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Nabeel Farah


When our protagonist last left off it was off to grade four white water
river rafting on the Padas river ( Padas means “spicy” in
Malaysian).The tortuous rapids were a real treat but the real adventure was
gettingthere and back. Safety is nice to strive for but it appears Malaysians
may consider it merely superfluous. On the way back from the river it
was haphazardly noted that the bridge spanning a rather large gorge
could no longer support an object like…...oh say a train. And so
it was that the engineer was alerted and the bewildered passengers detrained
(is that a word?) as we stopped in the middle of the Malaysian jungle.
The train track was originally built at the turn of the century to
transport British colonial cargo. Quite interesting to see the
passengers spill out of the 1930’s era train cars and cross the
ricketybridge by foot to a waiting train on the other side of the tracks.


From there the ride back to the small town we set out from was one I shall
not soon forget. We rode on a flatbed train cars……no walls, not
even rails, just wooden planks as the dense humid air rushed by and the sun
set to the west. The view was amazing. The track hugs the
Padas River

the entire time as the huge jungle laden peaks and hills reach up from
either side. Perhaps no sunset may every compare to the brilliance of
this one. On to


The Sultan of
Brunei is one of the worlds richest men. Oil Oil Oil. He
rules the now rather tiny
kingdom of Brunei. Present day Brunei

Darussalam (as its officially know) is situated in northern
Borneo, but
in its heyday it stretched all the way from the Philippians to
. The Sultan is a simple man. Nothing exorbitant
about his 1,200 room grand palace or his personal collection of over
1000 vintage cars. He is also a very humble man…..not the
megalomaniac people make him out to be, as the museum he built to honor himself
isn’t quite as lavish as it could be. Further, he is also a deeply religious
man. Following the pillars of Islam he takes just as good care of his
two wives as he does the playboy playmates he imports to be in his
harem (after they have literally been quarantined of course).


Say what you may about the Sultan but he is a smart man and knows how to keep his people happy. Educated at Sandhurst he’s got western savvy. His people
love him. Why not, how could you not love a nation with no taxes, superb
universal health care, and pensions for everyone? The sultan knows how
to spend his nation’s oil money (i.e. his money). Any king worth his
gold plated Harley knows that to prevent revolution you must keep the people
happy and the token military run by close relatives. I had occasion to
experience his benevolence.


As a present to his people for his birthday (a national holiday no less) he built an amusement park. This  isn’t your run of the mill traveling circus with dwarves and carnies running around. It’s a sprawling expanse of state of the art rides,
lights,massive musical fountains, and has just about every attraction you
wouldfind in Disneyland. In fact one might rate this place better than
. I found myself riding the 7 loop 4 twist roller dangling
roller coaster 6 times in a row barefoot ( and yes I was a bit
apprehensive…….not because of the ride itself but because we had
to wake up the napping ride operator). There was no line. In fact there was
quite literally a total of 20 guests in a place the size of
My guide tells me that the reason for the lull was the fact that after
five years of being free the place started charging the unreasonably
pricey sum of $7 US. Ridiculous!  

Bandar Beri Sagawan (
) is the capital of this great nation. The city
boasts two lavish mosques, two of the biggest in the world. The golden
minarets tear far into the sky.
is famous for its stilted fishing
villages. 30,000 people live in the highly coveted pillared
communities. Only a person born in the village may own property there. Some of the
villages are said to have been in existence for 600 years. Inspectors
constantly scan the villages bridges and poles for sighs of
decay or collapse.
is a small but bustling capital although 5 times a day
the entire city stops for prayer. The dreamy morning call to prayer can be
heard everywhere in the town as it echoes from the plethora of minarets.
Of course there is no alcohol in
. Perhaps there is no  coincidence
that streets are bereft of homeless people.

Alas its time now to say good bye to
and hello to the beaches of
. Ciao for now.



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