The golden dome of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan

Brunei Darussalam - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 8th January 2018

Getting into Brunei

Brunei is considered to be the most observant Islamic nation in Southeast Asia and the sale and public consumption of alcohol is illegal, although non-Muslims are allowed to bring up to two litres into the country. There are queues of people filling in the necessary declarations at the airport, when I arrive from Manila. It’s another late night, but although it’s 12.30 a.m. when I arrive the hotel receptionist is still happy to phone a tour guide and arrange a trip for me tomorrow morning. I’m hoping the tour guide is as happy about it.

What Does the Name Brunei Mean?

Brunei is officially known as Brunei Darussalam in Malay, which means "abode of peace"

Who Colonised Brunei?

At the peak of the Bruneian Empire the Sultan had control over most regions of Borneo, including modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, as well as the Sulu Archipelago off the northeast tip of Borneo, Seludong (modern-day Manila), and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo.

During the 19th century, the Bruneian Empire began to decline. The Sultanate ceded Sarawak (Kuching) to James Brooke installing him as the White Rajah, and Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906.

Although the Federation of Malaysia -which includes Brunei's neighbours of Sarawak and Sabah -was formed in 1963, Brunei did not gain independence from Great Britain until 1984.

Is Brunei a Rich Country?

Brunei is a tiny, independent, oil-rich country wedged between the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the Malaysian side (northeast) of the island of Borneo

In 2015, Brunei ranked higher on the Human Development Index (31st overall in the index) than all other countries in Southeast Asia aside from Singapore.

Brunei - Snippets of Information

  • Brunei is the only sovereign state completely on the island of Borneo; the remainder of the island's territory is divided between the nations of Malaysia and Indonesia. Brunei's population was rouhgly 4oo,ooo in 2018.
  • The government is an absolute monarchy under the Sultan which implements sharia law and directs Islamic practices.
  • The Sultan also serves as Defence Minister, Prime Minister, and Finance Minister of Brunei.
  • Brunei passed a law in 2014 making homosexuality punishable by stoning to death.
  • Brunei has one of the highest car-ownership rates (roughly one car per every two people) in the world.

Is Brunei a Safe Country to Visit?

Brunei has very low crime rates and is one of the safest countries in South East Asia.

What To Do in Brunei?

Brunei is very small so it's easily and quickly navigated. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) lends itself to strolling, with a boat trip thrown in to visit the stilt houses -if they still remain (they are being torn down and replaced with far less characterful dwellings). There's also beach and rainforest.

8 January 2018, Leaving Bandar Seri Begawan

Check in is frustratingly slow as there are a group of Chinese tourists waiting. After that the airport is very modern, easy and quiet. There’s just me and five security guards. They won’t let me take my water through, but they count down from ten, laughing, while I drink it. Bangkok next.

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