On the northwestern coast of the island of Borneo, between Sarawak and Malaysia, is Brunei Darussalam — the “Abode of Peace.” Brunei is probably best known for its long line of sultans and extraordinary wealth and power afforded by an abundance of natural oil and petroleum resources that scatter the island. So, how can a land blessed with such wealth remain a peaceful nation? In Brunei, you will find a smartly ran government that has earned the support of the devout holy servants that make up the general population. And for everyone else, there is a contemporary culture pulsating with modern attractions, encouragement of a healthy lifestyle, a distinct cultural heritage and activities that suit many.
The most famous attraction in the region is the Royal Palace (Istana Nurul Iman), where many beautiful photographs of grand views await capture for you to show off to your friends on Pinterest. If you are patient, you can actually shake hands with the sultan himself. Gear up for a bit of a wait, though — not only will you stand in line for hours or days, but the palace is closed year-round with exception of two days during the Hari Raya Festival, falling after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The official religion is Islam – making up 67% of the total population. If you travel here, you can expect that your visit will be influenced by holy practices — in other words — after a day of visiting beautiful mosques, you can count out a trip to the bar for a beer!! Yup, alcohol is not sold anywhere in this dry country. Just across the border in Malaysia, however, alcohol can be purchased and brought back with you into Brunei in small quantities (a couple of liters.) So, now that you know how to get yourself a Tiger Beer, pair it with some of the outstanding local food. The close proximity to Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam along with the copious waterways that surround the island make this region a melting pot of Southeast Asia’s best traditional and modern cooking techniques and fresh foods.
Brunei has made priority of protecting the indigenous wildlife and nature preserves in the region. With very few natural disasters, you are left with a ripe, historic view of the country of old. The unadulterated flora and fauna provide an ideal habitat and some of the best wildlife viewing in the region, if not the world. Traveling up the Tutong or Belait rivers, nature will enfold you as you enter the rainforest at Belalong National Park. Just to the north of Brunei, explore the rich fishing grounds of the tropical Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Whether you are looking to dive the seas with your children, golf with your friends, go ‘birding’ in a tropical rainforest, or discover the northern shores on a romantic vacation, this country meant to be explored. Equipped with modern infrastructure, Brunei is low in crime, equipped with a modern infrastructure, and provides most of the comforts of home. Happy, healthy wandering in “The Green Heart of Borneo!”
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