I read enough about Brunei to know what it was going to be like before I arrived. But as the saying goes, “A picture only says a thousand words.” With that logic, writing depicts even less. It’s hard to explain something without actually experiencing it. “You have to see it to believe it.” And that’s just how it was with me and Brunei.
The country is tiny geographically as well as in population size. Brunei is very Muslim. Accordingly, the country has some laws I was not accustomed to. Like from Friday-Sunday stores won’t give out plastic bags when you buy items. You know, like at the grocery store. So make sure to BYOB (Bring your own bag) or else you’ll be hand carrying four water bottles and assorted snacks back to the hotel.
Also relating to odd laws, on Friday it is a national law that all stores/banks/museums must shut down between noon and 2pm. (Some places it’s more like 11:30AM – 2:30PM.) So if you happen to travel to Brunei, keep that in mind.
Out of the country’s few attractions, they are all quite spread out geographically– especially the more outdoorsy activities. With taxi’s hard to come by and a practically non-existent public transport system, one’s best bet would be to rent a car or book a tour to reach more isolated parts of the country.
Thinking about everything I did in Brunei, the Royal Regalia Museum is one of the only things worth visiting. No offense to the country or the people. The people are very nice. Just to be completely frank, Brunei isn’t all that exciting.
Oh and if you happen to go to Brunei you must walk by the glorious Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, situated right in the downtown area. When you get up close, it’s really breathtaking. And certain times of the day Westerner’s are allowed inside.
I actually walked around the entire thing. Which offered a very interesting juxtaposition between the opulent mosque and then this shanty town in the back of it. Maybe referring to it as a shanty town is a bit dramatic, but there were decrepit houses built upon swampy water. And stray cats.
I guess the picture above doesn’t really paint a clear picture of what the area looked like. Perhaps it looked especially rundown sitting next to the gorgeous Mosque.
Nevertheless on the other side, by the main road, there was hired help sweeping the sidewalks, lawns groomed to perfection and even expensive fines for littering. A complete contrast of worlds right there in the city center. I found this even more interesting because Brunei is supposed to be a very wealthy nation, with a pretty high standard of living and GDP per capita.
So it is quite peculiar that such a luxurious Mosque has dilapidated homes right across the way.
Overall, I had a decent time in Brunei. It’s certainly not a city of sin or overindulgence. But the people are friendly. And it was an insightful trip. Prior to that, I had never been to a country that adheres to Sharia Law.