Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part 1: Beautiful Brunei!

I’ve been here in Brunei for a year and 3 months now. Frankly, I’ve already fell in love with the green and serene city of this opulent country.

Here’s an article I made with some research for Brunei Travel and Tourism. I hope this could help you if you wish to visit, work or stay for good in this very peaceful country!


Image courtersy of www.propertyworld.com
Official Name: Brunei Darussalam (Brunei, Abode of Peace)
Currency: Brunei Dollar
Land Area: 5765 square kilometres
Population: 372, 360 (2005 estimate)
Capital City: Bandar Seri Begawan
Borders: Malaysian State of Sarawak

Brunei is a small country packed with a lot of surprises: captivating sceneries, a well-preserved cultural heritage and a wealth of business opportunities are a few to mention.

As a blossoming sanctuary nestled on the northern shores of the idyllic island Borneo and sharing its land borders with Malaysia, Brunei offers a spread of experiences each travellers or tourist will surely adore - serene living, magnificent rainforests, exuding flora and fauna, eye-popping landmarks, and amazing museums.

Relatively, the country also produces exceptional diverse activities to cater even the most adventure-seeking individuals or pacify the whims of a culture vulture. Apart from enjoying championship golf courses, impressive polo grounds and world class accommodations, you can also visit the ever popular Kampong Ayer for some cultural immersion. Kampong Ayer is the bustling water village dubbed in the 16th Century as the Venice of the East. Alongside, you can visit Borneo’s other enchanting regions, such as Sabah and Sarawak, by taking Brunei as a logical gateway.

On one hand, Brunei stands on a progressive economy and a majestic Royal Governance. While Islam plays a major role on its nation building, the country is fuelled by the oil and gas industry. Positively, Brunei has a high literacy rate, longer life expectancy, and low unemployment and crime rates.

THE BASICS

Brunei is situated on the north-western coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. The Sultanate has a total land area of 5, 765 sq km and a coastline measuring 161 km along the South China Sea, its northern border. The Malaysian State of Sarawak borders its other side.

The official name of Brunei is Negara Brunei Darussalam. Negara Brunei means the state of Brunei and Darussalam signifies Abode of Peace.

Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei Darussalam. Located in the Brunei-Muara District, it is the centre of Government and business activities. The farmed Water Village of Brunei (Kampong Ayer) is also located here.

Brunei Darussalam is divided into four districts. They are Brunei- Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong. Muara, Brunei’s chief port is located about 41 km to the northeast of the capital. Kuala Belait, the administrative centre- and Seria , the seat of the oil and gas industry, are in Belait. Pekan Tutong is the main town of Tutong while Bangar is the administrative centre for Temburong.

About two thirds of the population is Malay; the rest are chinese or members of indigenous tribes. Bahasa Melayu is the official language although English is widely spoken and understood.

Rainfall and humidity are high, with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celcius throughout the year, Brunei rest outside the tropical typhoon and earthquake belts.

As a Malay Muslim monarchy, the country is ruled according to Islamic values and traditions by the present monarch, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. His Majesty is the 29th ascendant of one of the world’s oldest continuously reigning royal line, with over 500 years of recorded history.

To date, now leading the nation into the 21st century, the government of his Majesty is responsible for the booming construction and infrastructure expansions which have turned Brunei into one of Southeast Asia’s most developed nations.

With an economy fuelled by exports of crude oil and natural gas, the government uses its earnings in part to build up its foreign reserves. The Brunei Investment Agency manages the bulk of the nation's foreign investments, which are reported to have reached more than $30 billion.

For the record, Brunei is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia (after Indonesia and Malaysia), averaging about 219,000 barrels a day in 2006. It also is the ninth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world. The country is estimated to have oil reserves expected to last 25 years, and enough natural gas reserves to last 40 years.

Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), a joint venture owned in equal shares by the Brunei Government and the Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies, is the chief oil and gas production company in Brunei. It also operates the country's only refinery.

On one hand, the country's wealth coupled with its membership in the United Nations, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines – East Asian Growth Area (Bimp- Eaga), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, gives it an influence in the world disproportionate to its size.

Likewise, Brunei has emerged as an active and influential participant in international and regional core groups, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Such involvements have raised awareness of Brunei as one of the world’s important of developing economies.

ORIGINS

Ancient Chinese records from 518, 523 and 616 AD noted that Chinese envoys visited a country named “Poni”, “Poli” or “Bun-lai” , which we now believe "Brunei." Records also show that Brunei was first settled in the 8th century when it encompassed the whole island of Borneo. It is said that the first settlers who reached the Brunei River might had been exclaimed “Barunah!” – a classic Malay word meaning ‘excellence of the site for settlement’, ‘security’, ‘access,’ or ‘the richness of the surrounding.” It is believed that this became the name of the new city- state, which was later changed to Berunai and then to Brunei.

