The Little-Known Secrets To Judi Poker
I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan watching a blazing red sky as the sun sets over the South China Sea.
It’s my first time in this small, devoutly Muslim nation on the island of Borneo — land of gold-plated mosques and wooden water villages, home to the Sultan of Brunei and a nation so rich from its oil and gas resources that no one pays tax.
It is only a seven-hour flight from Melbourne but Brunei is a little known and very much underrated destination for Australian travellers.
Brunei is clean and virtually free of crime with pristine rainforests, palm-fringed beaches and palatial resorts.
It has a population of less than 500,000 and the people I met were friendly, gentle and hospitable.
But there are a couple of things we may as well get out of the way.
If you want to buy alcohol, forget it. Alcohol is banned and the only way for a traveller to have a drink is to bring your own and consume it inside your hotel. Smoking is also banned in public.
Then there is the matter of sharia. The strict Islamic law code — which includes flogging, stoning and amputation — is being phased in since its introduction in 2014.
And no discussion of Brunei could be complete without mentioning the playboy brother of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Prince Jefri.
Prince Jefri has gained notoriety for his harems of beautiful women, his flotilla of luxury yachts including a boat named «Tits» and his alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars while he was finance minister.
Royal Brunei Airlines recently resumed its service from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City via Brunei, making it possible to stop at Brunei either for a self-contained visit or on the way to or from Vietnam.
I arrive in the afternoon on my way back from Ho Chi Minh City and check into the Empire Hotel and Country Club a short drive from the airport.
This grand and regal complex is situated on sprawling leafy grounds with immediate access to the bath-warm waters of the South China Sea, a lagoon-sized swimming pool, a cinema, three restaurants, a luxury spa and an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. (Golf buffs take note: in 2011 The Empire was named Best Golf Resort in Asia Pacific by Asian Golf Monthly.)
Lovers of piano will appreciate the Fazioli grand in the lobby. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, consider this: only about 100 of these are made each year and they come at a cost of up to $US300,000 ($A380,000).
I could have easily spent my two days in Brunei lapping up the luxury at the Empire but there isn’t much point in being somewhere new if you don’t get out and about to taste the local flavour.
My guide Nabil meets me in the lobby for a city tour. First stop is Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. The main dome is covered in pure gold and it’s considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific.
We also visit the Jame Asr Hassanali Bolkiah Mosque — the largest mosque in Brunei — and the Royal Regalia Museum, which celebrates the life and successes of the sultan — and provides a welcome relief from the sweltering heat.
«We only have two seasons,» Nabil tells me. «Hot and wet.»
From there it’s a trip aboard a water taxi to the Water Village, or Kampong Ayer, where we stop at the home of HIH Azizah and her family for homemade Malaysian sweets and tea.
With its stilt houses and maze of rickety wooden walkways situated on the Brunei River, it’s the world’s largest water village and Nabil compares it to the Italian city of Venice.
No trip to Brunei would be complete without visiting the Istana Nurul Imam, home of the sultan himself and the seat of Brunei government (effectively the sultan and his family).
We’re not allowed inside on this day but as I peer in from the gate Nabil informs me it contains 1788 rooms, a 110-car garage, a stable for the sultan’s 200 polo ponies, five swimming pools and daftar domino qq online 350 toilets.
A colleague who spent several years as a reporter in Jakarta rather unkindly described Brunei as the most boring place on earth, but I’d have to beg to differ.
It is not what you would call a lively city and there might not be bars or nightlife. But foreign correspondents and travel writers look for different things.
If you’re a traveller looking to experience a different culture or enjoy an unusual stopover en route to Vietnam you won’t be disappointed.
* The sultan’s full name is His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
* He is also prime minister, minister of defence and minister of finance.
* The sale of alcohol is banned, as is smoking in public spaces. Homosexuality can attract a prison sentence and adultery, cross-dressing and close proximity between sexes is also punishable.
* Brunei’s official name is Negara Brunei Darussalam, which translates as the State of Brunei and the Abode of Peace.
* The writer flew to Ho Chi Minh City via Brunei on Royal Brunei Airlines. The RBA 787 Dreamliner service leaves from Melbourne daily.
The Empire Hotel and Country Club has rooms from $A256 to $A2609 per night. Go to theempirehotel.com or call +673 241 8888.
* The writer was a guest of Royal Brunei Airlines.