What’s It Like To Visit Brunei?

Several days ago I wrote about the horrible new laws that took effect in Brunei as of today, and the impact that’s having on Dorchester Collection. There’s a lot of talk about the country today, so I thought it would be interesting to republish the story I wrote a couple of years back (in January 2017) when I visited Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

I’m doing this for two reasons:

  • Because I found the country to be vastly different than I was expecting
  • Because there’s a big difference between the leaders of a country and the people who live there, and I think that’s an important distinction to make

I’m leaving my previous post fully intact (including the comments), though let me note that in light of today’s changes I wouldn’t visit again on principle. 

For those who aren’t regular readers, let me note that I’m gay, and also that the primary reason I visited Brunei was because this blog is all about reviewing first and business class on airlines globally, and I review airlines regardless of my feelings towards the countries.


I spent about 30 hours in Brunei over the weekend, as I wanted to review Royal Brunei Airlines. I was given the option of either a six hour layover or 30 hour layover when flying from Kuala Lumpur to Bandar Seri Begawan to Dubai, and chose the latter. I’ve always been intrigued by Brunei (especially after reading an article from The Hollywood Reporter about it a while back), so figured this represented a great opportunity to visit a new country.

Understandably, a lot of people asked me questions about how I could visit a country like Brunei. So I figured I’d briefly address that, and also share my thoughts on my visit.

Brunei has horrible laws & an eccentric Sultan

A few years ago Brunei implemented Sharia Law. In theory gay acts are punishable by death. Brunei has all kinds of other strict laws — non-Muslims aren’t allowed to use Muslim words, you can’t publicly celebrate Christmas, etc.

Let me say that I realize these problems exist, I think the policies are horrible, and I strongly disagree with them. Hopefully that goes without saying.

The Sultan of Brunei is also an… interesting guy. His residence has nearly 2,000 rooms, he has a fleet of private jets as big as that of the national airline, and he’s known for partying. Paris Hilton was actually in Brunei for new years, and we can only speculate who she was there to entertain.

royal-brunei-a320-business-class-9

How can I travel to Brunei in good conscience?

It’s a legitimate question, so let me address it in two ways — the safety implications and also the ethical implications.

On the safety front, I wasn’t at all concerned about traveling to Brunei. Several people said “you know, you could be stoned to death for going there.” I think there’s an important distinction to draw — it’s gay “acts,” propaganda, etc., that are illegal (just as religious propaganda is illegal). I felt perfectly safe going there.

But what about the ethics of supporting a country with such backwards rules? I shared my philosophy on this in a previous post. I spent $75 for my stay at the Radisson hotel, had meals at a few local restaurants, and booked a discounted business class ticket on Royal Brunei.

Did I spend some money? Yes. Did I “support the Sultan?” I mean, I suppose so, though he has made his billions of dollars through oil. So I’m supporting him every bit as much when I engage in any activity that involves the consumption of oil, as I am when visiting his country.

What makes it all worthwhile, however, is being able to experience the country and people for myself. The Sultan has been in power for about 50 years, so for me it’s incredibly enlightening to form my own opinions about the country and the people, rather than just reading about it online.

We all have impressions of Brunei based on media reports, but does that really reflect the locals? Just because a country has a leader we may disagree with, doesn’t mean that the people are at fault, or necessarily share his beliefs.

brunei-4

So, how was Brunei?

Very different than I expected. I was picturing a country with people who weren’t especially welcoming to outsiders, a country with extremely strict rules, etc. I guess I was expecting Brunei to be as sterile and “orderly” as Singapore, while also somehow feeling like a major Gulf city.

What I found was the opposite. The people were very warm and welcoming. Everyone was informal. I didn’t feel like I was in a police state. The city felt very Southeast Asian. There was a lot of natural beauty. There were no tourists.

brunei-2

I don’t think I saw a single police officer, and rules seemed to be very lax — people just parked wherever they wanted to, jaywalking was common, etc.

I met up with some locals — both lifelong residents of Brunei and ex-pats — and they seemed to live very normal lives.

