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    • Day 127

      Muara, Brunei Darussalam Mosques- 3 of 3

      May 21, 2023 in Brunei ⋅ ☁️ 88 °F

      From a distance we got a glance at the Israna Nurul Iman Palace. The Sultans $400 million residence has 1800 rooms, 257 bathrooms, 564 chandeliers and a 5,000 seat banquet hall. We also stopped to see the Prime Minister office building and the Legislative Council Building where they meet to budget for about 2 months a year. As you can see from the photos, each one of these building complexes are bigger than life and bigger than their equivalent in any country we have ever been to. We can’t find any logical reason except the Sultan’s money can be thrown out on these structures that show off the Country’s wealth. When it comes to politics it was very clear that they enjoy the Sultans decision making on everyone’s behalf. We were told “it is a much better system than in Countries where you get to vote and choose a candidate for office that you may not like later. With the Sultan they know there is no need to let the people make a bad decision”. This comment was made about 5 minutes after we passed by their "CIA" building in which we were told they were listening to everything that was being said within a 5 mile radius of their building.

      Overall, a very uncomfortable place where all explanations seemed to be “filtered” and skewed to believe that way of life here is the optimal compared to elsewhere around the world.
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    • Day 128

      Muara, Brunei Darussalam

      May 21, 2023 in Brunei ⋅ ☁️ 90 °F

      We had a short stop today - 5hours.
      In 2017 we visited this port and had a very good tour.
      It is a 45min drive to the city, in addition it’s very hot. We decided not to go at all and make it a relaxing see day, but when we docked, we were one of the first out of the ship ready to explore nearby area. We walked may be 1/4 of the mile to see what is around. We found nothing, but little stores, barber shops and fast food eateries. In 15 min of walking we were very hot, we turned around and went back on the ship. Boris stayed in the terminal to do some finances with fast WiFi. In the evening we had a lovely dinner with our friends in specialty restaurant and then a fun concert by our assistant cruise director Robbi.
      I added two more art works by Boris.
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    • Day 127

      Muara, Brunei: Water Village - 1 of 3

      May 21, 2023 in Brunei ⋅ ☁️ 88 °F

      Brunei Darussalam (the Abode of Peace) is a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. The population is 425,000 (more than 25,000 lost in COVID) of whom about 100,000 live in the Capital and largest city, Bandar Seri Begawan. The people speak Malay (Melayu Brunei) and English. The government is an Absolute Monarchy ruled by its Sultan, and enforces a combination of English common law and Sharia, as well as general Islamic practices. Successful oil production since the 1930 has made this a rich nation for the past 100 years.

      The tiny state of Brunei who gained total independence from Britain in 1984 is led by a very rich Sultan due to its bountiful oil and gas reserves. I wish I could say that the entire population was economically stable and secure. We took a tour today in the Capital City (17 miles from Muara) that showed off the decadent wealth of this country in its buildings and edifices to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (since he took the role from his father in 1967). The Sultan is worth more than 40 billion dollars. The wealth of the nation is divided as follows: 15% with the Sultan extreme wealth, 10 % in the Sultans royal family that is wealthy, 30% with the middle-class incomes and 45% of the population are the poor people of this Nation. Of course, the government will tell you that no one pays taxes and health care is free, but the centralized wealth with the Sultan has created an apparent split where the bulk of the money is spent on building, roads and other ways to impress and show its wealth to the World (i.e., the Sultan’s solid gold rolls Royce and chariot). His car collection is reported to be 7,000....

      In addition to wealth, the social and politically disturbing situation comes from when the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced in 2013 his imposing Penal Code from Sharia (i.e., stoning of gays, amputations for crimes, and mistreatment of women) on the country's Muslims (two thirds of the country's population) making Brunei the first and only country in East Asia to introduce Sharia into its penal code. The move attracted international criticism from the United Nations expressing "deep concern”. The U.S. Department of State has stated that discrimination against women is a problem in Brunei.

      We learned a little about the history of this area and that there are still Iban (the local Borneo island headhunters) in some areas of the jungle here. They still occasionally have fights between tribes and believe in chopping off heads … but they don’t shrink them or believe in cannibalism. … if thats comforting. The cities are filled with observant Muslims in this very conservative Country.

      Kampung Ayer , the Water Village, was our first stop. We got off our bus at the jetty and took a long boat around and arrived at one of the docks here. After walking across a precariously built walkway we arrived at this 1300 year old settlement. They have built 6 neighborhoods of traditional houses, 9 schools and mosques built on stilts above the Brunei River and only accessed by boat on about 4 square miles with a population of 30,000. Houses are made of wood and are in traditional Malay style and built with individualized styles. We visited a home in the Water Village and ate four interesting treats that are common to their culture here in Brunei (see photos). Kuih Bahulu is a dish prepared with wheat flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder and is a sponge cake made in a cast-iron mold. Ardam, a traditional kuih (bite sized snack) sweetened with gula anau (sweetener from the mangrove palm) and looks like a donut. Selurut has a very soft texture, made with steamed rice drenched in salted water and coconut milk wrapped in a spiral of piece of husk and Kelupis a rice cake wrapped in Nyirikleaf. These are all refreshments (and black ceylon tea) served during a special occasion. All very different but tasty which Karen liked more than Bruce!
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    • Day 127

      Muara, Brunei: Museum - 2 of 3

      May 21, 2023 in Brunei ⋅ ☁️ 88 °F

      We visited the Royal Regalia Museum which was filled with photos and memorabilia of the Sultan growing up and then gold items that were obtained from the time of the Sultans Coronation. Once again, an over-the-top display of his kingdoms wealth.

