Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Relax in Brunei (1)

Once upon a year, I will have this kind of rush for a leisure trip. This time, in the atmosphere of global recession, I picked Brunei, arguably the richest country in this world. Ironic...

This is a country covering over 5,700 square kilometres, but with only less than 300k people living in it. You can imagine how jealous I was when I got to know that, given that I was living in a small island of 600+ square kilometres and more than 4 million ppl.

The country is rich because one gift from the mother nature, oil. So they can provide free education and healthcare to all citizens, cheap housing (normally 300k B$ for a two-storey landed property with 3 bedrooms and a big living hall), cheap gas (No joke, in Brunei, gasoline is cheaper that coke, only B$0.50 per litre, and diesel at B$0.30 per litre), cheap cars (B$25k for a regular one, neglectable road tax and insurance), and even cheaper water & electricity supply (I read an ad on local newspaper, one bedroom in suburb area for rent, B$150 per month including water & electricity fee...). Now YOU should be jealous also!

In case you don't know, Brunei is under sultan monarchy, which means the Sultan has the absolute power. He is also one of the richest individuals in this world now. Because of the Islamic culture, there are many social rules, such like ban of alchohol. You can only bring in one bottle of wine or 10 cans of beer, and cannot drink in public (some restaurant might even refuse to "serve" you the wine you bring in!). Perhaps this is the main reason that Lonely Planet doesn't like this country, and only gives it 10 pages in a book named "Borneo" (Borneo is the name of the big island where Brunei, Saba, Sarawak are located in). I cannot even find a street map of its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan online. (There is one in the free tourism guide I got at the airport, but not zoom-in enough for walking...)

Actually it's quite convenient to travel to Brunei from Singapore -- at least two flights a day, and the whole flight is less than 2 hours. Best of all, Singapore dollars and Brunei dollars are exchangeable, so I don't need to bother about the money changer things.

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