In terms of the destination as such, Bandar Seri Begawan was beautiful. It’s not the most exciting place on earth, but I had a great time. There were a few things that felt a bit off, like visiting The Empire Hotel. It’s the nicest hotel in the country and seems to have hundreds of rooms, but I would have been shocked if they had over 5% occupancy.

brunei-1

Bottom line

No, I don’t like “supporting” countries with laws against me. At the same time, I think there’s so much to learn from visiting a place you have a negative impression of, and finding out that it’s nothing like what you were expecting.

That’s not to discount some of the horrible laws in place, but rather to say that it’s worth separating out the laws created by a non-democratically elected leader from the people who make up the country.

So I’m not saying everyone should rush to travel to Brunei, but I did find the experience enriching. While my perception of Brunei’s leadership is the same as it was going in, my perception of the people of Brunei changed, in a very positive way.

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed Brunei and was happy to visit there in 2014 and I’m glad I have been.

    Its an interesting place to visit. The new airport terminal had just opened when I was there, and no airlines were using it , it was like a massive airport ghost town compared to the old terminal.

  2. Lucky

    I could of wrote this post for you. You followed the plot points perfectly.

    1. Go to a dictatorship, say nice and soft things about the leader.
    2. Acknowledge that the Islamic laws are batshit crazy, but make an excuse as to why its fine because you can go without sex with a man for 30 hours while on layover.
    3 Blame the media for an incorrect description of the country.
    4. Misdirect any guilt you feel for going to such a place by making an appeal to how nice the people are
    5. Lecture people about how its made you a better person.

    Thanks for letting us know that if gay people don’t want to die while being tortured to death, they just gotta keep their dicks in their pants. You sure did solve that moral concern.

    Thanks for the puff piece on Brunei.

  3. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying in your comments section for a long time now, much to the dismay of a lot of readers.

    This is what traveling is all about and I’m glad that you finally came to this conclusion and shared it so eloquently, here’s hoping that other readers may learn from this entry and start being more open to other cultures rather than writing bigoted opinions based on what they’ve been told.

    I also hope that you get to experience more countries and cultures in the same way you’ve experienced Brunei.

  4. So if you went with Ford and did gay “acts” would you be in trouble? How would they find out? I’m guessing the hotel would have to report it to the government?

  5. Hate is stronger than love. You may let in hateful people wanting to change them with your love but they will change you with their hate.

    This is why religion has survived so long even in the face of science. Our future is sharia law and sll other stupid laws of other religions. In the meantime enjoy as much as you can. I dont give two shits if mankind survives or annihilates itself. They deserve what they get.

    Glad you are seeing the real life in other countries. I think you do pay attention to comments even if you pretend you don’t. Your travel conversations/experiences will be a lot more interesting the last time you spend in the bubble of first class.

  6. @Aziz – well said. Until that time, though, people will continue to ironically scream for “tolerance” and “acceptance” at the tops of their lungs while bashing the unknown or those who they presuppose not to fit into their views of the world.

  7. So glad you spent time to visit and explore a different country. There are many amazing places in this planet other than hotel rooms and premium airplane cabins. I look forward to have more posts like this.

  8. “Just because a country has a leader we may disagree with, doesn’t mean that the people are at fault, or necessarily share his beliefs. I don’t believe in “punishing” people of a nation because of a leader they didn’t choose.”

    Sounds like America in a couple of weeks.

  9. A good friend of mine was posted there when he worked at the State Department. He hated it and has nothing good to say about his time there.

    There are certainly plenty of these moral dilemmas with more than a few countries. I visited Myanmar when shortly before Hillary Clinton visited it as it was opening up somewhat to the world. I had been boycotting for a while but ultimately decided that it was better for the ordinary people to have contact with outsiders and was as careful as I could be about how and where I spent my money.

    But I don’t think I’d want to visit Brunei. Or Dubai for that matter.

