Brunei, A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures
One of the world’s richest country which is located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
Brunei Darussalam officialy Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a small but – thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources – very rich country located in Southeast Asia. It’s surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically located on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs.
The Sultanate of Brunei’s heyday occurred between the 15th and 17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. It was offered the opportunity to join Malaysia as a state in 1963, but opted out of the Federation due to a disagreement on the amount of its oil income that would have to be given to the central government in Kuala Lumpur. Independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with hundreds of large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified “halal”, (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned. The severing of limbs as a punishment for theft is also written into law in Brunei, making it the only country in south east Asia to implement fundamentalist Sharia Law. During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open. However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate. In 2014, new law had been passed by the government where non-fasting people only allowed to take-out foods from all restaurants and eat privately. This due to the respect of the Holy Month in Islam.
The bulk of the population is Malay (67%) and there is also a significant Chinese minority of some 15% as well as a number of indigenous peoples, including the Dusun tribes who inhabit the jungle upriver and the Temburong district, (the smaller eastern part detached from the rest of Brunei). There is a large number of foreign workers who work on the oil and gas production or in positions such as restaurant staff, field workers and domestic staff. The male to female ratio is 3:2. More than a quarter of the people are short term immigrant workers, most of whom are men. The most important festival among the non-Muslim native groups of Sabah is Kaamatan or Harvest Festival. This usually takes place in May and the last two days of the month are public holidays in the state. The most popular event is the unduk ngadau or Harvest Queen in Kadazan, where girls throughout the state compete for the crown. A lot of drinking and general merry-making accompanies the festival.
Brunei’s sole airport of significance is Brunei International Airport (BWN), the hub of national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines. The airport itself is small but clean and functional.
The main ferry terminal in Brunei is the Serasa Ferry Terminal at Muara, where there are several ferries daily to/from Labuan and one daily ferry each to/from Lawas and Sundar, both in Sarawak. With a change of boats in Labuan, you can even make it to/from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in a day.
Negara Brunei Darussalam
Brunei at a glance
- Country: Sultanate of Brunei
- Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
- Area: 5,765 km2
- Population: 459,500
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque: An Islamic mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.
- Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque: One of the two Brunei’s national mosques which is located in Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Royal Regalia Museum: previously known as the Royal Regalia Building, is a museum located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.
- Tasek Lama Recreational Park: The park which is mostly used by locals for exercise, there are two walking trails, one short and flat and one larger and steeper, to enjoy the tranquillity of the park.
- Ulu Temburong National Park: The first national park to be established in Brunei. The park contains unspoiled jungle and is known as the “Green Jewel of Brunei”, described as “the finest example of the sultanate’s successful forest protection policy”.
- Kampong Ayer: consists of a cluster of traditional stilt villages built on the Brunei River, mainly in the vicinity of the present-day Pusat Bandar or the City Centre. Hence, it has often been dubbed as ‘Venice of the East’ since the past.