Thursday, January 30, 2020

Brunei McDonald's and Other Rich Guy Pursuits

I had actually left today sort of unplanned because I was so set on seeing those majestic proboscis monkeys from yesterday that if they hadn't revealed themselves I was going to take another tour today to hunt them down. 

The curtains began to close on passage back home. My flight was on February 2nd though so there was no problem getting back home. No problem at all.

Adding to my "this is fine" attitude was the fact that Delta wasn't killing flights because the world was ending, but because demand was dropping.

I was surprised to see this nutcake on the front page of the Borneo Bulletin. I saw her creeping around at the mosques yesterday and recalled her being an oddball. But her doofiness mixed with her media savvy had me thinking. Should I be sending pictures and write ups to local newspapers like this? Should I be carrying around an inflatable globe beach ball while wearing a picture of my country on my shirt like an "if found return to" note pinned to a child? I haven't been in the newspaper lately...

With nothing really left on my to-do list in Brunei I spent a lot of time relaxing at the hotel. By nightfall I was starting to feel guilty that I hadn't done anything cool today. What to do what to do... How about McDonald's!?

Let's. Get. Weird!!

Nasi Lemak McD. The name really rolls off the tongue. Let me just visit my old friend Wikipedia for some background flavor: "Nasi lemak is a Malay cuisine dish consisting of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It is commonly found in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish; it is also the native dish in neighbouring areas with significant Malay populations such as Singapore; Brunei, and Southern Thailand." The dish is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, so it was very culturally sensitive of McDonald's to print a leaf on this cardboard box.

The bottom left is anchovies on top of a spicy Indonesian chili sauce called sambal. Cucumbers and egg are also common accompaniments to nasi lemak. I ordered mine with 2 pieces of Ayam Goreng McD, otherwise known as fried chicken.

I was now in a town outside of the capital called Jerudong. So the Sultan has a brother named Prince Jefri (dubbed the Playboy Prince) who served as finance minister for over a decade. Badda bing badda boom, Brunei accuses him of embezzling $14.8 billion. He had some pretty amusing ways of spending all that money. Some people buy jewelry, this guy bought Asprey, a jewelry company that makes crowns and scepters for royalty and designed the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace that was used in Titanic. (The roundabout above is a giant fake diamond ring that lights up and play music) Some rich people go on fancy vacations. Jefri bought a hotel chain. He has 3 current wives, 2 ex-wives, and 18 children. He bought a yacht and named it Tits. The little boats that ferry you to and from the yacht? Nipple 1 and Nipple 2.

Anyway now that I'm done writing my Christmas list... what was I talking about. Oh. So across the street from the McDonald's was another of Prince Jefri's purchases: an amusement park. I didn't have a lot going on so I popped on over.

Jerudong Park was nice enough but I think I was expecting some opulent golden roller coasters named after body parts or something. Michael Jackson performed a free concert here in 1996 in front of 60,000 people for the Sultan's birthday.

I guess the park has been reduced in size from what it once was to recoup some of the cost.

The place was almost completely devoid of humanity. There were definitely more employees here than customers. You may think that would be cool and I could ride all the rides 40 times if I wanted to. Well I had my Keens on which are like waterproof shoes with holes in them. Any ride of really any level of excitement wouldn't let me on because my shoes were considered sandals and that wasn't allowed for safety reasons. Wow.

On the way home I popped into the Empire Hotel for a look. It was also built by Jefri (at a cost of $1.1 billion) and it was also deserted. This was especially odd because I distinctly recall looking into this place while planning this trip and the hotel said it was completely booked. Something weird was definitely going on here. A partial explanation could be that the Chinese tour groups booked the place but then all had to evacuate leaving the place bone dry. The guidebook said to "gawk at the US$500,000 lamp made of gold and Baccarat crystal in the lobby." Gawking accomplished.

My book also mentioned the "cavernous glass atrium". I have a hunch that this might be it. 

The palatial yet abandoned qualities of this place made it feel like walking around in a pharaoh's pyramid just after it was sealed up. 

"This mural illustrates Sultan Bolkian's [1485-1524] lavish reception to the first Europeans to visit Brunei in 1521. The remnants to Ferdinand Magellan's fleet sailed into Brunei Bay on the homeward leg of the historic first circumnavigation of the world."

Well that was it. Brunei was a nice place to spend a couple/few days. Time for a nice, relaxing return trip home that will go exactly as a planned.

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