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Brunei

December 17, 2012

So, we have now been here for over a week and are getting close to the end of our 14 day visa. We seem to spend our time sitting at the clubhouse, on the beach at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club, watching for where the crocodile will next come ashore,

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accessing the internet, swimming in the pool

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or heading to the mosque for some event or another

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Life cannot be all that bad, can it?

Did I forget to mention that there is very little wind in this area of the world? It is a fact and we are kind of reluctant to stick our noses out again as our next passage to Miri involves passing through a minefield of oil wells. Shell oil has the coastline peppered with offshore oil rigs, some lighted some not.

Brunei is an interesting mix of arabic, malay and chinese culture with an overlay of strong ties to the cultures of the middle east. These cultaral ties to the middle east go back a long ways and this is our first muslim country where the arabic script is evident on street signs, on buildings and in mseums.

A recent edict of the national government to close all businesses between 1200 and 1400 on Fridays shows the strength and influence of the mullahs/imams. Not everyone is muslim and churches abound. Life is civil albeit to the point of boredom. It is very quiet at night other than people out walking. This is all in contrast to the more than evdent wealth of the country demonstrated by the free education, free health car and an average of 2.7 cars per person.

This country has a population the same as the city of Victoria i.e. Approx 300,000. Yet the road building and infrastructure would be the envy of anyone who sits in the Colwood crawl to commute to work in Victoria. There is a massive network of divided highways. One can drive from one end of the country to the other in a couple of hours on a 4 lane highway.

Goverment buildings are going up a dime a dozen. These are not small either. We are talking 40 story buildings for the Ministry of Finance, sprawling complexes for the ministry of sport and Development, and massively imposing monuments for the prime ministers office ( stephen harper take note).  But the the Sultan is the prime minister and the Minister of Finance!

And talk about the sultan. His home is reputed to be the largest residential palace and the single largest private residence in the world.

So where are we off to next? It is back to Malaysia and a town to the west of Brunei called Miri.

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