Country Curiosities: Brunei, Abode of Peace


Paolo Reyes, Staff Writer


As someone who’s been to Southeast Asia and seen multiple stories and documentaries about the region, I believe that it is safe to say that the area fails spectacularly in comparison with its other neighbours in the Far East. Southeast Asia is home to some of the most underdeveloped, poverty stricken, and pollutant laden countries in all of Asia, and quite possibly the world. Brunei, however, goes against this trend that is so commonly seen in Southeast Asia. Unlike its fellow countries in the region, Brunei, alongside Singapore, stand as the only recognizably developed countries in Southeast Asia. Well known for its immense oil riches as well as its controversial sultan, the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace stands out from its struggling neighbors like a skyscraper in the slums.

The Abode of Peace

Whilst it is typically referred to simply as “Brunei”, the full official name of the country is in fact the “Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace”, which is a rather odd name for a country as it has a description within its own name. However, Brunei seems to be fully deserving of its name, especially since it has not been engaged in any significant civil or foreign strife/conflict for nearly forty years (Hussainmiya). What also contributes to this name is the immense wealth and the vastly higher standards of living that the country is proud to boast as a result, as the life expectancy in Brunei is on average around 75-93 years as of 2020 and it scores significantly higher on the human development index (HDI) than its neighbours (Rodgers). 

Oily Money

Like the wealthy oil empires of Arabia, Brunei has successfully managed to exploit its natural resources (such as fossil fuels in the form of oil) and amass great riches for its treasury. According to the International Trade Administration, Brunei produces around 127,000 barrels of oil per day, and 243,000 barrels of natural gas per day as well. In total, in 2019, the country exported around 6,600.84 US$ millions worth of natural gas and oil (“Brunei – Energy”). It is reported that Brunei apparently has 1.1 trillion barrels of oil left in its reserves, still to be extracted, refined, and exported to help the country obtain even more wealth (“Brunei Darussalam Oil”). 

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

When it comes to the leaders of oil rich countries, they always seem to spend their immense wealth on the most lavish and needlessly luxurious things that money can afford. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei is no different. Profiting off of his royal title and the immense riches of his country, Sultan Bolkiah is known to have thrown away money like it was nothing to him, which quite arguably, it is. According to Insider, He was once the richest man alive, valued at $40 billion. He would reportedly spend $20,000 on haircuts and commissioned a 1,788 room royal palace (Bostock). Other than his lavish lifestyle, the Sultan also has a rather complicated and controversial love life. According to TripSavvy, a timeline of the Sultan’s love life goes as follows: 1) He married his first cousin, Princess Saleha, 2) He then married his second wife, 3) He divorced his second wife, 4) Married his third wife, who was 33 years younger than him, 5) Divorced his fourth wife. 


Works Cited

“Brunei Darussalam Oil.” Worldometer, Worldometer, darussalam-oil/

“Brunei – Energy.” International Trade Administration |, U.S. Department of Commerce, 7 Jan. 2021,

Bostock, Bill. “500 Rolls-Royces, $20,000 Haircuts, and a 1,788-Room Palace: Everything We Know about the Lavish Life of the Sultan of Brunei, Who Sparked Outrage after Introducing a Law Punishing Homosexuality with Death.” Insider, Insider, 10 Sept. 2019,


Rodgers, Greg. “These 23 Facts About Brunei Will Bewilder You!” TripSavvy, DotDash, 12 June 2020,