Porschist Magazine 54 - Brunei

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Magazine voor de Porschefanaat • jaargang 14 • driemaandelijks • mei/juni 2018 • 54

PORSCHE MISSION E CROSS TURISMO

PORSCHE IN BRUNEI F-16 STEFAN DARTE


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Brunei About Sultans, great apes and head-hunters Where once pirates and head-hunters ruled the roost, animal lovers are now looking for orangutans, adventurers venture deep into the tropical jungle and others marvel at the decadent Brunei opulence.

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text & photos: kathleen van bremdt - photos: sven hoyaux


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Jame’asr Hassanal Bolkiah-mosque


For this report we fly to Brunei, a mini-state in south-eastern Asia, located in a remote corner of Borneo. While Brunei, with an area of only 5,800 km², is one of the smallest countries in the world, the island of which it is part is the third largest in the world with a surface area of 740,000 km2. Only Greenland and New Guinea are larger. To get to the point straightaway: formally Borneo does not exist. For the simple reason that it is not a political unit, but its territory is divided between three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The southern and largest part of the island - accounting for 73% - belongs to Indonesia and is officially called Kalimantan. Malaysia occupies the northern part and has two provinces - Sabah and Sarawak - that together form East Malaysia. Wedged in between these two Malaysian areas, the independent Sultanate of Brunei is barely visible on the world map. Yet we are exactly aiming for this tiny country with its 400,000 inhabitants. Why? That will become clear shortly.

BRUNEI: UNKNOWN IS UNLOVED We have only just, after a twenty-hour journey, landed in Bandar Seri Begawan - the capital of Brunei - and we are already being subjected to a barrage of questions by an over-enthusiastic taxi driver. Where are you from? How long will you be staying? What do you think of Brunei? The man wants to know as much as possible about us during the short journey from the airport to our hotel. But we are tired and not in the mood for small talk. However, we cannot blame him for his curiosity, because the man rarely has foreigners in his car. According to the World Tourism Organisation of the United Nations, Brunei is ranked sixth in the list of least visited countries in the world. Even Tom Waes hasn’t been here yet. But for Porschist, the mini-sultanate is interesting, because Brunei is rich, filthy rich. And where there is money, there are exclusive cars and where there are exclusive cars, you'll find - you guessed it Porsches. Upon arrival at the hotel, the taxi driver hands us his business card. 'I am also a guide', Haji says quickly, 'a good one'. We promise to make use of his services during our stay.

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BRUNEI: ONCE LARGE AND MIGHTY, NOW SMALL AND SUPER RICH The Sultanate of Brunei can look back on uninterrupted sovereignty lasting 600 years. During its heyday from the 15th to the 17th century, the mighty empire of the ancestors of the current Sultan stretched out across the entire north coast of Borneo, the Sulu archipelago and the Philippines. Through internal quarrels and uprisings, piracy and the ever-growing number of lucrative trading posts of European colonisers, the sultanate literally lost ever more territory. Especially the British and the Dutch shamelessly claimed large areas of land. In the end, it even went so far that a treaty - the London Treaty of 1824 - regulated the division of the island between England and the Netherlands. The British got the part that is now East Malaysia and the Dutch the current Kalimantan. After Brunei was geographically reduced to its present surface, it became a British protectorate in 1888. It was not until 1984 that Brunei became independent. Thanks to the discovery of enormous reserves of oil in its territorial waters, the sultanate had in the meantime become one of the richest countries in the world.

HIS ROYAL MAJESTY OF BRUNEI

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Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (his full name is: Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifudeen Sa'adul Khairi Waddien) is the 29th in line. Besides Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah is also Prime Minister, Minister of Finance (always handy when the till containing the state money is close at hand), Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the police and the armed forces. In addition, he is also the religious leader. If you still have any doubts: in Brunei, the Sultan has the absolute power. With a capital estimated at around 20 billion euros, the Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest people in the world. In the dictionary of the 71-year-old man the expression 'beware of excess' does not occur. Hassanal Bolkiah was born in a crib with gold bars and has been surrounded by unimaginable luxury all his life. What happens when someone can’t even begin to imagine the extent of his wealth? Well, first of all it gives you a palace that is the largest royal residence in the world. The Istana Nurul Iman - freely translated: Palace of the Light of the Faith - has 1788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, a banquet hall for 4000 guests, 18 lifts, a private satellite park and a fully equipped sports hall. The costs of the “cottage” are estimated at 400 million euros. (By comparison: Donald Trump has to make do with a meagre 132 rooms in the White House.) If the Sultan wants to move around, he has an exorbitant collection of fancy cars. If he is in a hurry, the Monarch can choose between two helicopters and nine planes, including two Boeings and an Airbus. The Sultan has a weakness for polo and in his extensive stable (complete with air conditioning) he houses 200 Argentine thoroughbreds. If one of the children is celebrating a birthday, it is always fun to fly out some figures from Disney World and if the Sultan himself has something to celebrate, well, then the sky is the limit. He celebrated his fiftieth birthday with a concert by the late Michael Jackson, who reportedly received 17 million dollars in cash. It should also be mentioned that the Royal Family is the owner of the Dorchester chain with hotels all over the world. The most famous are the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, the Meurice and the Plaza Athénée in Paris, the Richemond in Geneva and Hotel Eden in Rome.


