The tiny nation of Brunei is found on the northern portion of the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia and South China Sea. The name Brunei Darussalam (meaning “abode of peace”) has one of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest economies thanks to an abundance of oil.
Interesting facts about Brunei
1. The first time Brunei participated at the Olympic Games was in the year 1988. Weirdly the delegation was composed of a single official and no athletes. The first time the nation sent the athletes to compete was in 1996. The country sadly has never won an Olympic medal.
2. The country has one of the highest rates of obesity in Southeast Asia. A survey was conducted in 2016 and it was found that 30% of adults and 17% of adolescents were obese.
3. Brunei has one of the highest car-ownership rates in the world. The average is one car per 1.5 people. The Sultan of Brunei alone owns five thousand cars, including around 20 Lamborghinis, 160 Porsches, 130 Rolls Royces, 360 Ferraris, 170 Jaguars, 180 BMWs, 360 Bentleys, and 530 Mercedes-Benzes. And yes, he also owns a gold Mercedes.
Do you think people are obese because they drive everywhere?
Not much is known about the Sultan’s gold Mercedes Benz– except that it exists.
4. Brunei has the largest residential palace in the world. The Istana Nurul Iman is the formal residence of Brunei’s Sultan. It also serves as the seat of the country’s government. The palace has 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, a mosque, a garage with space for 110 cars, 5 swimming pools, a massive banquet hall, and more.
5. You would have guessed by now that the Sultan Of Brunei is very rich. With the largest palace and an insane collection of cars, it’s not a surprise that Hassanal Bolkiah is the second richest royal in the world, behind only the King of Thailand. He had an estimated wealth of $20 billion in 2011, according to Forbes.
He is also the second longest reigning current monarch after Queen Elizabeth.
6. Brunei is an absolute monarchy where the Sultan has the final say. The Sultan serves as the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, and Finance Minister of the country. So many shoes to fill don’t you think? And although Brunei does have a parliament, no elections were held in the past several decades.
7. The country believes in grandeur. That includes even the amusement parks. A whopping $1 billion was spent in the construction of The Jerudong Park in 1994.
8. It is considered impolite using the index finger (Ungli kisko dikhai haan? Well we can relate). Bruneians point with their thumbs instead.
9. The citizens receive free education in Brunei. As a result, the adult literacy rate is 98%. They also get free health care, subsidized food and housing, and they do not pay personal income taxes.
10. The rainforests are home to some of the world’s rarest wildlife species. Although only a small country, Brunei has managed to conserve 70% of its rainforests despite the pressures of development. These forests are home to some of the most threatened species of flora and fauna. The Sunda clouded leopard, proboscis monkey, hornbills, flying lizards, saltwater crocodiles, etc., are some of the country’s most notable wildlife species. There are about 35 species of plants that come only from Brunei. Some of these are the orchid Coelogyne bruneiensis, the palms Calamus maiadum and Livistona exigua, and the bamboo Temburongia simplex.
11. Oil is a very important part of the economy. The production of crude oil and natural gas account for 90% of the country’s economy. The country has built a monument to celebrate the production of the oilfield’s billionth barrel of oil.
12. Brunei ranked higher on the Human Development Index (31st overall in the index) than all other countries in Southeast Asia aside from Singapore in 2015.
13. Alcohol is forbidden in Brunei. Brunei being one of the most observant countries in the world does not allow the selling or publicly consuming of alcohol. However, non-muslims are permitted to bring a maximum of two liters of alcohol into the country.
14. Brunei is one of the least populous countries in the world. The population of Brunei is less than 450,000, making it the 175th most populous country in the world.
15. Brunei is the first Asian country to ban shark finning. The ban was issued in 2013 and was applauded by conservation organizations worldwide. According to this ban, no shark species could be caught or landed in the waters of Brunei Darussalam. The sale, import, and trade of any shark products were also criminalized in the country.
16. And even though the country ranks high in human development index, homosexuality is still considered a crime. In 2019, it was announced that the penalty would be death by stoning.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Brunei:
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque: The country is renowned for its beautiful mosques. And if you have time to visit only one then you should go for the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It is located in Bandar Seri Begawan and is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Asia Pacific. You will fall in love with the architecture which has Mughal and Malayan influences. Surrounded by floral gardens and an artificial lagoon, it stands near the Brunei River. The opulence and grandeur of the mosque has made it the top tourist location in the country.
Kampong Ayer: If you want to have some fun, then you should rent a boat and motor through the world’s largest water village. Kampung Ayer, which means “water village” in Malay, is the largest stilt house settlements in the world. It consists of more than 40 smaller settlements connected with a maze-like network of wooden boardwalks. The small villages have schools, mosques, shops and the pretty mangrove are around them. It’s a unique experience.
Brunei Museums: Hey you history buffs, you can check out the museums in the country. Many of Brunei’s museums are located within or a short taxi/bus ride away from Bandar Seri Begawan city center. Few of the popular museums are:
Royal Regalia Museum- learn more about the Sultan and his extravagant lifestyle
Malay Technology Museum- learn about country’s culture
Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum- learn about maritime trading history, and checkout artifacts recovered from a nearby shipwreck