Brunei is the 22nd country we’ve visited on this adventure, a little country (400,000 people) with a big name (officially it’s “Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace). It’s also a rich country, thanks to abundant oil and natural gas reserves; the International Monetary Fund ranks Brunei the fifth richest country in the world based on per capita GDP, and considers it a developed country.For us the most distinctive feature, though, is the fact that alcohol sales are banned under law. Egads! Fortunately you can bring a limited amount into the country, and the restaurant in our hotel allowed us to bring wine into the restaurant. (Interestingly they wouldn’t open the bottle themselves, nor did they charge a corkage fee, but they did bring us a a corkscrew.) As you might imagine, the absence of alcohol is probably related to an almost total lack of any nightlife or excitement in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital and only city of consequence in the country. Oh yeah, one other notable feature: male homosexuality is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. There are, however, no restrictions on female homosexuality. Strange place.
The highlight of our brief two-day stop was a trip to Ulu Temburong National Park. Of the 210 square miles of the park, less than one square mile is open to tourists; the rest is reserved for scientific research. That tiny sliver, though, was pretty cool. In this case the journey is a big part of the joy – most of the trip is on a couple different boats up rivers in the middle of gorgeous rain forest. Then the main activity inside the park is an aluminum walkway through the jungle canopy. The views were amazing but I can assure you it’s not for those with a fear of heights. You’re way up there – nearly 200 feet above the forest floor – and you can feel the towers and walkway swaying. Lots and lots of steps to get there, but totally worth it.