  10. Quite curious about this as RB have invited me to review and I honestly wasn’t sure. Curious about the flight – did you BYOB? I have an MBA colleague based there and she’d show me around but I guess I’m not curious enough! Look forward to your flight report!

  11. I would not want to visit a country where my safety is at risk; like USA where I’m risking being gunned down just about anywhere… Orlando anywhere?

  12. @Mark;

    If you were writing a puff piece for Lucky, hopefully you’d know the difference between “could’ve”, meaning “could have” and actually being a correctly-used phrase, and “could of”. Otherwise, great addition to the comments. You’re a real gem.

    @Lucky;

    Great sentiment about the country being more than its ruler. We are about a week-and-a-half away from being judged just as harshly by the world for a “leader”, a term used loosely in this context, that we *did* vote into power. Geopolitical/political nonsense cannot be the only yardstick by which we measure a country. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

  13. @Amol: very unnecessary and stupid comment since there is no comparison between the situation in Brunei and in the US. The Sultan of Brunei is a dictator and runs the country in whatever way he wants. Here a president was elected by the rules of the country and like him or not he was elected because people gave him the votes necessary to win the election wanted him. You may not like him but he won because he worn the majority of electoral votes. More than 61MM Americans wanted him as president while in Brunei probably nobody voted for the Sultan. Thus, like it or not has the leader people chose. Don’t start saying he did not win the majority of popular vote because if Americans are not happy with the way election works here they should fight to change it but nobody does that. It has been an outdated system for centuries and nobody changes it. Thus, yes, the US has the leader they chose. BTW, I did’t vote for the current president nor for the upcoming one. I don’t like either but that doesn’t mean I will avoid the country.

  14. Eccentric? I guess. He does have expensive taste in cars. He is one of the biggest Ferrari collector, and he has some custom ones as well – I believe – include Ferrari station wagon. He does have absolute power, but he’s not unique there. Most Gulf States rulers have absolute powers too.

    Lucky – maybe this is not your cup of tea – but you ever thought of writing about your destinations or stopover points, and expand your writing beyond the usual scope of first/business cabin and hotel reviews? I understand that if you stop at Tokyo, or Paris, or Bali – there are tons of writings about them on the web. But Brunei? Not a common spot for western tourist to visit.

  15. Very nice post. I’ve found so many Americans (not readers of this site of course) are “afraid” of going to less popular destinations. Don’t let people who haven’t been there tell you about it!

  16. Glad you visited Brunei. As a gay man, I visited Brunei in 2005 and found the people and the country pleasant.

    To the critics: EVERY country has problems, bad laws, and issues. Living in the USA does not mean we endorse the deplorable things here. So, by visiting any other country, you are NOT supporting bad politics and law.

    If we listened to what the US media says about nearly every other country, we would or should not go anywhere else. I say travel everywhere and form your own opinion.

    Happy traveling.

  17. I love this post Ben. This side of you is much nicer. Please share more feel-good travel stories alongside your reviews 🙂

  18. I think I would do a good job ruling a small country like this, if someone would let me do it for a week or two. I bet I would surprise some people! I’ve heard there are certain “concierge” travel packages that allow you to do this sort of thing, but I don’t have the right credit cards.

  19. Life moves pretty fast… personal safety aside… it seems fine to reject the idea of a foreign regime’s posture affecting where you travel in your life. Travel where you like. Regimes come and go.

  20. Question: How do authoritarian rulers solidify their position and pre-empt dissent?

    Answer: They co-op religion as a tool of power. The application of sharia law keeps the clergy happy, who then disposes of the correct messages to keep the population obedient and under control by invoking the wrath of god.

  21. Question: Why are people so welcoming, informal and easy going?

    Answer: The people live in a cocoon, ensconced through a very generous welfare state, where citizens pay no taxes, enjoy free education (even sponsored overseas tertiary education), free healthcare and generous pension and housing schemes. When life is handed to you on a platter, you consume it like a docile circus animal and never question the hand that feeds you.

