Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brunei, an oil country in the jungle

Brunei is known worldwide through the wealth of his sultan, apart from that, it's even difficult to put it on the map! So for your information, Brunei is made of 2 bits of territory on the Malaysian part of the gigantic island of Borneo.
So far, everyone has been curious of knowing why we went to Brunei, there is nothing to see in particular, but I just wanted to find out if Brunei was a sort of Dubai in the jungle, why it had kept such a low profile and just how was life overthere!
Ok, it is also allowing me to add a new country on the world traveler map and I might have a change of reaching 20% coverage by the end of this year...

So here is what made Brunei a unique place:

- Its capital has an un-pronounceable name:  Bandar Seri Begawan, shorten into BSB

- An entertaining immigration: we are asked about the chassis number and the engine number of our wonderful proton, we get a stamp in our passport that I believe is fairly rare (unless you work for Shell which seems to own half of the country...) and after going through the actual immigration we have to go through an old and unused one that they have forgotten to destroy but that the road still goes through...

- A huge sand beach where our French visitors are amazed to discover water approaching 30C.  If you manage to ignore the sand flies, it's perfect!

- Road signs and indications are either non-existant or not useful at all: Getting into BSB city centre is a real challenge! There are no good map available of Brunei (not like we would have bought one, but ...), so the lonely planet is all we have! After getting off the motorway and never managing to get back on again, we discover that the steering wheel of the Proton does not offer a lot of flexibility when attempting to make a U turn and getting stuck on the pavement on the other side has a high probability of occurrence! 

- There is indeed very little to see in the town, the mosque at night is the highlight! It's actually pretty during daytime as well

- Finding a bar is absolutely impossible and believe me, we tried! After dinner in a Chinese restaurant which did not offer any beer (surprising for a Chinese restaurant), we are back to our bar quest. (don't think we are alcoholic when reading this post, it just seems like that the more forbidden it is, the more you want/need a beer). Our brief holiday in Qatar has told us that 5* hotels are usually the place for bars so we head to the Radisson, it looks dead inside but anyway, I ask the security man if there is a bar, he looks at me like he doesn't  know the word and turns back to the concierge to ask: no, no bar at the Radisson. We finish the night playing pool at the bar of our hotel drinking water, watching the group of Chinese men on the next table drinking Jack Daniels that they take out of their own cooler! We have obviously missed the trick here...

- Finally, the highlight of our trip to Brunei: a morning on a boat taking us to see Proboscis monkeys and the lively floating village! We get to see the big nose monkeys a bit better than near KK.  On the river, we also get a glimpse of the sultan palace, it looks tiny indeed...

Finally we get to the floating village at lunch time when kids are going home from schools, boats are used as buses, we discover a much more exciting life on water than in downtown BSB. Everything is organised on water, the clinic, firestation, mosque...

Here we go, that's the end of our visit to Brunei, I'm glad we went and got to discover the specificities of this tiny (and rich) country!
PS: Thanks to Dad's special request, you should now be able to click on the photos if you want to see them in bigger size!


  1. If you want a beer, come in south america, you are more than welcome!!! And you don't need to find a 5* hotel (also, I don't know where they are...)

  2. je ne sais pas si tu l'as beaucoup remasterisé depuis que tu nous en as parlé mais cet article est maintenant parfait! ;-) informatif et drole et en plus il me rappelle de bons souvenirs en votre compagnie!!


  3. @ Remy
    I'll remember to catch a flight to South America next time I want a beer!
    @ Celine
    Bien remodele depuis la derniere fois! Reste encore Mulu a finir et maintenant Melakka!