Posted on February 23, 2014
|This map highlights with a red star the port|
of Muara, in Brunei.
Brunei is a small nation located on the island of Borneo. It is entirely surrounded (except for the coast) by part of Malaysia—and a chunk of Malaysia actually divides Brunei in two! It's also quite small—smaller than the U.S. state of Delaware, although a bit larger than Rhode Island.
You would think, wouldn't you, that a Southeast Asian nation this small and divided might be poor and undeveloped?
Well, if you thought that, you would be wrong. Brunei is considered a developed nation, and it is wealthy from its petroleum and natural gas resources. It is second only to Singapore, among Southeast Asian nations, in education and health statistics, and in 2011, it was one of only two nations in the world with 0% national debt!
Today Brunei celebrates its independence from the U.K. in 1984.
One thing that is interesting to see at Brunei is Kampong Ayer, the Water Village, which is a part of the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Every building in the village is built on stilts—because the village is built in the middle of the Brunei River!
You may be picturing a cluster of 30 buildings in the river, built on stilts, and you may think, oh, how nice—but the Water Village is more than 4,200 structures. There are houses, of course, but there are also restaurants, shops, schools, and a hospital. There are mosques. There are more than 29 thousand meters of foot-bridges connecting the village to the shore, and 36 kilometers of boardwalks connecting the various buildings. Instead of using the boardwalks, many people go from place to place on water taxis that look like long wooden speed boats.
Even though people have lived in the Water Village for more than 1,300 years, there are modern facilities available. People enjoy plumbing and electricity, of course, but they also enjoy air conditioning, satellite TV, and internet access.
Opposite Kampong Ayer is a beautiful mosque called Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. It is built in an artificial lagoon. With its marble minarets and golden domes, the mosque is one of the most recognizable bits of skyline of the capital. It is surrounded by a courtyard and gardens. A bridge leads to the Water Village, and another bridge leads to a replica of a 16th-Century barge.
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