Photographer's Note

‘Bandar Seri Begawan - A postman's nightmare’

I can imagine that some parts of the village on stilts are a real obstacle course for the postman to deliver the mail at everyone's home.

In case anyone is wondering if I have continued on this walkway …
I chose another part of the water village to explore further :)


Before my visit to Brunei, I often wondered whether this is a very rich country in which everyone leads a good and comfortable life or a prosperous country where part of the population lives in poverty.
Or was I misled by the photos I had seen?

This small country on Borneo has large petroleum and natural gas fields. The production of both accounts for nearly 90% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Among all Southeast Asian nations Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index, after Singapore, and is classified as a developed country.

There is also a clothing industry.
Healthcare and education are free. Oil, rice and housing are subsidized.
Yet we see people living in houses that Westerners consider very poor.

The prime minister of Brunei is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and one of the richest men on earth.
He’s also one of the last absolute monarchs and a controversial figure.
In 2014 he announced that he would gradually introduce Sharia law in Brunei.
This would allow for severe penalties, including imprisonment for pregnancy outside a marital relationship and stoning for homosexual acts or sex without a marriage bond. Incredibly, getting stoned. Hopefully Orban doesn't take an example here.
Due to international pressure, the implementation was postponed.
However it was introduced in April 2019 … and withdrawn one month later.

Ironically, the sultan and his family themselves cannot be prosecuted under Sharia law … Understand that! Equally remarkable is the fact that the sultan and his family do not take it too seriously with the core values of Islam: modesty and austerity.

I found it particularly difficult to find out what the people of Brunei thought of the head of state.
Living myself in a kingdom where the king and the royal family can be questioned publicly and the not so democratic aspect of a kingdom in essence is also publicly discussed, I did not immediately expect that this would also be possible in Southeast Asia. All in all, this is not the case in every European kingdom either …
But during my limited time in Brunei I’ve never heard an inhabitant say anything positive or anything negative about the sultan. Presumably journalists have all kinds of tricks to get someone to speak straight. But I haven’t succeeded in this.

It certainly didn't seem like a country where a revolution could break out. Apparently, just enough is taken care of for the poorest to prevent this.
After my journey through Laos and Cambodia, Brunei indeed seemed like a much better country to live in.
Compared to Malaysia, I wouldn't immediately say that.

With what I had read at home about the sultan and his homophobic ideas, I had expected a stricter country. This turned out to be much better in the Bruneian society.
Alcohol is totally prohibited and the Bruneian ladies are usually strictly dressed with headscarves. However, many ladies work in a place where they meet customers and the contact as a western man with an Islamic lady was friendly and casual. Not at all like, for example, in Arab countries where a woman usually doesn’t work in such a position.

As mentioned in the note of another picture, my conclusions are drawn from a short visit of only three days / three nights.
Others may think differently and a longer stay would probably provide more insights.
Yet, I found the short visit very interesting. Brunei's location near the Malaysian island of Labuan made a short visit (by boat) easy and inexpensive.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6785 W: 24 N: 16023] (62802)
  • Genre: Luoghi
  • Medium: Colore
  • Date Taken: 2020-02-25
  • Esposizione: 1/21 secondi
  • Versione Foto: Versione Originale, Workshop
  • Date Submitted: 2021-07-09 15:55
Viewed: 0
Points: 52
Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6785 W: 24 N: 16023] (62802)
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