  22. What crap. Lucky coming away thinking that Brunei (Dubai, wherever) isn’t as bad as he thought is very different from everyone he interacted with thinking, huh, I guess Sharia Law and the Sultan are wrong and gays are wonderful.

  23. Hehehehe if only the people in the comments realized Singapore’s antigay laws sound just as bad

    @Mark (first one)
    Thinks he’s clever because he’s got the ability to copypaste comments from Facebook he made 2 years ago on a popular post he managed to get more than 10 likes on. I swear guys he isn’t a bitch, he’s super super cunning

  24. I agree! great post. Things aren’t always as they seem or we hear about on the news of from someone who “knows” about a place.

  25. I agree Lucky, as you are quite representative of a citizen of the world through travel and the implicit cultural exchange of simply moving about the globe, you have the ability to influence others thoughts about our culture and theirs about ours.

    If we only visited places we agree with, most wouldn’t leave their front yard less they see a bumpersticker supporting a different belief. We’re fortunate to be in a country where we can disagree and agree with anything we want without fear, which means effectively that within 1000 feet of every person reading this blog right now, there is something that disagrees with you and what you might be. Be it having a different hair cut, an accent, a beard, a heritage different than their own, or something important like who you are and what you believe. Going 5000 miles to view and observe a culture who’s government you disagree with? Commendable, your future job in the state department grows nearer every day.

  26. As I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog, I had a great three-day stay in Brunei last year. I got to meet interesting people, see the scenery from north to south, and by doing a homestay I got a nuanced view and analysis of several levels of society. Things are more complex than one could glean from a 30-hour visit, but I think your review was quite fair. Also I noticed a number of transvestites (let’s say between 3 and 5) in the various shopping malls I visited, and was told that cross-dressers are quite accepted and integrated in society. Wonder if that’ll be the case in America six weeks or six months from now. Time will tell…

  27. I was in Brunie back in 1989 on business – the garment biz. There for a few days. Except for having to drink liquor from a ‘tea cup’, everything else appeared ‘normal’. WOW, the gold topped palace of the Sultan was very impressive – and you get that from billions of dollars of oil, Everybody I met was very nice, in business and just other people I came in contact with.
    WHAT’S IMPORTANT, is that while I had a reason to visit Brunei, everyone should avail themselves of any and all opportunities to see the WORLD – as it is, not necessarily as we would like it to be. In the last several months I have been on several cruises – which included countries that I had NO desire to visit – namely St. Petersburg Russia, and Ho Chi Ming City Vietnam. VERY HAPPY that I had the opportunity to visit these cities/country’s. Vietnam was very much different, in a very positive way – than I had been let to believe. TAKE every opportunity to travel, and enrich your life.

  28. Thought I would just do some simple research on the issue of homosexuality being illegal. Note to all,
    73 countries still state that same sex sexual contact is illegal, Brunei being one of them. 13 Countries still have it punishable by death but Brunei is not one of them. Some countries where you should reconsider travel if you value your life, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq and Syria.

    On the topic of supreme rulers, there are 10 countries still ruled by supreme rulers, not elected in any way. They are Monaco, Lichtenstein, Swaziland, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, Bahrain and Brunei. Interesting to note that other than Swaziland and Bhutan, the other 8 all have tremendous wealth within the ruling family, and the money is maintained for the ruling family to decide what to do with it…….. Brunei is one of 73 countries that has not seen the light and legalized same sex sexual contact and is one of 10 countries with a supreme ruler. As a traveler to Brunei I have spoken to its people and they are happy, contented and well provided for. They have a better standard of living than in Malaysia and Indonesia, its neighbors, and arguably one of the best education, medical and social welfare systems of any country in South East Asia.

    Perhaps the solution to the problem is for many many more people to visit this small beautiful country and interact with its people. Only then will they see our point of view and perhaps this will encourage change from within rather than us shouting and screaming from the sidelines.

  29. Ben. Wow. This report just confirms what a ton of people say with how young etc you are. As a gay man we’ll agree to disagree. I’m sure you’d have a much different opinion if you lived there.

