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Beginners Journal to Brunei

September 06, 2018

Beginners Journal to Brunei

In the good old days one could smell natural oil reserves and in 1926, F. F. Marriot and T. G. Cochrane smelled it near the Seria river in Brunei and informed a geophysicist: Oil was discovered just 297 meters underground; the rest as they say - is history.

Brunei is a tiny kingdom today, but once was quite large; extending even to the Philippines, all of Borneo and the Sulu Archipelago. Today it’s completely enclosed within Malaysia, except for its coast bordering the South China Sea.

Officially, the kingdom is known as ‘Brunei Darussalam’ or the ‘Abode of Peace’. It has the largest oilfields in Southeast Asia and is the fifth richest in terms of GDP, and considered an industrialized nation. Due to its oil wealth, it has escaped chopping down forests to plant oil palms.

Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB has no nightlife to speak of and is low key except for the Sultan’s palace; a couple of huge mosques and a flashy five-star hotel. The north bank of the Sungai Brunei river is the city center. BSB has a museum and the largest water village in the world. Incidentally, the word Begawan and Sri are from Sanskrit and Bandar is from Persian.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque has a 52m high minaret and the dome is gilded in real gold. The nearby Islamic Bank of Brunei exceeded this height and had to reduce its height by one floor on the Sultans orders. The mosque is the center of life in Banda Seri Begawan.

Water-Taxi Cruise is the best way to explore the water village and the outside of the Sultan’s palace, the Istana Nurul Iman. It’s the largest palace in the world according to Guinness Book of Records. The boat tour can be extended to see the proboscis monkeys upriver.

Kampong Ayer or the water village, built on stilts is home to some 30,000 people. Many prefer living above water than on dry land even today, and the village has its own schools, police stations, mosques, etc. To explore it take a water taxi but bargain before getting on.

Ulu Temburong National Park is a pristine rainforest park with an area of 500sq-km. It’s teeming with wildlife and much frequented by scientists from around the world but unfortunately, just a tiny part is open to the general public. The only way to see the park is to join an organized tour.

Brunei is an interesting place for a short visit. If you wish to go, book early so as to get the best possible deals and discounts. The climate is tropical and warm throughout the year. Don’t forget to get travel insurance before leaving. For all your travel expenses, carry EbixCash World Money’s Multi-Currency Forex card which is safe as well as economical. And it’s a good idea to get travel insurance as well.

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