The Sultanate of Brunei
Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo. It’s known for the opulent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, adorned with chandeliers, stained glass and Italian marble, and surrounded by a lagoon. Nearby, the Royal Regalia Building showcases a gold carriage and lavish gifts presented to the sultan. To the northwest is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, with 29 golden domes.
The country is modern, clean and the people friendly and welcoming to visitors.
Where Your Ship Docks
The Brunei seaport is Muara located 20 miles away from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, Most visiting cruise ships will provide shuttle busses to the capital.
Bandar Seri Begawan is a very walkable city and water taxis are easy to locate for trips and tours. While there is a good bus system, Brunei now boasts their own ride share service called Dart Brunei with apps available on on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Reports are that the system is safe and easy to use and fairly priced.
Brunei has its own dollar with an exchange rate of one Brunei Dollar equal to US 75¢. Major credit cards are widely accepted.
Brunei In General
There has been some controversy recently involving the Sultan and “his” nations strict interpretation of Islam and Sharia Law. In Hollywood there was a call to boycott the Salton’s five luxury hotels that included The Beverly Hills Hotel. If anything this sheds a light on just how wealthy Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is (his full name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam).
The countries wealth is based on oil. There are huge offshore deposits controlled by the Sultan and his companies. While the Sultan controls every facet of the economy and government he is a very benevolent ruler. Currently the average income in the country is US$40,000 and most everyone that wants to work has a job. He provides free college education and government subsidized housing.
This area of the world is famous for what are called water-villages and Brunei is home to some large water communities. A serious issue with these villages is sanitation where waste is simply flushed into the sea. To fix this problem the Sultan has been building new, modern water-villages with proper plumbing and has systematically been relocating his people into these new facilities. Generally, the people love and support their Sultan and he invests heavily to provide for his people.
A conversation overheard on a bus in Brunei:
- Canadian tourist – What form of government do you have here in Brunei?
- Local young man – We have the Sultan and the Legislative Council.
- Canadian tourist – So the Sultan is the head of government?
- Local young man – Yes, he takes the role of Prime Minister
- Canadian – How often do you have elections and are there a number of political parties?
- Local young man – Oh, we don’t have parties or elections. The Sultan appoints each member of the council.
- Canadian tourist– Does that much power concern you? Don’t you fear corruption?
- Local young man – No. The Sultan would remove anyone that was corrupt.
- Canadian tourist – But don’t the people want a say in what the country does?
- Local young man – Why? We have the Sultan. He takes very good care of us…