  30. It’s funny how many are talking about “law” this “law” that. Existing law and implementation is one another – unlike USA where every aspect of life is governed by law. Frankly they will not police what the individual does bed, but if you openly hold rainbow parade and sort that’s when the problem arises. It’s not something is black and white.

    Moreover, most people in Brunei really respect their king just like people of Thailand still pay tribute to their ex-king, when many outsiders criticized about lack of freedom to speak against their leaders.

    Well, freedom is not everything. Many prefer peace over freedom, which is exactly what Brunei is, or even in Iraq or Libya where people are now prefering life under Saddam or Qaddafi when at least there was law and order (but comparing Brunei Sultan with Saddam or Qaddafi is wrong, as he’s much more lax and receive much more popularity by his people).

    Thanks for the article, I think this kind of perspective is something very needed.

  31. @Hiro. I’ve never met a single person that prefers peace over freedom. Keep ratings the sultans crap. I’m actually embarrassed for you.

  32. It’s always good to visit a country with your mind open. After all, they probably don’t like our laws either. Who are we to say what’s right and what’s wrong?

  33. nobody cares if you go or not

    nobody cares if they imprison you

    nobody cares if you are breaking your own ethics

    nobody cares who you sleep with

    basically nobody cares

  34. First off, sorry for being late to the “party”. I am a Bruneian thru and thru and I am a straight guy and married. I’m not here to change your perception of my country thru these words as it is up to you to seek that if you wish to but I am here to tell you what it’s like for a LGBT person that I met with, study in school with, served in the military with, being a family member of and work with. They are who they are and ppl accepted them as they are. Parents are not ashamed of them. Colleagues are comfortable working with them and some are outstanding members of our society. As long as they don’t overly flaunt their “gayness” that make ppl uncomfortable we will always accept them as part of our family and friends. And that goes for the Syariah law being implemented. Just don’t openly flaunt your “gayness” and no one will bother you, not even the police (who have no inkling what anybody’s sexual orientation is and couldn’t care less)

  35. I visited Brunei in Dec 2015 for two weeks. Though as a group we were there for a specific purpose, we did travel and interact primarily with the locals. It was my experience that though Sharia Law had been implemented, it did not seem aggressively enforced. We saw open displays of homosexuality among natives to Brunei as well as Filipino immigrants. The people were all very pleasant and, as you mention, I saw almost no police nor did I hear one car horn the entire trip. We plan to return in Jan 2019, so I’ll let you know if anything has changed.

  36. Posted as a military loan service family to Brunei for over 3 years and a son born in Bandar – your writing exposes your own narrow minded mindset than the fine people of Brunei, who even through the tensions of 9/11 welcomed us into their culture and hearts. Having returned often, lived in the UK & my native NZ, travelled through most continents in the world to inform my view that – the Brunei I know is not reflected in your words.

  37. “At the same time, I think there’s so much to learn from visiting a place you have a negative impression of, and finding out that it’s nothing like what you were expecting.”

    With respect @Lucky, I really don’t think you can get a deep or insightful impression of a country simply by visiting it, let alone for only 30 hours. You’ve never lived here, worked here, dealt with any of the day to day challenges or opportunities. Until you have, at best you’re going to only have an extremely narrow and shallow perspective. I don’t think you should pretend otherwise. A tourist experience, by definition, is going to be highly skewed and not a great representation of reality on the ground, or even culture.

  38. @ Justin — That’s all fair enough, of course you’re not going to get a full impression from a quick visit. However, I did meet several readers (a couple of them are lifelong residents), so to hear their perspectives was very interesting and gave me a lot of insights. I’ve never knowingly come across someone from Brunei outside the country, so to me that’s more insight than I would have otherwise had.

  39. I’m the typical clientele for Dorchester collection hotels and I can tell you I will not spend a dime at his hotels as I’m not interested in lining his pockets with my money…. not that he’s gonna feel pinched because I refuse to stay at his properties… The publicly available info says Dorchester collection is worth about 10% of his total asset (allegedly). So whatever little impact I have on his bottom line is a good thing imo and if there is enough of us boycotting his properties, he will feel it.

