Monday, April 06, 2015

BRUNEI - Bandar Seri Bagawan (BSB)

Brunei, (pop 410,000) a small sultanate, has the largest oil reserves in south east Asia. This tranquil nation is the realization of a particular vision: a strict, socially controlled religious state where happiness is found in pious worship and mass consumption.

It has the largest water village in the world dating back over 1000 years. Kampung Ayer is home to an estimated 20,000 people and consists of 28 contiguous villages on stilts in the Sungai Brunei.

The Brunei Times reports, that to bring more remote areas into the fold, the Information Department's Nationhood and Community Section have introduced a programme to strengthen the relationship between people and Government.

It involves a face to face approach to raise awareness and produce a civic community that loves their religion, nation and Sultan in line with the aspirations of the Government and Brunei Darussalem. This will give rise to a more prosperous and harmonious community which is vital to maintain unity.

There is also a call for the need for more religious education training trainers to ensure all children, including those with special needs, are able to understand and master reading of the Al-Quoran and perform the obligatory Fardhu 'Ain such as praying five times a day, ablution and fasting etc.

Unlike most towns we have seen in Sabah the centre of Bandar Seri Bagawan (BSB) is spotless and well appointed. Street kerb stones are painted black and white and roads are made from a dark grey coloured large aggregate. Drivers are very courteous and will stop for pedestrians. There is very little police presence but we are told that the population is under constant surveillance from CCTV and secret police.

The Sultan living in a huge palace with 1788 rooms and 251 bathrooms is well revered and respected. The population is mainly Muslim and alcohol is banned.

A sunny morning- as usual. Roti for breakfast. We see colourful umbrellas and head for a local market. Fascinating - lots of local fruit and veg, local fish - some alive, ladies making rattan baskets (although some are Chinese imports).

Sadly two baby owls and 4 squirrels in cages for sale as pets. ... And very fresh chicken on sale... Just choose you chicken; tie it's legs together with parcel tape; wrap it in newspaper and string and make a handle; carry it home; kill it; pluck it .....fresh chicken for dinner! Quite horrible for me with pet chickens at home all with their own personalities.

It is Friday and we head towards the mosque in time to see the local gents arriving for prayer in their beautifully laundered gowns. The town virtually closes for 3 to 4 hours.

We cross the river to Kampung Ayer, the water village, a maze of board walks connecting wooden houses on stilts. It is a zone of contrasts - dilapidated shacks, well appointed houses, flower lined boardwalks some with street lamps and a mass of floating rubbish.

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