Misconceptions about Brunei

I found this interview conducted by Devin Galaudet in the In The Know Traveller website. I thought I will retrieve it and let you all read how the Brunei tourism is sold outside Brunei and maybe invite a few comments from readers, if you were to be asked to be the Brunei spokesmen as to what you would actually say:-

I must admit I had more than a few misconceptions about Brunei Darussalam before my recent trip to this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum held in Davao City, Philippines. I am not alone. While it is frequently connected with the Middle-East, it is not the Middle-East. Brunei is much closer to Malaysia. After all, it is surrounded by Malaysia on the northern coast of Borneo. I caught up with the head of Brunei Tourism and CEO, Sheikh Jamaluddin bin Sheikh Mohammed during the intermission of the Hinugyaw Cultural Dance Troupe performance – they were amazing! Although, I was initially intimidated by the Sheikh’s powerful name, however I found a pleasant and relaxed man – another misconception.

What makes Brunei unique?
People always have this perception that we are somewhere in the Middle East. I think this is because we are rich in oil and gas and because there is a Sultan of Brunei. Actually, we are in Borneo, on one of the safest islands in the world. What makes Brunei unique, in comparison to other destinations is that we have the world’s largest water village [Kampung Ayer] in Brunei. This is an original village from 600 years ago. People live along the river, they have schools, clinics and you can still see this today. There about 30,000 people living in this water village. It is also located next to the world’s largest residential palace, the home of the Sultan of Brunei. You should come by and you can see it. Another important fact is that although Brunei is small, we do not cut down our trees. Almost every area of our land is pristine and untouched. We can do this because all of our oil and gas is drilled offshore. We are very fortunate not to damage our rain forest and judging by the growth of eco-tourism, it puts Brunei in a good position. Our biodiversity, the flora and fauna, remain untouched as it was originally. It is something that we all can benefit from.

It is tourism that we started about 10 years ago. Because our tourism started at a later stage, we could see what other countries did. We pay a lot of respect to our environment. We make sure that our community benefits from tourism. We make sure that we do not have the bad effects of tourism. One thing I learned is that tourism is like a double-edged sword. Or like fire, as an example. You can cook with fire, but you can also have your house burned down. So we’re very mindful of the negative aspects of tourism. We are going steady, not spending too much money on marketing, and we are progressing nicely

What should Westerners know about the culture of Brunei?
We get a lot of American tourists. Americans come when the cruise ships come around in the region. One thing that they find most astounding about Brunei, as opposed to Hong Kong, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, you don’t get stuck in traffic. It’s not polluted and they’re not so many people around, something you would expect from a country that’s very crowded, but we’re not. It’s a very clean country. When you drive through Brunei, the road is all manicured and landscaped with flowers. It is a very high quality infrastructure. There is no poverty in Brunei. Not as anyone would know it. You have no people begging in the street. So we’re providing an opportunity for visitors, someplace new, clean and untouched. People want to go somewhere new. There are lots of wonderful places like Hawaii and Kuala Lumpur, but how many times can you want to do that. Brunei is one of these unusual and unknown destinations

Do regulations make it difficult to visit Brunei?
Interestingly, Americans have the longest visa free visits available from Brunei. It is 90 days. So that’s good news! Also, if you go to our web site, www.Brunei.travel, you can see we have a fantastic resort, called the Empire Hotel. It is a multimillion dollar resorts built by our royalty and you’ll see that no expense to detail has been has spared. President Clinton has stayed there. He loved it and he played golf there. We have a golf course designed by none other than Jack Nicholas. It’s a lot of fun. We do get lots of Korean tourists. They come for five days and they play [golf] the whole five days.

Will you be hosting and ATF Convention in three years?
Yeah, I think 2010. I hope you’ll be there too.