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Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and his family


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The Royal Regalia Museum

NOT EVERYTHING THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD? If it is down to the Sultan of Brunei, it will be. Everything that bears his name is recognisable by the abundant use of 22-carat gold. From the luxury Hassanal Bolkiah shopping centre, the Hassanal Bolkiah national stadium and the huge Hassanal Bolkiah mosque to the domes of his palace. Two mosques define the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan. The most beautiful is the Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque with its artificial lagoon and the replica of a 16th century state vessel in front of it. Maybe a little kitsch to look at during the day, but after sunset it is so ingeniously illuminated that the white building seems to float. Outside the times for prayer, the mosque is open to non-Muslims and we take a look inside. Haji recites his lesson: "The floor and walls are Italian marble, the stained-glass windows were made in England and the many carpets were flown in from Belgium." There you go, even we have benefited from a few drops of oil. The Jame'asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque is the largest mosque in Brunei. It was built in honour of the Sultan's 25-year reign. Because the Sultan is the 29th ruler of his dynasty, the complex is decorated with 29 golden domes that turn the sky into a radiant blaze at night.

The Royal Regalia Museum is one enormous tribute to the Sultan. In addition to many family photographs, letters and distinctions that refer to the personal life of the Sultan, the museum also houses an eccentric and entertaining collection of gifts that the Royal Family has received from other Royals, world leaders or blue blooded close friends in the past decades. We immediately ask ourselves the question: What, for God's sake, do you give a man who has everything? From what we see, it turns out that jewellery, diamonds and - unsurprisingly - golden objects do well. We can’t find a gift from the Belgian Royal couple. In a separate room, the Royal carriage that was used during the Sultan’s silver jubilee procession in 1992 is exhibited.


9 A FLEET OF CARS OUT OF ALL PROPORTION You might have been waiting for it: that special car collection ... For the sake of clarity: The Sultan's passion for the most extravagant and most expensive vehicles in the world knows no bounds. He possesses an estimated 7,000 luxury cars, between them accounting for a market value of around 500 billion euros. Naturally, a lot of space is needed to show them all off. In a garage as large as five aircraft hangars, the classic cars are neatly arranged next to each other like soldiers and arranged according to brand and colour. The Sultan's dream collection is both legendary and mysterious because the man does not tolerate – to the regret of many – prying eyes in his garages. No doubt many car enthusiasts would be willing to pay well to spend a few hours roaming between the many Bentley's, Bugatti's, Koenigseggs, Ferrari's, Porsches and Rolls-Royces that the Sultan owns. Especially the numerous one-offs, concept cars and speed demons designed especially for his Royal Highness will make many mouths water. What about the Ferrari Mythos, the Lamborghini Diabolo SE 30, the Porsche Carma, the Dauer 962 LM, the Pininfarini Jaguar XJ220, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Special and the McLaren F1 LM, just to name a few? His hunger for exclusive cars goes so far that he asked Porsche and Rolls-Royce to join forces and design a car especially for him. That Porsche-Rolls has effectively arrived. Another nice fact: a Rolls-Royce with its engine running waits in front of the palace day and night. After all, they don’t have to worry about the price of petrol in this country.


