Rich Little Brunei

Some places are just lucky. One of those places is the small state of Brunei, which is located on the island of Borneo.

This tiny country, the official name of which is Brunei Darussalam, Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace just happens to have enormous gas and oil resources within its boundaries, which keep the country enormously wealthy.

Despite its size, Brunei is still comprised of two tiny slivers of land, which are separated by a part of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Brunei is an Islamic country and whilst alcohol is forbidden and modest dress is expected, it is not as rigid or harsh as some Islamic countries, with the population being quite relaxed and friendly.

The capital of Brunei is called Bandar Seri Begawan, and it is named after the father of the Sultan.

The city is built on the banks of the Brunei River and contains some magnificent buildings, especially the elaborate mosques. Being a water city, it has a number of kampongs, water villages, in which houses are built above the river on stilts. One of the best ways to travel tho these kampongs is by water taxi.

The largest of these water villages is called Kampong Ayer, which is a national heritage site that is home to a population of about 30,000. It is an amazing fabric of houses and canals which are connected by elevated walkways and bridges that has occupied its present location for over 1,000 years.

For a more luxurious stay, Brunei is home to some palatial resorts which grace some of its magnificent beaches.

The wealth that is generated by the oil and gas means that the population does not need to subsistence farming, which is often maintained by environmentally damaging slash and burn techniques. The island of Borneo has some amazing rainforests, and these have been preserved in Brunei.

One of the easiest to visit is the Ulu Temburong National Park, which is about an hour from Bandar by water taxi. The park contains an extensive network of boardwalks which lead through the forest and are used to protect the many varieties of plant life. For superb views of the rain forest there is a canopy walkway which rises to 50 metres above the forest floor, to give visitors a bird’s eye view of the forest.

Brunei is one of Asia’s smallest and least known countries. It is very modern in parts, staunchly Muslim, yet a place where age-old traditions are both valued and preserved.

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