the Sultanate of Brunei, one of the world’s smaller countries and a Sultanate. It’s known for its strict Sharia law, proclaiming death penalty for the possession of drugs or for being gay, although no executions have occurred after its indepencence, 1984.

Wealth for everybody

DSC_5342.jpg

Thanks to oil (and gas), Brunei incredibly wealthy. Basically, Brunei’s economy relies upon the black gold which makes the Sultan one of the world’s wealthiest persons and adds some profound benefits for its citizens: Free education and health care, no income tax, a house for everyone, lots of subsidies. The city of Bandar Seri Begawan is a showcase of Brunei’s wealth, featuring gigantic and beautiful mosques, a free theme park, and the Sultan’s Palace, which happens to be the biggest individual residence in the world. Motorcycles are rarely spotted, if so, it’s rather big Harley Davidsons rather than the 100- or 150-cc bikes usually seen around Asia. Roads are perfectly sealed and most people have their own car, while there is no public transport — fuel prices are well below 40 cents (USD) per litre, anyway.

DSC_5316.jpg

Brunei’s people are super friendly. As a foreigner, I got waved inside mosques or smiled at when walking through the ‘water village’, another of Brunei’s sights. “Where are you from? … Are you Muslim?”, two boys were asking me, being curious. Of course, the way Brunei works is closely intertwined with its religion, and in state schools, there’s even a subject on Islam and Nationhood Education.

Opening Up to the West

DSC_5322.jpg

I stayed with a New-Zealand expat who was teaching English at school. What his job is, mostly? “To be white”, he was laughing. In education, Brunei is implementing a Western education system, running Cambridge examination at schools, where native English speakers are most welcome, of course.

Brunei seems to be in a bit of a balancing act between wanting to open up to the West and at the same time wanting to preserve its own cultural heritage, the faith into the Sultan and the religious piety of its people.

DSC_5349.jpg

Bandar's Night Life

... there is none -- period. As long as one abides by the rather strict moral code, a life in Brunei is very pleasant, and maybe a little boring. Even in the capital, there literally is no night life and the streets are empty after 8 p.m. There seems to be one hack for music and social entertainment, wich is to get married: a wedding is the only occasion where public music and merry socializing is accepted.

DSC_5435.jpg

DSC_5440.jpg

IMG_3210.jpg

IMG_3211.jpg

IMG_3213.jpg

DSC_5326.jpg

IMG_3174.jpg

IMG_3220.jpg

Brunei is pretty small -- in fact, it is crossed within less than two hours. After a few pleasant days with my host in Bandar and a short visit to the beach, I went back on the road and back into Malaysia.

IMG_3189.jpg

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Hi mikearound,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit curiesteem.com or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

Thank you, really appreciate it!

hi @mikearound
nice post on a rather unknown place! As travelers we have to put this on the list too, maybe it's too radical for me as my friend @cubap says, but it's interesting just to see the profound differences there are in the world, right?
Congratulations and thank you for sharing with us

Thanks for reading!

It sounds like an interesting place. I know that the countries with strong religions have less night life than the ones who are more 'liberal'. But I don't think it has a lot of impact on people living there. They are used to such lifestyle and I'm sure they are happy. It's all about the preferences I guess.

It would be nice if the petrol would be this cheap here as well :) I mean I wouldn't use my car more often but I would save some money for something else in this case :)

Thank you for sharing such a nice report!

Have a good day and congratulations on your curie vote!

Thanks for the heads up, buddy!
Certainly agreed, night life is nothing that one would really need, in the end, we all are social beings and there is other ways of fulfilling this need, like weddings (as mentioned :) ) or direct personal contacts. So in that way it's not really preference, it's just truly culture and how you grow up. As a Westerner, it might be a bit of an issue. I lived with an expat and he said one of the major reasons he does Couchsurfing is to socialise.
The thing with the cheap petrol is that it is only for Bruneian number plates since it's subsidised by the state. As a foreigner, I had to pay BND 1.10/litre (versus 50 Brunei-Cents for locals). On the Malay side, it's cheap anyway, around 50 US-Cents per litre. So I wasn't bothered too much by this policy. :)

Congratulations @mikearound! You have completed the following achievement on the Steem blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

You received more than 500 upvotes. Your next target is to reach 1000 upvotes.