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KAMPONG AYER: THE PURE BRUNEI A huge contrast with the glittering centre and therefore a haven in the capital is Kampong Ayer. In the shadow of the golden domes of the Royal palace we find the largest water village in the world. An estimated 30,000 people live here. With one of the many water taxis that constantly move back and forth from the quay to the jetties of the village, we take a closer look. From afar the somewhat cluttered houses seem rather shabby, but appearances are deceptive, because the wooden pile dwellings appear to be fully equipped inside. There are brand new flat-screen TVs and expensive air conditioning units in the houses. To our surprise, the village has electricity, satellite television and even internet access. Connected by many gantries and numerous wooden bridges, this is a world in itself with restaurants, shops, schools, hospitals, police stations, mosques and fire stations. The latter are not superfluous luxuries, because where there is so much wood, fire can ignite quickly. The doors of the houses are open, and the smell of fried garlic and fresh ginger drifts towards us. Children play on the piers and women are chatting in front of their colourful houses. They give us a friendly nod. Fascinated, we look at life as it is lived in Kampong.

Kampong Ayer is the largest water village in the world.

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The Billionth Barrel Monument

AND THEN THERE WAS OIL The economic heart of Brunei pulsates to the rhythm of the many nodding donkeys that are working diligently in the salty water. We stand next to the ‘Billionth Barrel Monument’ and look at the oil platforms before us in the sea. The monument was built in 1991 to honour and glorify the billionth barrel of oil extracted from the oil fields around Seria. “1929 was year zero for Brunei,” says Haji. “In that year Shell found oil on our coast, here in Seria.” In the beginning of the 20th century, various companies looked for recoverable reserves in Brunei, but the search seemed to be in vain and most of them soon left. Only Shell persisted and was successful. It provided the Dutch oil company with an exclusive contract for the exploitation of oil wells in front of the Brunei coast. Shell shares the oil revenues fifty-fifty with the Brunei government. What we are most surprised about is that we don’t encounter surveillance anywhere and can take photographs everywhere. Even though this seems to us to be a sizeable strategic location. Haji is able to tell us that a British garrison and a Gurkha brigade are deployed in the neighbourhood. We take notice because a Gurkha brigade is something special: an elite unit of the British army composed of Nepalese soldiers who are known for their excellent fighting techniques. Seria is still the most important oil and gas centre in the country. Because of the many gigantic Shell installations here, the town is also called Shelltown. And it really is a town. There are houses, schools, supermarkets, sports centres and so on. Here live all employees who work in the oil industry, including a lot of expats. It is a strange world.

1929 was year zero for Brunei: Shell found oil


STRICT ISLAMIC COUNTRY The country may well like to appear modern and western, but on 1 May 2014 the Sultan nevertheless introduced the controversial Sharia law. Adultery, homosexual activities, theft and the use of alcohol or other stimulants now attract medieval penalties such as stoning, flogging and amputations. The international protests against the introduction of the Sharia law was loud and many Hollywood stars proclaimed that they would no longer stay in hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. But these things tend to die down and in the meantime the criticism has already subsided. The controversy does not seem to be noticeably affecting the relationship with other fellow Royal houses. This became clear when Hassanal Bolkia celebrated his golden government jubilee on 5 October 2017 - which makes him the longest reigning Monarch in the world after Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom. Many crowned heads were happy to accept the invitation and joined the party celebrations. In addition to many princes from Asian countries, for example, Britain’s Prince Edward and his wife Sophie attended the event. Incidentally, a salient detail: The Sultan himself and his family cannot be persecuted under Sharia law. And they are only too happy to make use of that. While the behaviour of the ordinary Brunei people is severely restricted, the male members of the Bolkiah clan in particular shamelessly do everything that is not permitted under the law of Allah. How quickly the holy Quran can be put aside, can be read in the book of Jillian Lauren ' Some girls: My Life in a Harem', where she talks frankly about the time when she was' fully at the service of the Sultan and his youngest brother Jefri’, so to speak.

WHAT IS THE LIFE OF THE NORMAL BRUNEI PEOPLE LIKE? Thanks to the oil, Brunei is a prosperous country. There is no poverty. In the five decades that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been at the head of his country, he has transformed it into one of the most developed countries of Southeast Asia. The Monarch generously allows his subjects to enjoy the wealth of the country. Haji lists the blessings of his home land: free education and health care, no income tax and loans at extremely low interest rates. Young people who can study abroad at the expense of the state. Although there is one condition attached to this: after their studies they have to work for several years in the service of the Brunei government. Okay, that is a way to keep track of possible deserters, we think right away. All in all, the inhabitants of Brunei are satisfied, and you don’t hear them complaining. Even though, in our eyes, their sluggish life leads to a certain form of lethargy. If everything comes naturally, why make an effort? Don’t get us wrong, you won’t hear a bad word from us about the friendliness of the Brunei people, because they are all very lovable, but they’re not the most enterprising. Although their lack of initiative is certainly also largely due to the religion that dominates daily life. There is not much opportunity for happiness, freedom and entertainment. Nightlife is non-existent. Especially for young people, that does not seem much fun. Although Haji tells us with a chuckle that there is a lot that can be done in this respect if you know the right channels. A trip to nearby Malaysia also always helps, because even though you cannot buy alcohol in Brunei, you can import it, albeit to a limited extent: two litres of spirits and twelve cans of beer per person. All quite hypocritical if you ask us. In any event, the country will never slip into an extremist variant of Islam. The desire for peace and stability of the Brunei people is too great for that.

