Brunei, the erstwhile North Borneo, is an extremely small but rich country in Southeast Asia, located on the island of Borneo, just north of Malaysia. Its population of about 400,000 lives on an area of just 5,770 sq km, with a comfortable population density of 66 heads per sq km. Its per capita GDP is a huge $53,100 pa. The capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, a small city of just about 30,000 people.

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by Bernard Spragg

Brunei became independent in 1984, converting to a Government that is a traditional Islamic monarchy, although Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has been Head of State since 1967. Its official language is Malay, but both English and Chinese dialects are widely used. The predominant religion is Islam, but significant numbers of Buddhist, Confucianist, Daoist and Christian people coexist peaceably. An unusual proportion of the Malay population practices animist forms of religion.

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by Mark爱生活

Brunei’s media is tightly controlled by the Sultan’s family, but there is no restriction on access to the Internet. Brunei is an oil-rich country and using this vast oil wealth, Brunei has developed much like the oil rich nations in the Middle East. The economy is a clever blend of foreign and local business, supported by the government which caters to all welfare measures. Virtually supported in full by crude oil and natural gas exports, income from this sector contributes to over half the GDP. Substantial dividends from investments abroad adds in no small measure to income from production at home. All medical services are catered to by the government, which also assists in the food and housing segment with heavy subsidies.

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

by Bernard Spragg

There is little to offer by way of tourism. Brunei is densely forested, and most activity is on the beaches at Kuala Belait, Lumut Beach near Tutong and at Muara or at the estuaries. The sites worth a visit are either in the capital itself or a short distance away. Brunei’s largest lake, named Tasek Merimbun, is at a hill resort just over an hour’s drive from Bandar Seri Begawan, offering the naturalist jungle trails and peaceful picnics, while the ornithologist can take advantage of the existing birdwatching facilities. The weather is uncomfortably hot and humid throughout the year, with a lot of rain.

European food is common, along with Chinese, Malaysian and Indian specialities. Local food is normally spicy fresh fish and rice. Local specialties are spicy beef with potato beans, prawns with chilli and coconut milk and chicken fried with garlic wrapped in pandan leaves.

Alcohol is banned, but import of a small quantity may be permitted if reported to Customs.

There are only two airports, Brunei International Airport and Seria domestic airport on the coast, some seventy km away. Australians require visas although it could be obtained at Brunei International Airport. Most EU countries and US citizens do not require visas. Hotels and guest houses are in short supply and advance booking is a must.

Date posted: 11th July, 2018

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