Islam came to Brunei via the Sultanate of Tumasek (the ancient name of Singapore) towards the end of the Majapahit Empire. In fact, Chinese accounts tell of the dominance of the Muslim traders in the 9th and 10th centuries. It is believed there was already a community of influential Muslims in Brunei during that period.

According to the monograph of the Brunei Museum Journal, legends have it that 14 brothers of heroic stature and semi-divine descent founded Brunei some 29 reigns ago. The early king of Brunei was called Sang Aji, or reverend Monarch, a little of Sanskrit origin.

When Awang Alak Betatar embraced Islam and married the daughter of the Sultan of Johor, he was installed as the Sultan of Brunei. Thus, it was in the 14th Century that Brunei officially became a Muslim state. Awang Alak Betatar changed his name to Sultan Muhammad.

With Islam, Brunei asserted and expanded its role as an independent and dominant trading power in the region. Its trade and territories grew alongside the spread of Islam to encompass existing Malay Kingdoms in Borneo and the Philippines. During the early spread of Islam, many Arab Muslim missionaries married into the Brunei Royal family.

Sultan Ahmad, who ascended to the throne in 1402, was not mentioned in any of the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei (laws and regulations of Brunei Kings). But he was recorded in Chinese History because in 1406 he sent an envoy to China where he was known as Ma-na-je-ka-na.

Then, Sharif Ali from Tarif, Arabia, married a daughter of the second Sultan, and later ascended the throne as the third Sultan in 1425. To emphasise Islam as the state religion and to enhance its spread, he ascended ‘Darussalam’ – Arabic term for ‘Abode of Peace’ to the name Brunei. Thus, Brunei became Brunei Darussalam in the 15th century. His son Sultan Sulaiman further propagated Islamic teachings. He was well known as Adipati or Sang Aji Brunei.

Brunei’s sovereignty peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries, when it controlled the whole of Borneo and parts of the Philippines. The empire’s vast wealth, derived from international commerce, created a strong impression on early European explorers- stories of gold, regalia and majestic ceremonies.

Brunei was particularly powerful during the ruling of the fifth Sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521). Sultan Bolkiah was especially famous for his sea exploits and even briefly captured Manila.

The ninth ruler was Sultan Hassan, he ruled from 1605 till 1619. He entirely urbanized a complex Royal court structure elements of which remain.

After some time, Sultan Hassan entered a period of decline: the reason for it was because of internal battles over royal succession as well as the expanding influences of European Colonial powers that among other stuff disturbing customary trading patterns demolishing the economic base of Brunei and numerous other Southeast Asia sultanates.

In 1839, a very generous English adventurer, James Brook turned up in Borneo and helped Sultan Hassan put down a rebellion. Later as a reward, James Brook became the governor and later a Rajah of Sarawak, the northwest of Borneo. He steadily extended the territory under his control.

A English adventurer, James Brooke was appointed governor or Rajah, of Sarawak, after helping the Sultan put down a rebellion. However, he soon consolidated power and started expanding the territory under British control, creating his own dynasty of “White Rajahs” that ruled until World War II.

During their rule, the “White Rajahs” continued encroaching on Brunei’s territory, which was also under pressure from British trading companies and had already taken control of present-day Sabah state in Malaysia.Meanwhile,the British North Borneo Company was expanding its control over territory in northeast Borneo.

In 1888, Brunei became a protectorate of the British Government retaining internal independence but with British control over external affairs.

In 1906, Brunei accepted a further measure of British control when executive power was transferred to a British resident who advised the ruler on all matters except those concerning local custom and religion.

Brunei submitted to a British Resident system, giving the British control over home affairs, except for customs and religion. Reduced to a fraction of its former size and wealth, Brunei saw a revival of its fortunes when oil was discovered in 1929.

The resulting wealth was judiciously managed and sustained, even during the nation’s occupation by the Japanese during WWII. Following the war, it was the late Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, the true architect of modern Brunei, who set Brunei on its course to modernization.

In 1959, a new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state while its foreign affairs security and defense remained the responsibility of the United Kingdom. An attempt in 1962 to introduce a partially elected legislative body with limited powers was abandoned after the opposition political party Partai Rakyat Brunei launched an armed uprising which the government put down with the help of British forces. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the government also resisted pressures to join neighboring Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed Malaysia. The Sultan eventually decided that Brunei would remain an independent state.

In 1967, Sultan Omar abdicated in favor of his eldest son Hassanal Bolkiah who became the 29th ruler. The former Sultan remained as Defense Minister and assumed the royal title Seri Begawan. In 1970,the national capital Brunei Town was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in his honor.

On January 4 1979, Brunei and the United Kingdom signed a new treaty of friendship and cooperation. On January 1 1984, Brunei Darussalam became a fully independent state.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th ruler of his line, led Brunei to its independence from the British in 1984. During His Majesty’s reign, a fast-paced modernization program, building upon the nation’s oil wealth,resulted in a noted improvement in quality of life for all Bruneians.

Next Stop: Places To Visit!

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