  40. I’m with Clooney and Ellen. We have great people in this country but Trump and
    Pence would kill you if he could get away with it

  41. I’ve spent a lot of time at Dorchester properties, and the Beverly Hills Hotel has long been a favorite of mine. Sad to have to give it up.

    More importantly, however — what are you eating in that photo? Looks fantastic.

  42. We all have to make choices about the intersection between ethics and business, so while I might have made a different decision about visiting a country the laws of which violate human rights, I would not begin to judge you through my moral lense. That said, what stands out to me is that 30 hours “experiencing” a country (even as small as Brunei) is far too little time as a tourist or, in Ben’s case, on a business trip, to have any appreciation for the people, the politics and or the culture. Indeed, to do so, is somewhat insulting to both the country and your readers. Experiencing a nation is not the same as experiencing business class on a 787-9.

  43. buj says:
    “Just don’t openly flaunt your “gayness” ”

    What exactly counts as flaunting ones gayness. Does holding your spouse’s hand in public count when straight couples can do the same? Is putting a photo of you and your spouse on your desk at work count as flaunting?
    Hearing someone talk about” not openly flaunting your gayness” most likely tells me they have serious problems with accepting same gender couples.

  44. Brad Coath
    Lucky, I live in Florida like you. I dont eat at Chick Fil A nor patronize companies nor countries that contribute to causes that impact me as a gay man. I LOVE Iran, but would dream of returning. My boyfriend (MANY years younger than me) has no such qualms about patronizing Cracker Barrel or Chick Fil A. I respectfully dissagree. My generation turned Adolph Coors and Florida Orange Growers around by boycotting. My opinion. Love your blog

  45. Your values are measured by how much it takes for you to compromise them. I agree with @VaCavalier that I nor anyone else should judge the decisions people make regarding the intersection of ethics and business, but full transparency requires that people own up to the real reasons why they might not support Brunei, but would support the U.A.E.

  46. All the people complaining about Lucky not having the ability to get deep insight because he only visited for 30 hours — well that’s usually all his trips, right? Why’s this one such a thorn in your side? Didn’t hear you complaining about any of the others where he jumps off First class, makes it through transit, to lounge, to another First Class. This was or is a blog about credit cards and premium cabin pics/reviews/gripes. Let’s not get too deep.

  47. “Sharia Law” is an insidious blight on the 21st century

    Justifying it in the name of religion is bizarre and obscene

    It bamboozles me how the “free world” can accept this behaviour just because it occurs in a foreign land. By “accept” I mean that whilst we do tut tut, there are no mass protests like there would be in cases of perceived “Islamaphobia”

  48. Going to have to switch it up and do Plaza Athenee or Le Meurice on the next trip to Paris.

  49. Martin whether you or I like Sharia law or not is inconsequential. They have a right to do what they want in their country. It is called sovereignty. The Sultan of Brunei could give a damm what other countries, peoples think of him. The only way that would change is if his subjects were to uprise against him which I doubt will happen in my lifetime. Brunei has one of the highest standards of living in the world.

  50. Lucky, you said it correctly: At the same time, I think there’s so much to learn from visiting a place you have a negative impression of, and finding out that it’s nothing like what you were expecting.”

    I’ve traveled to countries considered horrendous by the media – Syria, Uganda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Lebanon, Brunei, etc. I’ve always found the countries to be hospitable, interesting, and pleasant – nothing like the way they are painted.

    ALL countries (even the US) have “bad laws” and social injustices. I don’t allow that to stop me from visiting.

