Brunei edit

Darussalam, Islamic Sultanate in the heart of Borneo

A last-minute omission from post-British Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam gained full independence from the United Kingdom a little over twenty years ago. Completely surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak (aside from its coast on the South China Sea), Brunei is a tiny, retiring Islamic state famous for oil, ornate mosques, and Prince Jefri, who skipped town after apparently blowing several billion dollars of his family's money on bad business deals and his extravagant lifestyle. Highlights include the Ulu Temburong National Park with its pristine rainforest and the Jerudong theme park. Brunei has no functioning democracy, the widely respected (and apparently rather busy) sultan acts as the country's head of state, prime minister, finance minister, defense minister, and religious leader. The capital city, Bandar Seri Bagawan (also called "BSB"), is compact, calm, and uncrowded, making it something of a rarity in Southeast Asia. It is home to the impressive Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin and Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosques (to which visitors are welcome), Brunei's mammoth Royal Palace (open to visitors following Ramadan), and the Kampong Ayer or "Water Village." Although you're unlikely to find much in the way of nightlife -- the sale of alcohol is prohibited and nightclubs are few -- Brunei makes for an enjoyable addition to any trip to Borneo.

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