Wow what a difference from the vibrant chaos of Bail and Java. Today is Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, sultan kingdom the size of Rhode Island, on the island of Borneo. Much more organized, clean (at least on land) and NO SCOOTERS!. 90% Muslim with no dinking and no smoking. Actually you can drink and smoke but you have buy it outside the country. Every 48 hours you can bring into the country 12 cans of beer and 2 bottles of liquor (no multi-trip border crossing with Malaysia). Alcohol must be consumed in your home or hotel room. No smoking within 10 feet of any building and cigarettes are heavily taxed when you bring them in.
Brunei was a British protectorate until 1950s when the 29th generation Sultan family took over as supreme leader. Lots of offshore oil, means the Sultan has the largest residence in the world with 253 bathrooms and banquet hall for 5,000. One of the excursions is to the royal polo grounds. For the general population. Education and medical care are free. Women can drive, work and hold government positions. Criminal activity goes to civil court and family issues go to the Muslim court.
Clothing must be modest for both men and women, shoulders and knees covered. No camera’s over 6 inches allowed unless you have a previously applied for permit. English is widely spoken and the people are friendly. Recommendation is to not drink the water and be very careful about eating in a restaurant as the advanced excursion team had some stomach problems related to the food. The microbes and spices are different than we are used to.
Our tour was to the largest in the world water village built several hundred years ago. 30,000 people live on stilts and wooden walkways over the river. Less bugs and mosquitos to worry about. Its right next to the city as you can see in the pictures. We had tea and snacks in one of the houses. It was a bit of a quandary as we were told not to eat things, yet a tour was organized by Viking implying it was safe. I tried some strong, but tasty tea and a Madeline type cookie. A couple of the other snacks looked similar to the rice pudding wrapped in banana leaves as we has in Indonesia. Mel declined. The walkways and houses seemed very sturdy, somewhat like a mobile home on a platform. The kitchen was tiled and cooking was out on the back porch with a two burner propane stove. There was also a chicken coop with chickens under the porch roof. From the house, we boarded a boat for a ride through the villages and met our bus back on the other side of the river. Very cool traveling amongst the houses. You cannot buy one, you have to inherit it.
Next was the open air market, mostly fruits and veggies. More dried leaves and green veggies than I have seen in the other markets. The rest room cost 20 cents which included grabbing some toilet paper, Mel found out of necessity.
Next stop was the Malay technology museum. We had to turn in any bags or cameras although they let people keep their iPhone?? It contained many dioramas depicting life 300 and 100 years ago. Homes, tools, baskets, weapons, metallurgy. Very nice overview. Beautiful 3 story building too with nice wood carved stairway panels. Too bad we could not take pictures.
Compared to the rest of south Asia, Brunei was sedate, organized and clean. Everything had a Sultan twist to it including life size pictures of the Sultan and his first wife on the wall of the water village house, to every other building named for the 29th sultan, Royal Regalia museum, coronation hall, Sultan birthday fair grounds and 29 towers on the mosque (there was a 28 tower one to that his father built). Most houses did have two cars with gas being very cheap $1.50 a gallon.
Interesting country, would come back, but its not in the top 20 list.