Photo of the Week: Brunei Mosque Framed


Brunei can rightly be called the only country I’ve ever traveled to just for the sake of the passport stamp.  Dismayed by the cost of mountain permits in Malaysian Borneo, I opt instead for the oil-rich Sultanate Next Door.  Prepared with my legal-maximum-import 1.5 liters of booze, I show up ready for boredom. I wander through opulent museums stuffed with precious jewels, walk past restaurants offering meals from all across South and Southeast Asia, and make several circles around the Sultan Omar Mosque. I spend two nights in a row pre-partying in a cheap hostel then drinking overpriced tea and watching World Cup games playing live from South Africa. I’m bored the entire time.

This is, of course, entirely my fault. I never go to the pristine swath of rainforest in an exclave just across the Brunei Bay. Despite being just beyond downtown, I never see the miles-long Water Village on the Bandar Seri Begawan waterfront. The most excitement I find is when a homeless and seemingly-deranged local berates my travel companion, but returns half an hour later to present her with the gift of a small plastic ring. The second most excitement, only a hair below that first, is the Dairy Queen restaurant’s full menu of Blizzard ice cream treats. There is an entire country here to be explored, a new culture literally wrapped up inside of two much larger Malaysian states. Though I can’t explain why, I never bother to explore it.

Instead I bitch about the heat and the fact that there’s no alcohol for sale anywhere in the country. But hey, at least I got that passport stamp! My first thought, though, on getting back off the ferry and back onto Malaysian soil: “I need a beer.”


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