Here in Brunei, one could be forgiven for thinking that the roads are paved with gold. On first arrival into Bandar Seri Begawan, the first thing to notice is the gold-domed mosques. There are two national Mosques here – strangely enough, the old one and the new one! These first photos are all taken at the new Mosque, which is slightly out of the centre of the city – the Jame’Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. They revel in their grandiosity and provide an enchanting backdrop to this city in Brunei.Here is the shadow of the old mosque in town. I was pretty happy with this photo to get the shadow effect (old mosque in middle of town).
The city seems to live mostly on the largesse of the Sultan. If anything is to be done here, the permission of the Sultan must be sought. Of course the economy itself is based on oil, with many workers from overseas forming a large expatriate community here.
Over the weekend, I was happily able to wander around the central city and surrounds. I first went into the Regalia Museum. This opulent museum appears to be mostly the centre of glorification of the Sultan. The attire of all the guards and accompanying people and the coronation chariot (huge!) formed the majority of the display. Most colourful, but as I had been told to put my bag with camera etc into a locker, I was not able to take photos and do not buy them…Some nice flowers in the area though – and the only bird that would let me get close enough for a decent photo
My reaction as i wandered about the Regalia Museum seeing the various gifts sent to the Sultan for the coronation, jubilee, birthday etc, was in fact one of how unfair it was that one person could justify all this wastage, merely because of the accidental bio-chemical reaction that meant that he was born into a royal family. An incredible amount of money has been spent here in celebrations etc. I am glad to see that the royal family does appear to be participate well in the community at large, but it is an extraordinary financial burden as well.
After that I wandered through the Water Village by the centre of the city. It may appear as if this is the other end of the scale, but in fact, many of these places are highly valued, with air-con, Satellites and evidence of other “toys” scattered throughout. The ones further out in the water are more highly valued with their “million dollar views”. As everywhere else here, the people were friendly with one little boy introducing himself as Aswami and asking who I was and where I was from – and no, he did not ask for anything. Merely the curiosity of a child. Almost without exception people responded to a smile or greeting in kind.
I also wandered through the Sultan Omar (old) Mosque, which is of course resplendent in its glorification. A couple of glances from some, but on the whole I was was made to feel welcome – as long as I stayed within the prescribed limits, which I could easily understand.
In the evening I wandered down town to see some celebration fireworks (for the opening of the new waterfront area and also to take a photo of the Mercu Dirgahayu 60 lit up
and also a chance to see the Mosque and Royal barge lit up. the first photo here was a mistake but I thought it looked good, so I have put it in anyway 🙂
The next day it was a chance to walk the Tasek Recreation Park. As I approached I saw an army of monkeys crossing the road to get to the other side…..truly about 50 of them were there. Many of them did not let me get close enough for a decent photo (though I did take a shot of about 20 of them on a fence).The walk started off being a garden walk with a waterfall at the end of the rubber-lined path (for jogging). However it became more interesting with the discovery of a series of tracks going up into the hills. Fortified with my water, an apple and chocolate. I took off to explore. It was almost like being back in NZ – different foliage, but the same feeling of clear air and animals scurrying away from the approaching sounds of my footsteps. Again animals mysteriously disappeared as I endeavoured to take photos – apart from one quite pesky bee, that I managed to safely negotiate to carry on.
Of course, half way round, I found myself at the centre of a thunderstorm with quite a strong wind. I started to shelter under a large tree to keep dry, but with the storm coming closer, I remembered too many stories of people being struck with lightning, so struck out myself for home and a hot shower at the end of it.
Last mention in this episode, is that of the food, which is cheap and plentiful. I have enjoyed so many wonderful meals here in Malaysia and Brunei. No alcohol of course in Brunei. As an Islamic country, it is not really allowed, though you can as a foreigner bring a restricted amount in with you – and yes I did have to open my suitcase! It is one of the restrictions upon life here, that while I might admire much of what I see here in Brunei, it is not my Yellow Brick Road.