After fleeing Korea last May, Leslie and I had a few months to travel before we returned home to Mexico. We had a few countries that we definitely wanted to visit, some old, others new, and all proved to be as amazing as we’d expected. That is, except one. Now, before I tell you how dull we both found it, I should also be fair enough to say that the people were friendly-ish, the hotel quite nice, and we did only stay a couple of days in the capital. There is undoubtedly more on offer than the glimpse we had, and I’m sure other people have had great travel experiences there. It is, after all, on magical Borneo. Now that my diplomatic disclaimer is said, here goes.
I’m talking about Brunei Darussalam, and in a nutshell, it was the least inspiring and un-thrilling country I’ve ever visited. In other words, travel is not always amazing.
The first minutes we got there, and ordered a coffee in the hotel’s cafe, we were told that we would have to take it to our room because, since it was ramadan, we could get arrested if we were caught drinking it publicly. I found this a little far fetched, but as an atheist, it was especially annoying. They also added that if we explored, out in the heat, we should not drink water in public either. Now, even though I’m an atheist, I always try and respect the local and religious customs. But…walking around the city in 35’c heat? I’m going to drink water whenever I want. It’s funny. From the hotel room, all we could hear were the constant drone of super-loud sirens. At first we joked and said it was the police off to arrest some unsuspecting tourists for daring to drink water in ramadan. In reality, it could have been ambulances racing to save people who hadn’t drank water. Oh religion, what are you like?
So what was there to do in Brunei’s capital for two days? Honestly, not a lot. There’s the floating village, set on a large, dirty and polluted lake, there are a few mosques which, while I love architecture, are not even the nicest mosques I’ve seen, and since it was ramadan I couldn’t even go inside and look around, and a shopping mall with nothing in it. Very few restaurants, no street food, and a coffee shop or two but closed for ramadan. And, well, that’s about it. It’s a ‘dry’ country, so you can’t even have a beer after an hour of sightseeing. Because an hour of sightseeing is all there is in the city. (this is not a complaint, we knew it was a dry state)
The question is, why did we even go there? As travelers, we want to go everywhere at least once. Otherwise, how will we know if a place is amazing or not? Also, from where we were at the time, Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia had super cheap flights. So, while it is not exactly about counting up the number of countries we’ve visited, it’s still nice to add another to the list. Right? Right.
All in all, I’m glad I went, if for no other reason than to know not to go again.
Traveling is amazing, but sometimes, just sometimes, travel is not amazing at all.
Okay, so the main mosque was kind of cool. From the outside. Here’s the evidence.
All images by the Nomad, © Steven Moore Photography