For my first trip in 2019, I joined a tour from Hong Kong to Brunei with a cousin in January. It’s the 50th country that I have visited. And what an unexpected treasure it turned out to be!!
Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital where I stayed is my kind of city for a visit. It has a delightful combination of culture, history, nature, some stunning mosques, and warm sunny climate matched by its equally warm and sunny people! They actually stop at zebra crossings for pedestrians!
There’s no smoking: in fact visitors bringing in cigarettes even for own use have to declare to Customs on arrival.
There’re no bars, no casinos and no nightlife which means no drunken rowdy party-goers, or stampede of visitors heading for the casinos! It’s a strict Muslim country but it is not at all intimidating for foreign visitors, so long as they respect the local customs and laws
Brunei is young country (1984) but has been ruled by the same Royal family for 600 years. The current Sultan is the 29th.
It’s 5 times the size of Hong Kong with only 420,000 inhabitants 100,000 of whom are foreign workers.
Istana Nurul Iman is the Sultan’s official residence and the seat of the Brunei government. It boasts 3 times the number of rooms as in Buckingham Palace!!
Brunei a Utopia ??
What else do you call an oil-rich country with no beggars, no litter ?
Where a litre of petrol or diesel costs less than water?? Water – B$1 (£0.57) Diesel 30 cents (£029) Petrol 50 cents (£0.19) ?
Where it’s safe, clean and very green?
Where there’re no earthquakes, no typhoons, no tsunami?
Where it’s summer all year round?
And where citizens pay NO tax at all?!!
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
The mosque, built in a lagoon, is named after the 28th Sultan and the most recognisable landmark of Brunei
Kampong Ayer (Water Village)
Just across the river from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque stands the world’s largest water village with its own schools, police station and even mosque. We were invited to one of the homes for refreshment. It’s surprisingly spacious inside
Eat well and shop in style
The Rizqun International Hotel where we had lunch is typical of Brunei’s low key luxury. Through the back exit of the restaurant is The Mall Shopping Centre with an array of shops, frequented by locals and visitors alike.
Royal Regalia Museum
Royal Regalia Museum has a very interesting collection of photos, paraphernalia used for coronation and commemorative ceremonies, and gifts from other countries
For a bit of nature, we joined a “River Safari” tour in the hope of getting a glimpse of proboscis monkeys (long-nosed monkeys) and crocodiles
We got the speed boat from the pier and reached the mudflats and mangroves in no time at all. The boat slowed down every time there was a sighting of the monkeys and crocodiles.
I managed to take a photo each of both, but I doubt I would put any professional wildlife photographer out of a job any time soon!!
Jam’asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque
It is the largest mosque built for the current (29th) Sultan
Every Friday from 12.00 – 14.00 everything is shut for Friday prayers. During this period, traders are be fined if they’re found serving customers and drivers pull over to pray.
The Empire Hotel & Country Club
For a bit of affordable luxury, afternoon tea at The Empire is essential!
Apart from the unlimited refills of food, it’s a chance to enjoy the friendly service in an opulent setting. And to walk along the private beach, which borders South China Sea, watching the sun set
Views of the private beach from the hotel
The beautiful setting of the private beach
Sunset at The Empire
By the way, anyone thinking of settling down in Brunei to enjoy the idyllic lifestyle and benefits, forget it!
Only citizens of Brunei can buy properties there. And the only way to be a citizen is to marry a Brunei man and convert to Islam, which of course rule out men!
Finally, here is my fridge magnet and me in my usual pose!
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