Muara, Brunei Darussalam

We docked at Muara some 45 minutes from the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan in this oil rich country on the Island of Borneo. The country is sandwiched in between the two Malaysian provinces of Sarawak and Sabah. We visit the latter next.  The country is a Sultanate and is strongly Muslim.  Visitors must dress modestly.  Sharia law applies to crimes and theft can be punished with the loss of a hand.  Alcohol cannot be purchased in the country.  The population numbers about 400,000 people and half are under 21 as the average family has six children.  The population is made up of Malay, Chinese, seven indigenous tribes and about 10% guest workers.  The wealth is somewhat distributed amongst the population though the Sultan, once the wealthiest man in the world, still has the lion’s share. Everybody has a place to live, a job, virtually free health care and free education. Most people have an average of three cars each and as a result there is little requirement for public transportation.  There is an infrequent bus service used mostly by the guest workers and thirty taxis in the entire country. I took a 7 1/2 hour shore excursion which departed shortly after our 11:00 am arrival for the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan (Bandar.)  We started at the Royal Regalia, a collection of the Sultan’s gold and silver clothing and other articles, the royal chariots (photo) and copies of the jewelled crowns used in the Coronation and other ceremonies. We then had lunch followed by a visit to the Kianggeh market (3 photos).  Next, we boarded a boat  on the Brunei River for a visit to a Water Village where we had tea and sweets  in a local home. As part of the cruise we sailed by a mangrove area in search of proboscis monkeys. I have two photos which I was just lucky to get.  I also have a few photos of the homes built in the water. The water villages are fully self sufficient with piped in water, electricity, fire and police services, schools and mosques.  The inhabitants use a water taxi service to reach the homes. They leave their cars in very large free parking lots on shore. The Omar Ali Salfuddien Mosque is near the river(photo).  Its enormous gold plated dome is visible from everywhere in Bandar.  While on the river, we got a distant view of the Royal Palace (photo.) The palace itself is 50 acres in size and occupies a total area of 300 acres. It is managed by Hyatt Hotels for the royal family.  Later we stopped at the front gate ( photo) and got to watch the arrivals and departures of various people including a princess and the Sultan himself.  Our last stop was the imposing Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque  built by the 29th Sultan. It has 29 domes, seats 5000 people and cost about $400 Million USD.  It was dusk and it looked beautiful all lit up.  I have photos of part of the mosque, of the sultan’s private entry and the fountains.  This was a very interesting visit to a country that has only a fledgling tourism industry.  The people were very welcoming and friendly. However, there is not really a lot to see or do that would justify a longer visit.  Our next stop is Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

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