The Sultanate of Brunei

The Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam governed by The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is known by many to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is home to just over 400,000 people, most of whom practice Sunni Islam. Brunei is located on the large island of Borneo and shares the island with Indonesia and Malaysia. The main language spoken in Brunei is Malay though many also speak English. Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to get to know this small little corner of the world while Paul is working in San Fran over the Songkran Holiday. 

This mosque, named after the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, father of the current Sultan, is one of the most famous mosques in all of South East Asia because of it's modern Islamic architecture. It is incredibly beautiful and is surrounded by a small mote (google pictures for a better look at the entire structure). 

A fellow passenger on a water taxi making his way home to Kampong Ayer water village. Kampong Ayer is the largest water village in the world and makes up roughly 10% of the total country's population (40,000 people). People have been living in Kampong Ayer water village for over 1,300 years and despite government attempts to move people onto dry land, water village dwellers refuse as they prefer the lifestyle. Kampong Ayer is made of many smaller villages made up of shops, restaurants, hospitals, police stations, schools, mosques, and everything else one might need to live! All of these buildings held above water via stills and wooden walkways.

Searching for Proboscis monkeys in the near-by mangroves with my tour guide below and his cousin, behind me, steering the boat. 

Above are pictures of Istana Nurul Iman, the Royal Palace. The palace is open three days a year after Ramadan but every other day of the year, this is as good as a view as you can get! The Royal Palace is the largest residential palace in the world and contains nearly 2,000 rooms. The banquet hall can contain up to 5,000 people at one time and the mosque can hold 1,500. It costed 1.5 billion dollars in 1984 to build.  

Me in front of the Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque pre-hair covering. Non-Muslims do not need to cover their hair while walking around but in the mosque grounds are asked to demonstrate more modesty by covering their hair. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque but are asked to wear a large black coat-like garment to cover their bodies and may only stand in a certain area in the back of the mosque (and only during certain times in the day). 

The Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, built to commemorate the 25th year of the current Sultan's reign. There was beautiful mosaic work everywhere you looked. 

After a long day of walking around in the blistering heat, I decided to treat myself to High Tea at The Empire Hotel, the only six star hotel in Brunei. Originally built as a place for the Sultan to host his guests, it is now a luxurious hotel for the public to visit and stay during their time in Brunei. 

Going to High Tea at a nice hotel is such a cool experience! A must do for anyone that has never done before!

Yes, all this food was just for me. 

The outdoor morning market where locals sell and buy veggies and fruit. 

On the left, a typical sign in Brunei featuring Malay (the official language of Brunei) in both Latin script and Jawi script. The Latin script is the lettering we are most familiar with. The Jawi script (on the top) is the traditional way that Malay was written using the Arabic alphabet. Jawi script has been replaced by Latin script in the region as the preferred way to write Malay but in more conservative areas like Brunei, you still see Jawi script featured on almost all signs including road signs.

Much like Thailand, you see the Sultan and the Queen's picture every where in town, particularly in government buildings and offices of which there are many. 

Visiting Brunei brought many firsts for me! I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to visit!