Where is the bike? Wheeeereee is it?
Being restless to the point of watching TV, I decided to spend my waiting time by visiting one of the smallest and most atypical nations in the world, the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam. It is a strictly Islamic country more or less run by Shell. They have no taxes, no alcohol, and a free trip to Mecca for all citizens. In effect that means there are plenty of cash, but no parties, and many of its adventurous are abroad. Indeed, Brunei (which fittingly means Abode of Peace) might just be the most boring place on earth, if not in the entire universe.
The stunning Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is the next best thing to Taj Mahal
Oh well, I’m not being completely fair with my characteristics. Brunei will entertain you for a day or two, but after that you’ll have to entertain yourself. If you can’t, you’re in trouble. The tourist office in will not help you – I was met with a distinct “oh no, another foreigner”, handed a leaflet, and kicked out before I could bother them with questions. Therefore, when strolling on the roadside with sweet inner images of places far away, I was thrilled to be hijacked by perhaps the most hardcore criminal in the country. For his own protection let’s call him “Danny”. Here is the case: Danny is the lead guitarist in Soul Decay, a Muslim metal band (!). The problem is that metal music is illegal in Brunei. See the dilemma? Anyway, we had a fulfilling conversation about Satan, and he was particularly fascinated by me being a genuine descendant of the Vikings.
Danny, his girlfriend Noodle, and I are enjoying Ambuyat, the national dish – hot slime and fish fried to death. It tasted… well, don’t ask.
Before Microsoft became macro the sultan was the richest man in the world, but now he’s on an embarrassing third place (æda bæda). His Majesty’s 1788 room castle is half a kilometre long, and he has 2000 cars in the garage. Most interesting is his royal chariot, a spitting image of Il Tempo Gigante, which is displayed at the Royal Regalia Museum. Other rewarding doings include a walk in Kampor Ayer, a village on stilts in the Brunei River, where half of the population in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan lives. And I have to mention Steven and Chris, a lovely British couple that - despite living there for five years - was not mentioned in the tourist brochure. They kindly invited me for chicken sandwiches and tea in their new house in the suburb which I imagine is far more practical than the Sultans castle (the toilet is in walking distance, etc…).
The water village is hot and humid. It has the feel and smell of a badly ventilated kitchen where someone is boiling a large pot of macaroni.
After a week I was more afraid of losing my Bryson book than my passport, and there had been plenty of reading hours and coffees at Brunei’s perhaps nicest outdoor facility, De Royalle Café. The last day they gave me a "regular customer discount card" (could be a bad sign depending how you look at it), and the owner came and shook my hand in the usual Brunei way – a touch so light that no sweat would be exchanged.
“Where are you from”, he asked.
“I’m from Norway.”
I corrected him, but he didn’t seem to grasp it. When I left, he said to his employees, loud enough for me to hear it:
“There goes a man from nowhere, and he’s going somewhere.”
I liked that idea.
Then I got the SMS - my bike has finally arrived at Port Klang.
Posted by Erik Saue at January 22, 2007 07:19 AM GMT
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