Good question. I’m not really sure at this point. At the time, it seemed like a good idea: add Brunei as country #19 to the list. It’s not just any country, too. The sultanate is, get this, the world smallest, non-island country outside of Europe, or so the tourist propaganda told us. At the same time, we could fly cheaply to Borneo, the world’s third largest island, so that we can begin our explorations of the amazing wildernesses that litter this part of the world. And Brunei struck me as an interesting paradox, a well-developed country, run by one of the world’s richest men, the Sultan, yet one that has devoted nearly three-quarters of its area to natural areas.
But in the end it just wasn’t worth it.
We didn’t meet the Sultan. The closest we got was our taxi driver who claimed to have met him on several occasions and who had nothing but nice things to say about the man with 19 names and a home with 1,700 rooms and 250 toilets. The driver, a nice Muslim man born and raised in Brunei, also had flowery things to say about President Obama. Who he didn’t care so much for: Arabs. Think about that. I keep learning that most people aren’t so easy to lump into one demographic or another.
So what did that leave us? Not much: a couple of grand late 20th-century mosques, a stilt village, and a billion dollar hotel. From the million-dollar jetty extending from the billion dollar hotel we saw two sea turtles in the surf and watched them for a half hour. That was the highlight.
Beyond that we had very pleasant dinner one night with a Polish-Australian expat with a love of American football, and another morning we were refused service at a restaurant for no apparent reason. Maybe they didn’t like goatees? And that was how we wasted spent three days. As much as we hated Kazakhstan, I think there’s a better chance of us returning there… unless the Sultan invites us for a sleepover.
At the moment we’re in Kota Kinabalu, a not insignificant city towards the northeastern corner of Borneo. We went snorkeling today, so you know it’s not half bad. From here we’re going to hit a few sites in Malaysia before making our way, by land probably, to Indonesia. After much hemming and hawing, we have decided to skip the Australia and New Zealand leg of our trip in favor of some more exotic locales which we won’t yet identify solely to keep our mothers nervous.
So, in a few days, as we round the eastern end of Borneo, we will begin to make our way home.