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Brunei Darussalam

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM | Monday, 19 January 2009 | Views [5152]

Sunset, Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, BSB

Sunset, Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, BSB

Some people get Brunei confused with Bahrain but Brunei isn't in the Middle East.  Nor is it in Africa; that would be Burundi or maybe Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  It is an oil producing country but isn't a member of OPEC.  It isn't a major tourist attraction.  It is difficult to reach by land and expensive by air.

The bus ride from Miri in Sarawak to Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei Darussalam, takes five hours and requires four buses and a small boat but immigration was as smooth as silk and the bus connections were nearly seamless.  Once we crossed the Brunei border the landscape was dotted with those oil pumpers pecking like crazed birds.  They were in schoolyards, in a petrol station, next to apartment complexes and along the beach.  Oil has made Brunei wealthy but for a nation with the highest per capita income it sure has crummy buses!

Like most tourists we came to Brunei mainly to get another stamp on our passport and to travel somewhere else, for us Indonesia.  The main tourist site in BSB is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the center of town.  It is really special at sunset even though it is surrounded by the floating villages, the lowest of low income housing.  Our other mission was to get our work visas from the Indonesian Embassy and arrange for flights to Jakarta.  At the travel agency we learned out that you can’t get there from here.  Actually you can but it costs twice as much.  A flight from BSB to Jakarta then on to Balikpappan takes two different airlines and costs 775 Brunei dollars ($500) each.  But if we fly from BSB to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta and later to Balikpappan we can do the whole thing on AirAsia for about $300.  So what if we have to spend a night at the KL airport. 

I haven't been totally fair to Brunei.  BSB is a clean, quiet and friendly city.  The people are wonderful and several stopped us on the street to welcome us to Brunei.  It is very definitely a Muslim country.  We haven't seen any alcohol for sale and the call to prayer sounds five times daily.  Many women and girls wear traditional dress and headscarves but their clothing is brightly colored unlike that of women in the Middle East.  I wouldn't make a special trip here but it is worth visiting if you are in the neighborhood.


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