What would you suggest a visitor do in Brunei?
Eco-tourism is really the way to go, especially if you love nature. I recommend that traveler’s go to our national park in Ulu Temburong. It’s a 45 minute journey by boat [from the capital city of Bandar Seri Besar]. And once you’re in this park, it’s like being in the land of the dinosaurs. It’s exactly how it has always been, untouched. We have a canopy walkway, but you’ll see no development beyond the treetops. It’s wonderful view of nature: no sign of buildings and no sign of civilization. And you’ll see how small you feel when you see these tall trees. It’s a wonderful way to see things. It is even better than the Discovery Channel or reading National Geographic. Come see it for yourself. It is incredible. I love it when I go there.


you're right there Mr speaker....if one was to ask me about things to do in Brunei, i would recommend the wildlife. We have a bona fide range of jungle-ee things to do like white water rafting, canopy walks etc. Tourist from Australia for example love these kinda things. It beats walkin around malls aimlessly trying to find somethin u can afford. Nature never has a price tag :)
Anonymous said…
But is eco-tourism alone enough?
Anonymous said…
I have just recently completed a Open Water Diver course right here in our very own waters. One would probably not be able to advertise how beautiful the secenery down under without having seen it themself, but having experienced it myself, it is such an eye-opener just how magnificent the scenery is a mere 10 ft under.

The message I'm trying to send across is that I think the local Tourism dept could look into this as a tourism attraction in Brunei. They could work together with the diving institution such as PADI to promote Brunei as a diving destination. There are hundreds of thousand of registered divers with PADI who are always looking at new areas to dive, and Brunei might as well be one of it. Although I have never been, but I heard from fellow divers that there are sites off KB waters that are really worth the effort.

Having said the above, local authorities must then make sure there are laws and regulations in place (or maybe it is already in place?) to ensure that our beautiful diving sites are preserved in its most natural state.
Anonymous said…
I smiled as I read this. Brunei Pride!=D I think we have a lot to offer that other places don't. There's the wildlife and eco-tourism slant (the local foreigner, Kiwis love this nature stuff too! It must be this part of the world...) which is just part of the whole Brunei experience.

I think the best part that tourists get to enjoy is just being in a place which is different to other places. Small, untouched, not just about the shopping;) We're used to such surroundings but what Sheikh Jamaluddin said about feeling small amidst the towering trees of Temburong really sums up the different perspective we can offer. It's like, "take a walk in our shoes".

After all, when tourists spends good $ on a holiday, an enjoyable experience unique to the destination is what they're after no?;)
Anonymous said…
I studied the impacts of ecotourism for the conservation class, and there were a few places where ecotourists should not go in Brunei. Untouched places should be left like that, untouched. Though there are areas in Brunei that could be opened for ecotourism as the area is already opened anyway. Not only that, the trouble with ecotourism in Brunei is that, since it is still in the infancy stage, there are a lot of problems quoted by the lecturer. I will blog about it in my own blog and have a trackback to this site.
Anonymous said…
I've posted the top 10 places that ecotourists can visit in Brunei.
Though, for my own personal point of view, Brunei should open up more of its doors to researchers for describing the new species that are being discovered almost everyday by researchers working at Ulu Temburong.
Airul said…
The interivew isn't such a big problem.

but for heaven's sake, if we're going to be serious in promoting tourism, update the www.bruneitourism.travel website!

It was last updated aug 2005!!
Anonymous said…
Great insight. CAn we read other interviews by another Bruneian on different topic? I love reading what our countrymen are saying to the world about us. One cant help but feel Brunei is opening up.
Anonymous said…
Interesting read, bt nothing new though. It saddens me they are promoting Kg Ayer but then to see the state and environment of Kg Ayer, some would wonder is it really worth a tourist destination? i hope more thoughts and efforts are being put in upgrading its image.. redevelop the whole area perhaps? why not?
Anonymous said…
It's Bandar Seri Begawan lah.. not Bandar Seri Besar...

Anyway keep up the good work..
Ezal said…
I think our road is such a good quality than out neighboring countries.... Just see Malaysia, When we go to Miri the road is up and down like sailing at the sea and the road is slippery...too many oil.
I heard that one Philippine advisory said that our road is same like the European road.

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