      We drove past many mosques all very impressive and stopped at the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque built in 1950 with gold-domes and marble minarets. The most impressive we saw was the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque built in 1990s to honor the Sultan’s 25 years with an overwhelming 29 golden domes.
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    • Day 7

      Ersatzhafen Brunei

      December 23, 2023 in Brunei ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

      Statt nach Nha Trang führte uns unsere Reise heute nach einem Seetag nach Brunei.
      Wir hatten den Seetag dazu genutzt, uns über Land und Leute zu informieren. Je mehr wir jedoch erfuhren, desto unsympathischer wurde diese Hafen für uns.

      Zuerst liest und hört man, dass die Einwohner keine Steuern zahlen müssen, Bildung und Gesundheitsvorsorge umsonst sind, da das Land durch sein Erdöl sehr reich ist. Je tiefer man aber blickt, desto mehr Abgründe tun sich auf:
      2019 beispielsweise wurde die Todesstrafe durch Steinigung für Schwule eingeführt, für lesbische Frauen gibt es mindestens 50 Peitschenhiebe. Ja, die Strafen wurden bisher nicht durchgeführt, stehen aber so im Gesetz, welches durch den Sultan erlassen wurde.
      Auf das Tragen von Weihnachtskleidung oder das Feiern von Weihnachten stehen bis zu 5 Jahre Gefängnis.

      Für uns stand nach einiger Recherche fest: wenn wir hier etwas ansehen würden, wäre das nur der unberührte Regenwald. Das war zeitlich aber nicht möglich. Deswegen blieben wir an Bord und haben die schöne Sonne und das nahezu leere Schiff genossen.

      Abends legten wir wieder ab um morgen Weihnachten auf See zu feiern. Wir sind schon sehr gespannt, wie sich das anfühlt. Denn trotz der tollen Bemühungen der Crew, hier alles zu schmücken und sogar einen Baum am höchsten Punkt des Schiffes zu platzieren, kommt bisher noch nicht so wirklich Weihnachtsstimmung auf.

      Wie feiert ihr dieses Jahr Weihnachten? Seid ihr Zuhause? Bei euren Liebsten? Oder vielleicht auch im Urlaub? Teilt es gerne mit uns in den Kommentaren, wie freuen uns darauf, mehr von euch zu erfahren!

      Liebe Grüße in die Heimat oder von wo auch immer ihr uns begleitet.
      Tobi & Conny
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    • Day 204

      Brunei Darussalam

      March 24, 2017 in Brunei ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

      Heute sollen es die Highlights von Brunei sein und weil das Land nicht so groß ist, reicht offensichtlich ein halber Tag 😉, denn solch eine Tour wird vom Schiff angeboten und das machen wir mit!
      Das kleine Land liegt auf Borneo und ist eingequetscht zwischen Sarawak (Malaysia) und dem südchinesischen Meer. Es ist nur etwas mehr als 5.000 km2 groß und 450.000 Menschen leben hier, hauptsächlich Moslems. Das ist unser Pech, denn heute ist Freitag und daher sind die Moscheen für Besucher geschlossen. Aber auch wieder Glück, denn die Straßen sind sehr leer.
      Freitag ist wie unser Samstag und kein wirklicher Arbeitstag, die Geschäfte haben erst ab 14.00 Uhr geöffnet und zur Schule muss hier heute auch Keiner. Dafür ist der Samstag ein Arbeitstag und erst am Sonntag ist wieder frei.
      Borneo ist ein reiches Sultanat, all das viele Geld kommt vom Öl und vom Gas (an den Tankstellen sehen wir wie billig das Benzin ist! Autos übrigens auch und daher hat jeder Einwohner durchschnittlich zwei davon!).
      Der Sultan hat vier Frauen und 12 Kinder. Und er "ist ein Guter", denn er gibt von seinem Geld ab: Ausbildung und die komplette medizinische Betreuung inklusive aller Medikamente sind kostenlos. Sogar der Flug nach Singapur sowie die dortige Versorgung wird bezahlt, wenn es notwendig ist (+ einer Begleitperson!). Auch die Wohnhäuser werden subventioniert.
      Alles was wir sehen ist sehr, sehr ordentlich, sauber und gepflegt! Nichts sieht hier wirklich asiatisch aus - uns kommt es sehr arabisch und fast wie aus 1001 Nacht vor.
      Und - das lernen wir schnell: Hier IST alles Gold was glänzt!
      Ein Bus bringt uns in die Hauptstadt Bandar Seri Bagawan und zum ersten Fotostopp: Prime Minister Office Building Complex mit Moschee - ein sehr imposantes Gebäude, wirkt ein bisschen steril und wie ausgestorben, aber auch schön.
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