Brunei Darussalam

Brunei :: Hot, humid and I should’ve stayed longer

I once had a thousand desires, but in my one desire to know you all else melted away
– Rumi

Brunei Darussalam is one of the oldest kingdoms in South East Asia (at least according to Hassanal Bolkiah, the current sultan). If you scroll to the absolute bottom of this one there’s super cool videos of me snapping my friends and followers how much I was sweating. That’s what you call a treat ❤

Brunei is such a tiny, little place on the map… And I knew I the chances of me booking a vacation to this spot some time in the future were minute, so it quickly made it onto my list of “countries I need to see when I’m in the area, if at all possible”.

“Brunei has been led by the Sultanate of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah since 1967, and had gained its independence as a British protectorate on 1 January 1984. The country is an autocratic absolute monarchy. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s, with the GDP increasing 56% from 1999 to 2008, transformed Brunei into an industrialized country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asian nations, after Singapore, and is classified as a developed country.”

IT WAS SO HOT THEY LITERALLY HAD TO LIFT THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS SO THE LINING WOULDN’T MELT ONTO THEIR CAR WINDOW. JUST. SAYING.

I only spent 2,5 days there and as you can see in one of my snaps I sent on the last night I was reconsidering whether that was a good idea… I remember sitting outside the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque listening to the evening prayer and just feeling such a sense of peace… It really got me thinking about all the beauty, culture and tradition in the Muslim faith that is equally worth conserving as the ones we have in other cultures of the world. All the temples and sacred places I’ve seen throughout my trip of all different religions… And we just manage to somehow f*ck it all up. The level of fear people have of Muslims just in general these days scares me. And it’s not called for. Just stop saying that. Fight ISIS, not every Muslim on the planet.

I’m not sorry for the rant, but this is a family show so back to the travel part of this program… I had ended up checking out two of three things I had been told about when visiting Brunei. The third thing I avoided because I had been told about it 😛 It’s called “Ambuyat” and it looks like this:

Ambuyat (I stole this pic)

Ambuyat (I stole this pic)

So, my travel friend, Amy, told me about Ambuyat, what it looked like and the taste. And then some people from Brunei told me it was something I would get if I was eating dinner at a friend’s house or something. It wasn’t really something they would serve me at every restaurant/dining place, so it wasn’t that easy to get a hold of. Now, I don’t mind the looks, and the taste, I am kind of like Samantha from “Sex and the City”: I’ll try anything once. (Except in my case, it’s food) 😛

So, Ambuyat was off the menu. I ended up eating dinner at Burger King to be honest. I think I had a mild heat stroke when I arrived (only slightly kidding about that) so I found myself in that state I sometimes enter where I just can’t wrap my head around a place at all. Even if I’m standing in the middle of it. First day I arrived late too, so it was general surroundings, striking Ambuyat off the list, eating dinner and spending the late evening recuperating in my very air conditioned room.

The next day I went to see the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It is one of the country’s two national mosques as well as a national landmark. It is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the country and is named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei and the father of the current monarch Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Today the mosque is surrounded by a large “eco corridor” including a man-made lagoon and it looks pristine and beautiful. Families spend leisure time in what can best be described as a very open park area filled with art pieces, extremely neatly kept lawns and bushes, playground equipment for the kids and various pathways for strolling or jogging.

“Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas (literally ‘Golden Jubilee Crown Park’), initially known as Eco-Corridor Park, is a riverfront public park in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. The park was inaugurated on 22 October 2017 in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s accession to the throne as the 29th and current Sultan of Brunei.”

Eco Corridor Park (I stole this too. No shame).

Eco Corridor Park (I stole this too. No shame).

The Eco Corridor Park received some criticism too though, as it ended up relocating about 500 locals who needed to find another place to live. TI bought a postcard with a photo of how it looked before and while it was undeniably less appetizing to the eye, I am left wondering how well the people upended from their homes were treated. This is also where a lot of locals as well as tourists take pictures with the mosque and park as backdrop. I came across three young women taking photos, giggling and looking very happy so I asked them what the occasion was. They had recently graduated and were celebrating, dressed in graduation robes and cute, little caps. I asked if I could take a photo of them and they immediately posed, happy to include me somewhat in their celebration. It’s such a small thing, but it’s one of those things that end up becoming a cherished memory.

The girls <3

The girls ❤

One last photo…

The Mosque

The Mosque

I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the Royal Regalia Museum, where they store a ton of ceremonial artifacts and clothing, including the entire, massive chariot the sultan was driven around in for his silver jubilee (1992). I remember there were very specific places I could take photos. I could stand in the hall and take photos all around except towards the left if I stood too close to the left… Or something. They kindly let you know though and weren’t angry about it so it wasn’t a hassle, just another slightly amusing rule I struggled to figure out the reason for 😉 (Not to be that obnoxious, white, tourist person, but some of these rules are a bit wonky, let’s be real. Temples and sacred places, I get, but “not within these five meters in the hallway of the museum, but fine to take a picture from a distance in the same hallway” is a bit… Amusing).

On a side note I found out later that this building was opened in 1971, originally as “Churchill Memorial Building” and at the time it was the only museum in the world dedicated to commemorate Winston Churchill (even though he’d never been there). Apparently, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III was a great admirer of Churchill. The building then had a huge bronze statue of Churchill himself posing with the V sign. The statue stood on top of a granite base which had an inscription of a quote by Churchill “These are not dark days. They are great days.”

Like, go figure… What was that all about? I guess a one-sided bromance is still a bromance…

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