Brunei Darussalam is a tiny sultanate in the north of the island of Borneo located on the shores of the South China Sea and is surrounded by the Malayan federal states of Sabah and Sarawak. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is like something from an exotic fantasy.
The splendour of the mosque of Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudin is a captivating sight. This Islamic landmark is also a symbol of great wealth and was built in 1958 and was named after the father of the present sultan. Snow white Italian Carrara marble was used as building material, with granite from Shanghai. It commemorates the founder of modern Brunei.
On a classic longboat powered by outboard motor, we travel on the Brunei River and are soon surrounded by mangrove brush. Tropical thunderstorms and monsoon rain create dense vegetation and the ensuing humidity produces lush flora.
At the junction of two muddy-grey waterways of the Brunei River is an historic location, Kampung Ayer, a water village. Each building and adjoining pathway is built on posts yet there is both an electricity and drinking water supply. Plants decorate the terraces, and TV aerials are everywhere and it has a population of around thirty thousand.
Brunei is a land that has almost lost its history while moving into modern times. It is a country that has grown amazingly wealthy since its gas has hissed and its oil has spluttered from deep below the ground. Liquid gold - Allah be praised!