It takes only a small detour to stop in Brunei when flying from Bali to Bangkok and being an oil man, I always wondered what the world's richest individual oil man did with all his money... I had no illusions about getting close enough to the Sultan to ask him how he got his kicks but as I was curious about this place, I went to visit his "Haven of Peace".
|Lonely Planet CIA bx|
Bandar should be called "The Place That Oil Built" because there would not be much here were it not for the oil discovered in 1929. The city is modern and spotlessly clean with impressive public buildings in its small organised center but it is surrounded by some of the worst slums I have ever seen where the ordinary people live.
As it should be for a Muslim city, the crown jewel of Bandar is the great Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque named after the present sultan's father. It stands majestically in the center of an artificial lake reclaimed from Kampung Ayer, a collection of miserable slums built on stilts over the mud flats of the Brunei River.
The great mosque is indeed a thing of beauty as one can see from these two photos. It certainly speaks volumes for the wealth and glory of its builder. It is a complete success; it does impress. It even has a stone boat like the one the Dowager Empress of China Cixi had built in Beijing's Kunming lake in 1888. And Bandar's stone boat is a lot nicer than Beijing's! Now isn't that impressive...
Now that you have been duly impressed with the power of great wealth, here is a peek at Kampung Ayer which has been siting on these mud flats for centuries...