I spent the last 2 days in one of the smallest countries in the world, Brunei. Very few people go here. In the two days I spent in this small place, I saw only two other tourists. The capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan (say that 3 times fast). It is the cleanest city in SE Asia I’ve seen so far. The place has a feeling of wealth: everyone drives new cars, the roads are pefect, the museums and mosques are new-looking and have free admission, there are no street vendors, no visible poverty, etc. Indeed, this country is sitting on a huge oil field and the sultan is apparently one of the wealthiest men in the world. Also, Brunei is a completely dry (Muslim) country. So, alcohol is completely non-existent. Don’t worry, I was able to survive for 2 days.
One of the highlights of this place was a boat tour of the Kampung Ayer, the largest and oldest water village in the world. 32,000 people live in houses built on stilts. This village comes complete with police, gas, and fire stations.
Life in the water village
Dinner: meat on a stick and a coconut
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at night. Sorry the picture is crooked. I need to start paying attention to what I’m doing…
Off-topic: My guidebook (Lonely Planet SE Asia) gives a fun list titled “Top 10 Ways to Look like a SouthEast Asian Verteran”. I copied it here for your amusement, plus a few comments of my own:
1. Never bump your heard climbing into and out of local transport trucks [At first I smoked my head the first few times, now I duck without even thinking about it]
2. Sniff out an internet connection in the remotest town
3. Use mosquito repellent as deoderant [I bathe in DEET… just kidding]
4. Forsake proper English grammar for local pidgin
5. Walk through a pack of stray dogs without flinching [Haha, this is a good one, so true, I’m slapping my knee while typing this]
6. Sleep through all night karaoke parties
7. Squat bomber style on western toilets [My squat toilet skills are now quite impressive, if I do say so myself]
8. Sit down for a banana pancake breakfast and reach for the fish sauce [I haven’t been able to bring myself to do this]
9. Be able to recount more than one “I almost died” story [Mine seem to all revolve around public transportation – I’m never taking a motorcycle-taxi in Bangkok ever again]
10. Pose for group photos with complete strangers [I love doing this, it makes me feel like a rock star]
Tomorrow I fly into the heart of Borneo to visit the famed Mulu National Park. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back to civilization.
A friend reminded me that it is Easter this weekend (else I would never have known). I hope you are having a happy one!