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Brunei is a fascinating country and our friend and customer Ray Renfrey has captured it well - he travelled on a Private Brunei Tour in June 2017. Below you can read some of his travel notes and enjoy his accompanying photos.
Thank you as always Ray.
I was in Brunei on 3 separate occasions during my journey. I shall summarise the 3 visits into one. Prior to my visit I knew little of Brunei except it is an oil rich country and home to one of the worlds richest people "the Sultan".
Life is dominated by the Sultan of Brunei, he is all powerful and involved in all important decisions, he is a devout Muslim and imposes Sharia law - Citizens of Israel are not permitted to enter Brunei!
Brunei has an approximate population of 450,000, the capital (Bandar Seri Begawan), Bandar to locals has 65,000 citizens. 66% are Muslim, 13% Buddhist, 10% Christian.
I am met at the airport by one of my guides, name: H J Asmikiranaor, or more commonly 'HJ', he is very friendly and enthusiastic about his work. 'HJ" is a devout muslim and has travelled to Mecca to attend the Haj, he therefore also has an islamic name 'IJ Ismail' which he is proud of.
Prior to meeting me, 'HJ' had attended a religious meeting and was still wearing his official ceremonial clothes, he looked splendid.
HJ delivers me to my Hotel which is situated in the main commercial and retail precinct of the capital.
Next morning I commenced my guided tour, my guide 'San San' is knowledgeable and shows me interesting and historic sites.
Firstly we visit the Brunei Water Village, it is the largest water village on earth 20,000 people live here, there are schools and various infrastructure in place, as you can see a Mosque is always not far distant!
Some homes in the Water Village are quite palatial, others are in need of repair.
Fixtures and fittings in some homes are extraordinary, toilets are equipped with a highly decorated commode!
We snack on various delicious finger food in a highly decorated home situated on the Water Village.
Note the hi fi speaker in the photo above, it was part of a top quality audio visual system, this seems a contradiction given Brunei follows Sharia law!
We next visit a Mosque and the Palace of the Sultan.
You cannot travel far in Brunei without seeing a mosque, they are as prolific as churches in the christian world & temples in Buddhist countries.
The outstanding mosque is 'Jame'asr Hassanil Bolkiah' built in 1994 it has 29 gold covered domes, 3500 men and 1000 women worship in separate halls, cameras are not allowed in the halls of worship.
One has to wear appropriate robes and remove shoes to enter the inner sanctum of the mosque, to pray one must wash all extremities of ones body.
Ornate lamps are a feature within the mosque...
The mosque dominates over everything in the Capital, it is surrounded by manicured gardens.
Everything stops on a Friday at noon when the Azhad (call to prayer) begins, the call to prayer pervades everything including the international airport, also retail and commerce establishments. Commerce resumes at 2pm.
THE PALACE OF THE SULTAN:
There are 1788 rooms, 257 toilets, 5 swimming pools, the Domes are covered in 24 carat gold, it is the largest residence on earth. The Sultan is a fan of Polo, he owns 300 horses to choose from.
Some trivia: the Sultans official name (title) is : HAUI HASSANAL BOLKIAH MU'ZZADDIN WADDAULAH IBAH AL-MARHUM his name / title is quoted fully each time he is featured in a newspaper, radio or TV report - FACT!
I say hello to the guard at the Sultans palace gates.
The fence which surrounds the Palace is made of Australian steel.
QUESTION: How many cars does the Sultan of Brunei own?
An unexpected very interesting place in Brunei is: THE ROYAL REGALIA MUSEUM.
The museum is worth visiting if you have an interest in history, this museum gives insight to Brunei's past & how it evolved from a primitive land into today's regulated society. Unfortunately some relics cannot be photographed (strictly enforced), tho' there are plenty of images I can share with you.
This is the High court of Brunei where Sharia law is enforced, Capital punishment is legal in Brunei.
One day when I was in Brunei the Sultan celebrated his 71st birthday, buildings were decorated with his image.
The jungle which surrounds Brunei contains much wild life such as birds, crocodiles and a variety of monkeys such as the Proboscis monkey, I made a journey to seek them, our boatman tells me it is rare to sight them, I was fortunate to be rewarded with a sighting of the now endangered Proboscis monkey.
The waterways are lined with Mangrove, also a variety of Palms.
I was fortunate to see Proboscis Monkey's, one must be alert to sight them, they move very quickly thru tops of trees then descend to lower branches, they also continuously squabble amongst themselves.
My next destination is DUBAI: a discovery of total financial excess!
After travelling to Dubai, Europe and China, I fly back to Brunei and stay 1 night. I have stayed over in Brunei 3 times during my travels, this is because I chose to fly Royal Brunei Airlines on all international routes in 2017. I stayed at the same hotel on each Brunei visit, the staff all recognised me upon return and greet me with a smiling hello.
Well! That's it, a wonderful adventure of 2 months duration has ended tho' it is great to sleep in my own bed once more, I am sure all fellow travellers know what I mean.
A big thank you to the 'Travelbay' team, you made my experiences in Vietnam, Brunei and China most memorable, and I urge all fellow travellers to investigate Travelbay services.
If you have any questions about travelling either overseas or in Australia feel free to ask me, I am not an expert tho' I am experienced, 1st Rule: HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE!!
I have enjoyed re-living and sharing my experiences with all of you.
Until next we meet, farewell, look after you.
Thanks again Ray, it is always a joy to read your travel tales.
You can read more about Ray's travels by clicking on the following links: