Brunei popped up on my travel itinerary quite spontaneously. I needed to do a visa run, and havin already gone to just about every place in S. E. Asia with the exception of Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Brunei, I though, “fuck it, Brunei it is!”, given the difficulties in getting to the other two.
I booked a dirt cheap flight from Kuala Lumpur with Monkeetime’s longtime sponsor Air Asia, and told the boss that I was heading to Brunei, to which he replied “Why?”.
Odd question, I thought, but ok… “Because it is there, and I want to see it. I think that’s a good enough reason.”
“Well, you should brace yourself for a good dose of disappointment then” was his reply, followed by “try to have fun, hahahahah…” as he walked away.
Few days later I landed in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei. Things went downhill from there…
I continue the post assuming that you have watched the video and heard me rant.
The video immediately received a shitheap of hits, tonnes of these in Brunei, which was not surprising. What WAS surprising was the very negative response. Heaps of hate mail, heaps of hate comments. People took the video as if I said “Brunei is shit, we should bomb it and send everyone to Auschwitz!!!”. That’s not quite the message of the video. The message is this:
For a significant oil exporter, Brunei’s capital (Bandar Seri Begawan) was seriously unentertaining, tattered, and comatose. I honestly did not expect that. Between the mismanagement of the nations natural resources and the Islamist influences, the country is truly one of the least interesting places to visit. It is clean, and it is calm, you have to give it that. But otherwise it had a feel of a permanent lazy Sunday, except it was a million degrees outside and there was nothing to do.
I have received angry messages about me not having gone outside of the capital city, that the fun is outside of the capital. This IS true, I have only spent time in Bandar, but I made the silly assumption that the people of Brunei would invest in developing their capital the way just about EVERY OTHER NATION develops theirs. You go to Washington, London, Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi, Kathmandu, Tokyo, Warsaw, Phnom Penh, fuck it, you even go to Stockholm, and you see the nation’s best put up on public display.
In Brunei, it seemed all of “the best” was skimmed by the sultan and his thieving family. The nation was left with some table scraps and a big bowl of brainwashing.
Having visited Brunei shortly after my trip to North Korea and witnessing the widespread damage that large-scale brainwashing campaigns cause to a nation’s population, I was nowhere near the mood for humouring anyone with happy bullshit about how neat the sultan is. The so-called “royals” of Brunei simply appropriated all the resources of the nation, are converting these to a massive pile of cash, and are now recklessly pissing it all away, minus the amount necessary to keep everyone quiet, under the veil of tradition, respect, and blah blah blah how fucking convenient for the kleptocrats.
It largely worked. The place is tattered as shit, it honestly is on the verge of looking like fucking Detroit, minus the awesome architecture. And it can do so much better. I understand that with a small population it is unlikely to look like Singapore or Hongkong, but then very little is being done as far as planning for that inevitable time when the oil runs out. The sultan is not only a thief, but he is also a near-sighted thief, and he is leading his huge flock of retarded sheep around, and the sheep are just delighted, because all of their lives they have been pumped full of stories of how fucking amazing the sultan is. They never hear stories about how THEIR money is spent on booze, private jets, yachts, hookers, and other stuff. That’s irrelevant. He is untouchable, he is better than everyone else, he is GOD!
Except that he isn’t. He is simply a guy from a family who through lying, cheating, and scheming managed to get their hands on the reins, and are now playing around with the nation, while its population is on a slow downward spiral of backwardness and decay. Many people in Brunei ARE NOT stupid and know exactly what is going on, but they cannot speak up, let they have a whole pile of troubles. They do, however, write me letters. There is a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
And so it goes.
Myself, not being constrained by bullshit traditions, enjoy the exercise of free speech, and have made that video as a nice, friendly bitchslap in the collective face of Brunei which will, hopefully, start coming out of its coma, and start thinking about joining the rest off the world where “royals” are removed from power and increasingly ridiculed, with possible exceptions like a number of “banana republics”, lovely North Korea, and of course England…
For those of you who would like to read a bit more, here are some interesting links: