When I was a little kid, I remember hearing that the Sultan of Brunei was the richest man in the world.
This was pre-Microsoft/Bill Gates dominance of the title.
And from that time, I’ve always wanted to go to Brunei.
I don’t really know why I became so enamored with Brunei.
I can tell you that I wanted to visit Indonesia to see tarsiers (cute little monkeys which inspired the idea of Gizmo from the movie Gremlins), but I don’t know why I became so interested in Brunei.
I guess just the idea visiting the Sultan in his palace really appealed to me as a kid.
And so, back in January, when we found out that we could fly to Brunei from Kuala Lumpur for just $34/person (on a special deal from Air Asia) we decided to go for three days.
When would we be this close again and be able to go for such low cost?
Before looking it up, I honestly thought that Brunei was an island.
But while Brunei is located ON an island, it isn’t actually AN island.
Brunei is on the northern part of the island of Borneo.
Borneo is a large island, divided between three countries; Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
Brunei has only officially been a recognized independent country since 1984, though it has had 29 monarchs in it’s history.
The things that Brunei is most famous for are oil production, beaches, silver and gold work (though very little is actually sourced within Brunei), and tapestries.
The other thing Brunei (and Borneo) are famous for are Proboscis Monkeys. (They’re the monkeys with the big noses that are only found on Borneo).
Being fundamentally Islamic as a country, it is technically a dry country (no alcohol), though it is possible to bring a couple of bottles of alcohol with you for personal consumption when you come as a tourist.
After three days in Brunei, here are some limited perspectives:
- There are no personal taxes at all in Brunei. Businesses are taxed at a low rate. Yet public works (roads, street lights, civic buildings) seem to be in generally good condition.
- It is possible to drive from one end of Brunei to the other in less than 2 hours.
- Brunei pumped it’s 1 Billionth barrel of oil in 1991. That was a long time ago. And the oil’s been-a-flowin’ since.
- Brunei would be a great place to spend a beach vacation, while also seeing some interesting cultural and natural sites.
- Brunei is an Islamic country, but is also open to westerners.
- If you want to learn about oil production, you can learn a lot in Brunei.
- If you want to see Proboscis Monkeys, get up early to go and see them. By 11:00 or so, they are hiding in the vegetation away from the hot sun.
- If you come to Brunei, get a room with air conditioning.
- Brunei is a fairly modern country which appears to be becoming more modern by the second.
Brunei is as much worth a visit as I thought. I would like to spend more time here for sure.