You can view your badges on your Steem Board and compare to others on the Steem Ranking
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

Vote for @Steemitboard as a witness to get one more award and increased upvotes!

fantastic photos of the unique and not so well undiscovered place for the European people. You have surprised me with this information about completely zero night life, and only one opportunity to fun through marriage. Definitely too radical place for me :)
Enjoy your travel !

Thank you!

Such a lovely tour you had in there. Such a great country and awesome places in there too. It's always about the fun when touring but the learning part is always great. One meets people around and get to know a lot, outside his place comfort. The feeling is always great too.

I really enjoyed every second I spent on your blog and each word in there was worthwhile. Great piece and keep the touring spirit up always

Posted using Partiko Android

Thank you so much, I appreciate it!

Thank you for these beautiful photo diary, have never been in Brunei like may be many of us living in Europe but it is really beautiful, like the architecture and the buildings. Of course it is also nice warm country that is the privilege for people to spend more time outdoors, enjoying sun and boats. Like probably every country there are some poor population too, seeing the children, I must say we were all the same as children, happy and playing outside. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience :)

I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, thank you!

Very interesting as I didn't know much about Brunei. It will be interesting what is going to happen in the years to come when black gold will become worthless. Do they discuss it saying what they are going to do going forward?

Hmm, not that I would know of. For sure, the profit of the oil business, especially with the developing countries will be going on for a few more decades. They are putting some effort into their education system, taking the British one as a baseline. But to be honest, it is a tiny country with comparatively few inhabitants, so after the oil business is finished, an economical setback seems inevitable.

I know nothing or very little about Sultanate of Brunei, so I'm very happy to have come across your blog.

death penalty for the possession of drugs or for being gay

Although I'm not ok with the death penalty, I agree, drugs must disappear from out lives. Death penalty for being gay is outrageous. I understand that some religions have strict rules but we're living in the 21sth century and homosexuality exists from ancient times. I hope these countries can change in time. I'm not saying they should legalize gay marriages, I know they never would but punishing it, it's just very wrong.

Brunei seems to be in a bit of a balancing act between wanting to open up to the West and at the same time wanting to preserve its own cultural heritage, the faith into the Sultan and the religious piety of its people.

This would have been my next thought. Brunei is not alone with this. I believe quite a few countries whats to do that but somehow they can't find the way. Controlling people through religion is key for them but opening up to western influence is going to weaken that control over the people. They are going to have a pretty hard job balancing things but I believe people will have a saying in this and will decide.

... there is none -- period. As long as one abides by the rather strict moral code, a life in Brunei is very pleasant, and maybe a little boring. Even in the capital, there literally is no night life and the streets are empty after 8 p.m. There seems to be one hack for music and social entertainment, which is to get married: a wedding is the only occasion where public music and merry socializing is accepted.

Exactly what I was saying. I'm curious to see how long this is going to last. I understand that those people who know only the life what they are living, have no idea what life could be and maybe they don't desire another life but in the digital era, where we have internet, television and news are practically impossible to avoid, people can be influenced easily.

Anyway, it was nice to read your great blog post, I had the opportunity to learn something :)

Thank you for your feedback! I only came back across it now, this is why I didn't reply earlier.
To your first point, take Singapore as an example. They have strict rules with high fines, however it's debatable if those fines are being carried out or have a deterrence element in them. I do agree with you, I don't find that those kinds of laws fit into a modern, globalised world. Development in that sense takes time, I guess.

You're right, they need to adapt but that takes time. The good news is they can't avoid it.