Thanks to sizeable deposits of oil and gas, the tiny tropical sultanate of Brunei Darussalam has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Its two non-contiguous territories, situated on the northern coast of Borneo in South-East Asia, are home to some of the region’s most pristine rain forest habitats.
The country only gained independence in 1984, but has the world’s oldest reigning monarchy and centuries of royal heritage. At the helm of the only remaining Malay Islamic monarchy in the world, the Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years. The current sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, has been on the throne for 43 years and is one of the world’s richest individuals.
Visitors to the “Abode of Peace” (the literal translation of darussalam) will find the country surprisingly laid-back and relaxing. In addition to admiring the gilded domes, towering minarets and extraordinary ornamentation of two landmark mosques in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, tourists can explore water villages by boat and on foot, learn about local culture in several interesting museums, sample delicious Malay cuising (some of the best can be found at open-air markets), and experience the incredibly biodiversity of the Bornean rain forest in Ulu Temburong National Park.