When travelling overland in Malaysian Borneo there is no avoiding Brunei. And why should you, it’s the perfect chance to discover yet another amazing place in this world. I should admit, it’s not cheap according to the Asian standard, but then again, most peoples budget is less tight than ours for the moment. For those interested in reading a little more about that, I am working on a separate page where you can check out our budget per country in detail. To give you a general idea, we try to get by with 30 euros per day for two people. In some countries this is more than enough, in others, it can be rather challenging or near to impossible. Brunei is a good example of a country making it quite hard, but we had a huge room with a little kitchen, so no complaints there.
When you need a break from the bustling, dynamic Asian lifestyle, Brunei certainly is the place to be. Enormous roads, beautiful mosques, little parks and quiet walkways along the water.
In addition, you get the chance to see the biggest water village in the world, Kampong Ayer. The only way to really enter it is by taking a boat tour, but if that is above your budget, just cross the bridge and enter a smaller water village on foot. To be honest, I am not really sure if it is more of a slum area or just a not well-maintained part of the city, but for sure it is a great place for an early evening walk while the mosques start singing their song. There is something special when the song of prayer fills the air. A feeling of peace. A feeling that was strongly contradicted when we visited the mosque in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.
When travelling I find it of the highest importance to be respectful and dress appropriately. When visiting the mosque I was wearing long, very loose pants and a t-shirt that properly covered my shoulders. In addition, I had brought along a scarf to further cover-up. Surprisingly, none of this was enough and I was given a long black cape to wear. Wearing the black cape and the scarf on my head I entered the mosque. Again, I wouldn’t have complained about this, but then I was asked to properly cover-up myself and fully button up the cape. This felt like a slap in my face These words hit me hard. Wasn’t I already covered op? What did they see that wasn’t respectful? Up till now, it feels wrong. I truly believe covering up isn’t a sign of suppression, it can be a personal choice or a religious choice and I fully respect that, but let it be a choice! Whatever people wear or don’t wear, it doesn’t matter as long as it is an expression of who they are. An expression of the freedom to be who they want to be.
Brunei is a special place. Hidden behind all its beauty lay secrets scattered about. Secrets far beyond our reach, but enough indications that made us wonder. Apparently, the sultan owns 7000 cars of which 400 Ferraris. He owns hotels all over the world in which Brunei nationals can stay with 50% discount and lives in a palace with 1700 different rooms. He provides free health care and education to the people. He built full-fledged cities where people can live for peanuts. Some say the sharia law has been implemented. Some say this is not the case. The truth seems to be there has been partial implementation. Apparently, you would receive money when you become a Muslim. All rumours on the street, words going around covering what lay below. Uncontrollable richness. A country on the move, figuring out its future. A beautiful place. A scary place. A place belonging to the sultan and its people. A place in the world as no other.