Friday, July 13, 2018

Brunei Darussalam

Masjid (Mosque) Omar Ali Saifuddien

Despite being an oil-rich country, Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan ("BSB"), isn't the shining Emerald City that, say, Dubai is reputed to be. It is a relatively modern city with spots of magnificence nearby (mosques, the Royal Regalia museum dedicated to the Sultan, new bridges). But the fifth richest country in the world seems conspicuously free of bling. It's also a pretty quiet place.

Kampong Ayer
Sharia Law is in effect and you are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol in public. Apparently Miri, Malaysia is where residents head for fun. The borders are reportedly clogged on pay day.

Like most of the places we have visited in Asia so far, the people are very friendly. We have been enjoying the sites around the area and will stay until the Sultan's birthday on Sunday.

Kampong Ayer (Venice of the East) is a city over the water. We have seen homes on stilts throughout the Pacific, but none as extensive or modern as this. If not for the water underneath, some of the homes resemble townhouses in US suburbia.

School on the water
We also visited the Royal Regalia Museum, a sort of shrine to all things relating to Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibn Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam (the current Sultan) and his kin. You have to remove your shoes and cannot take pictures except in the lobby. His Majesty is a handsome and accomplished man who has gotten a lot of pretty cool gifts from other countries.

Soldiers practicing for the Sultan's Birthday Celebration.
The Sultan's birthday (he's 72 this year) is a big deal in Brunei. Every business has a huge banner announcing the date. The borders are closed and civil servants are required to remain in the country. The celebration parade is over early but businesses cannot open until noon.

Temburong jungle canopy walk
Keep your hands inside the boat--there are crocs!

We took a tour to Temburong National Park. From BSB, we took a speedy water taxi, car, and zippy longboat through mild rapids to the park. There we climbed to the top of the jungle canopy on a walkway (seemingly sturdy enough but disconcertingly high and exposed). Brunei hasn't had to sell logging rights so its jungles are more pristine than many in Indonesia and Malaysia. We had hoped to see proboscis monkeys but struck out (our guide thought that the woman in the group ahead of us, who for some unknown reason was howling resoundingly and extensively, may have scared them away). Maybe she was trying to call them, Tarzan-style?

Really long longboats carried us through the river.

The tour included a swim in a waterfall with cleaner fish. If you stay in one place any length of time, they start 'cleaning' you. Basically, they are eating bits of dead skin from your body. It doesn't really hurt but it does feel like they are biting you--because they are. I was not a big fan of the sensation and declined to stay in one spot too long (which did not include screeching and flailing--that's how I remember it).

After a delicious lunch at the Freme Rainforest Lodge, we did a fun zip line over the river. Mark and Conrad's Nana and Grandpa had already gone rain forest zip-lining a few years back, while in their 70's. Thinking back on all the places we have visited and things we have done in our five-plus years on the boat, many were trails that they had already blazed. Happy birthday (in advance), to our adventurous Nana!


  1. Thanks for the advance birthday wishes. I would still like to be adventurous but it’s more difficult.

  2. Forgot to say.....I enjoyed the latest pictures a lot.


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