In August 2018, I went on a surf trip to Borneo, specifically to the Islamic nation, Brunei Darussalam.
During the time of my stay, there were waves around waist high almost every day. I was not so sure what is the cause, but perhaps due to the seasonal winds in the south, and the timing was probably just by luck. The wave was most of the time fast and closeout waves, and the seawater was quite dirty and slimy, as expected since it is one of the major oil-producing country. The seawater has made it so slippery even for the deck of my surfboard.
There was already a surfing culture established and there were local surfers in Brunei. The local and foreign surfers were all very welcoming of me, and for that, I do appreciate the warmth and acceptance.
Although my visit to Brunei was done in such a short period of time, I have learned some deeper information of the country, and it has surprised me as to how unique a nation Brunei is in comparison to my own country.
My impression on Brunei
- Oil is 30 yen two years ago, and now, it has increased to 50 yen. Which means, the price has multiplied to 1.5 than it was. That is a huge increase for the price of oil.
- It is perhaps the only country in Southeast Asia where there is no slum at all. It is all thanks to their natural resources.
- There is no education fee, medical expenses fee, consumption tax, income tax.
- The percentage of Islamic practitioners in Brunei is the highest in the world. It felt as if almost everyone there are Muslims.
- Some of the locals have a British thought circuit.
- The overall personality is close to Japanese. There are many kind people in Brunei.
- Left hand traffic system. I did not see any motorcycles in Brunei.
- Almost everyone could speak English, probably because it was under British protectorate.
- Their infrastructure is in place, and their road is very neat. The traffic rules and system are as good as Japan.
- You can surf.
- The country has a population of about 450,000 people, which is similar to Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan. The area size is about Mie Prefecture. As a result, the population density is low, and if feels underpopulated.
- There are plenty of Western food around in Brunei, and there are many people who are suffering from obesity. Most of the adults were overweight. The food culture in this part of Asia has been violated by Western food.
- There is a good sense of security.
- Oddly enough, there are many people who holds such a good impression on Japan.
- As for the LGBT community, I could not say much about it due to the law imposed upon them making them hardly visible in the society at all. I think it is impossible to regulate such law, as human desire is uncontrollable.
- Even when a person graduates from their university, they are left unemployed. Is this due to the recession from the country?
There was unique culture mixed together, and this is very interesting.
Throughout my stay there, I did not see any tourists there although I do believe there are some. Brunei is still very weak in terms of public transportation especially ones needed for sightseeing. There was an impression that taxis, rental cars and buses are not commonly used.
There was a sense of the usual Southeast Asia atmosphere, with a slight zest of an affluent lifestyle.
There were a number of occasions where the people felt there is an invisible line that is drawn across between the royal family and the ordinary people, separating them.
My overall impression of Brunei is that even though the general public and residences receive financial support by their country’s production of natural resources, to some extent, the country is reigned through a controlled dictatorship, without the freedom of speech and choice.