  51. Your reviews of Royal Brunei and Bandar Seri Begawan were both interesting so much so that these reviews inspired me to visit this beautiful ‘abode of peace’ – I was impressed at their tidy airport and streets (and the overall friendliness of the people) and feel the Western media sometimes sensationalizes, I enjoy your reviews of ‘exotic’ airlines such as Astana, Air Belgium, TAAG and, Royal Brunei

  52. Democracy is not and would not be a worldwide form of ruling. Do not go to other church with own rules! Weird that most of those who now refuse to stay in the worlds best hotels, continuing flying with airlines whose owners have been decided that same laws are applicable in their countries.Hotels are banned, airlines not 🙂 What a joke! Beside, I could not care less about of any actor/host etc. statement. I choose the quality.

  53. The leaders of Brunei are happy to visit gay bars , go clubbing , solicit escorts, hold parties in their suites, gamble and drink As is normal , they are a bunch of hypocrites

  54. I was thinking “Oh No, here goes Lucky with yet another post about being gay in an Islamic country…” Something I have read all too many times, I was starting to think that you loved this type of thing..
    BUT this time I’m wrong and must say this is a neutral and considerably well written article.
    For that I must praise and Thank you. Hacking through the comments section on these posts is always the most difficult part after it though.

  55. Yes, yes very harsh laws but maybe the sultan has to apply the laws at home. Certain rumours about his son’s crazy nights in London…
    Hint: Instagram @tmski
    Quite a bit gay IG with bare chests and uniforms he he… Not a sharia modesty model and aligned with ME hypocresy

  56. I have a serious question that is not at all meant to be inflammatory.

    If 1930’s Nazi Germany existed today, would you visit it using the same logic of “leaders vs the general population”?

    Thanks.

  57. WTF? It seems business is more important to you than being a good human being. Supporting businesses in countries where everyone is not equal (ie/ women, visible minority or gay) and high chance of prison or in Brunei’s case death is shameful. Stop talking about the nice local people as your excuse. You are among a small group that could influence people, instead you hide and pretend everything is fine for your own benefit. I’m really disappointed in you Lucky.

  58. Very good summary of Brunei Lucky, and aligns very closely with my visit in the 80s (flew in on a BI 763 yet)!
    @James the problem with countries like Brunei is that 98% of the time you are fine. It’s the other 2% that can prove hugely problematic since the laws are arbitrary in statute they are similarly variable in terms of the application of them.

  59. Was invited to BandarSB years ago. The Sultan of Brunei; money without the intellect, nor the modesty, nor any sense of style. Awful and vulgar spending on private 747s, palaces, yachts and cars. A open-topped Rolls-Royce embellished with Rococo gold scrolls and silly gold decoration! WTF! Yachts names Nipples 1 and Nipples 2. A palace, complete with escalators instead of stairs; which feels like a hotel lobby or a shopping mall. DREADFUL, ostentatious and lacking any taste. Medieval.

  60. @WW: “Was invited to BandarSB years ago. The Sultan of Brunei; money without the intellect, nor the modesty, nor any sense of style. Awful and vulgar spending on private 747s, palaces, yachts and cars. A open-topped Rolls-Royce embellished with Rococo gold scrolls and silly gold decoration! WTF! Yachts names Nipples 1 and Nipples 2. A palace, complete with escalators instead of stairs; which feels like a hotel lobby or a shopping mall. DREADFUL, ostentatious and lacking any taste. Medieval.”

    I quoted your whole post in order to point out that by changing just a few details, the description matches President Trump just about as well.

    The difference, of course, is that Trump was (more or less) democratically elected. The Sultan was not.

  61. @James: It’s indeed a good question. We don’t actually have to speculate on the answer to the more general question of whether people of good will would have visited Nazi Germany. Shortly before the war, many did – for instance, Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936, and people from all over the world attended despite plenty of evidence as to the nature of the regime at the time.

    Some athletic groups from some nations did boycott the 1936 Olympics, but most did not. The question is whether, even if the entire world had boycotted the Olympics (and Germany and German products more generally), it would have had the slightest effect. I doubt it.

