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Day 36 – Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace (official name)

Day 36 – Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace (official name)

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Our second visit to Brunei and our first of two stops, on this cruise, on the island of Borneo. Borneo is either the 3rd or 4th largest island in the world, depending on how you classify Australia (continent or island), and is truly a place of mystery to most of us in the U.S. – filled with stories of the wild men of Borneo, headhunters, Pythons, and orangutans. Borneo has the distinction of being the only island in the world which contains parts of three different countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

The early history of Borneo indicates that it was ruled by the Chinese, and in the 13th century most of the island came under control of a Muslim Sultan, ending Buddhist domination and beginning the prevalence of Islam on the island which exists to the current time. At one time, the Sultan of Brunei controlled most of Borneo and even territory which reached up to Manila in the Philippines. In the 18th century, Brunei began to decline and the Sultan ceded territory in the west (Sarawak) to an Englishman, James Brooke, who established himself as the “White Rajah of Sarawak” in 1841. The Sultan ceded the land to the east, Sabah (north Borneo on the map) where we will be tomorrow, to an English company – The North Borneo Company. The states to the south, eventually aligned with Indonesia.

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In the late 1880s, Brunei became a British protectorate, was occupied by the Japanese during WWII, and gained its independence in 1984. It is a member of the British Commonwealth and is a monarchy ruled by the Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest persons due to the rich oil reserves, discovered in 1927.

While Brunei has been Muslim for quite some time, recently the Sultan declared Sharia law in the country so I was anxious to see if any changes were apparent. On our last visit we visited the museums, mosques and various holdings of the Sultan – this time we stayed on board and relaxed, although I did get off the ship for a two hour walk around the port area and into the small town adjacent to the port.

On my walkabout, which was definitely off the tourist track, I did notice that almost all (but not all) of the women were wearing head scarves.

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The area I walked through was a mixture of new high rises and commercial businesses – a pleasant change from the tourist areas we are usually herded toward. Quite refreshing to be on my own – not a tourist in sight.

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The area I walked through was a mixture of new high rises and commercial businesses – a pleasant change from the tourist areas we are usually herded toward. Quite refreshing to be on my own – not a tourist in sight.

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I received confirmation that I was far from the tourist area when this Darussalam (1 Brunei Dollar – note the Sultan) worth about 70 cents bought me a Diet Coke (they were $6.00 in Australia), in this shopping center.

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After my stroll around the area I headed back to the port and reboarded the ship. Tomorrow we will be in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, a few hundred miles up the coast.

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