And, in direct opposition to the previous post, here’s a little shout-out to decadence. Brunei isn’t tops on most people’s travel lists. It’s a small country, there’s no alcohol, and it’s a bit expensive to get to and be in. Unless, of course, you are already in Borneo and the border lies only an hour or so away.
So to Brunei, I went. And stayed at what is probably the nicest place I’ve ever been in. It wasn’t phenomenol by today’s standards – I imagine most swanky hotels in Dubai would blow it away. But for a 25-year-old hotel, it still manages to awe, and holds a charm that modern hotels have yet still to earn.
The hotel is the Empire, and it hearkens back to a nonexistent colonial era. It’s thoroughly European (as this American would picture it), but with a distinct Asian flare. The service is impeccable, the decor is gold-plated and ivory, and the rooms are furnished in an outdated whimsy that somehow manages to charm, despite being distinctly unstylish. It helps of course, that the bathroom is the size of a small apartment, the balconies face the ocean, and the pool is a lagoon, complete with white sand covering all 11000 sq m of the floor. Stunning is an understatement.
But the sultan’s brother didn’t stop there; the hotel also boasts several shops, 5-6 restaurants, water sports rental (for kayaking in the aforementioned lagoon), 2 private beaches, 2 lookout points, a full golf course, spa, and probably a bit more. It’s a miniature city, and is it any wonder I never actually got to see the rest of Brunei?
Not entirely true – I did see some oil rigs, and Shell Oil-owned homes. But the highlight, of course, is the Empire.