  62. As to whether boycotts work or not, sometimes they do, but most times they don’t. Economic boycotts and western pressure was a factor on South Africa’s decision to end Apartheid. Social movements that changed consumer perceptions in Europe (especially the UK) helped to end key parts of the trans-atlantic slave trade in the 19th century. In both those cases though, it took decades, vigorous campaigning and organization and they only really worked when they were able to convince governments and not just individual consumers to act. That said, a part of these efforts like the one to boycott the Dorchester Collection are not as much about actually successfully boycotting a business but rather raising awareness about the general issue, in this case discrimination based on sexuality. The very fact that we are talking about the issue and spreading awareness about how discrimination occurs in different parts of the world means that the campaign is having a success. So, is it “ridiculous” that this campaign is unlikely to actually directly affect Brunei’s policy or the Dorchester Collection’s policy? No. And heck, you won’t know if you’re going to be successful at something unless you try and there are lots of examples of corporates backing down on policies because of social pressure.

  63. This puff-piece resembles the disgusting piece by Anna Wintour in Vogue, fawning all over Mrs. Assad in Syria. Wintour was bought and co-opted quite willingly, blabberingf about clothes and fashion while her moronic husband was deciding which village to bomb, whom to torture, which prisoner to murder. This sort of “journalism” must stop. Surely the buck stops on the editor’s desk. Just say no dammit!

  64. We have 2 choices. Visit and bring influence, or stay away and allow the dictatorship go unaffected.
    China was like that before. Bush No. 1 opened up with MFN (Most Favored Nation status opened business) then westerners flooded in and China changed. Not enough yet, but still dramatic since 1990.
    Also, never saw many police in China, but they are there in plain clothes. Could be like that in Brunei, but it doesn’t matter, they are still police and you are protected.

    Might be a good idea to flood Brunei. Make sure we get Jay Leno to go along ! He has led protests with his wife at the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA.

  65. @Justin – nice post, but you understate the issue when you use the word “discrimination.” Stoning gay people to death is not discrimination. It is a human rights violation, and it is murder.

  66. The royal family of Brunei are hypocrites and use the country as their financial institution – simple. The country has antiquated laws and values. During my assignment there, the stories which we uncovered were simply monstrous. I don’t think my colleagues and I will be returning to Brunei, even if were were allowed entry.

  67. I don’t know anybody who is worried about a lifestyle blogger *choosing* to abstain from sex while on the briefest of stopovers. What we’re concerned about are gay people who actually live there having to choose between a life without romantic physical contact and the risk of barbaric torture ending in murder. Nothing in your wish-washy blog entry gives me any comfort or solace, although it does give me a reason to wonder if *any* policy or law is a step too far for your amazingly flexible conscience.

  68. Just FYI, the Financial Times has an article on this now stating that the Dorchester in London has been hit with a wave of high profile event cancellations while a number of large companies (such as Deutsche Bank) have banned employees from staying at the hotel group’s hotels for company business. The boycott does seem to actually be having an effect, at least in the short run. Events can be the lifeblood of a business like the Dorchester, so the fact that many organizations are reviewing their relationship seems quite a big deal.

  69. Hi. A living Bruneian here.
    I do not understand why outside world like to bully little countries like us.
    If we do not like our laws, we will ask to change it. We done it before. There is no help required from you. We live in peace.
    Alot of Bruneian and foreigner who visited us before, have defended Shariah law and you people still say we are wrong. Why must you force us with your thinking?
    Shariah law has been nothing but good for our country.
    Gay people live in harmony here. They are safe.
    Just don’t display any sexual act in PUBLIC then you get punished. It doesn’t apply to just gays. It applies to ALL. It is our way of living.
    You just like to pick and reCREATE a new sentences and make the world focus on it. We do not stone people just for being gay. That FALSE news. Stop creating HATE towards our country.

  70. Mohd. When you say “if we do not like our laws, we will ask to change it,” does that include gay Bruneians?

    When you say “gay people live in harmony here. They are safe,” does that include stoning them to death?

    When you say, “Just don’t display any sexual act in PUBLIC then you get punished. It doesn’t apply to just gays,” does that mean heterosexual couples will get stoned to death, too?

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