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The Empire Hotel has disproportionate royal aspirations

THE EMPIRE HOTEL: AN IMPRESSIVE HOTEL When we enter the hotel, we have to take a deep breath for a moment. It happens often that a hotel calls itself Imperial, but does not meet expectations, but in this case, it definitely lives up to its name. The Empire has disproportionate royal aspirations and even that is still an understatement. From the lobby we look right at a 40-metre-high atrium that is supported by gilded marble columns. This hotel is certainly a megalomaniac creation. It has seven four-star restaurants, several lagoon swimming pools, a cinema, a bowling alley, an 18-hole golf course ... In short: just about everything that is possible with an unlimited budget. The PR lady who shows us around, honestly admits: "We will never know how much this hotel has cost to build." Although there are 500 opulent rooms and 66 suites, we don’t notice any other hotel guests. The price tag for an overnight stay at the Empire Hotel will probably have something to do with it, but it also shows that Brunei is not a tourist destination yet.


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16 THE CALL OF THE JUNGLE After four days of splendour, we long for the purity of the jungle. For this we fly to East Malaysia with Royal Brunei Air. For our jungle experience we could perfectly well have stayed in Brunei. Two-thirds of that, after all, consists of tropical rainforest. Completely untouched as well, because Brunei does not have to fell trees to make money. But just because of that, the jungle of Brunei is virtually inaccessible and - however ironic - it is more appropriate to cross the border to Malaysian Borneo. Tourism plays a limited role here and the facilities for trips in the jungle - read: hiking trails and accommodation options - are better. We fly to Sandakan, an excellent starting point for adventures in the wilderness.

THE PRIDE OF THE BORNEAN JUNGLE Of course, we are keen to see the orangutan - the pride of the jungle - as quickly as possible. Although there is nothing better than a meeting in the wild, the animals are shy and do not show themselves often, so we err on the side of caution and first visit the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. Here wounded, displaced or orphaned orangutans are taken care of and prepared for their return to the jungle. We are there just before dinner time and can hear their arrival from the noise in the trees. Redbrown tufts of fur on long, supple arms move in an agile way through the branches. The animals are beautiful. They eagerly gobble up the fruit and the nuts that have


PORSCHISTTRAVEL been put out for them. It is mainly the youngest who end up in this reserve. They look at us with big, shining eyes. No other animal has quite such a melancholic, intriguing look as an orangutan does. As if they know how much their species is under threat. In the meantime, the macaques are also approaching; they install themselves strategically in the neighbourhood, waiting for the leftovers.

ORANGUTAN THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION Since 2016, the orangutan has been on the infamous red list of most endangered species in the world. The orangutan is only found on Borneo and Sumatra. According to estimates by the UICN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), only 50,000 of these apes are still alive. If the current downward trend continues, then these primates will be extinct in twenty years’ time. Once again, man is the main culprit: forest clearing, hunting and poaching still take their toll. The name orangutan comes from the Malayan 'orang hutan', which means 'forest man'. In ancient times, the tribes who lived in the jungle on Borneo regarded the orangutan as a man possessed by evil spirits. The natives had a panicky fear of the long-haired, orange-red creatures that looked so much like humans. The orangutan is 96.7% genetically equal to humans, so they were not far off. Meanwhile, the superstition has disappeared, but the name has remained.

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EXPLORING THE KINABATANGAN RIVER

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To the east of Sabah lies a huge river delta. The Kinabatangan River is 560 kilometres long and meanders through the jungle before flowing into the Sabah Sea. Using the river, we can go deep into the wilderness. We leave the civilised world behind us and soon the sounds of the jungle completely enclose us. It is as hot as always. Moist, sticky and sweaty, the jungle climate throws an oppressive blanket over us. The smell of the moist earth hangs between the lower layers of the exuberant vegetation. Under the canopies of the many tall trees grows a jumble of palms, lianas, ferns, rattan and bamboo. In this special ecosystem, the diversity of fauna and flora is endless. We have a fantastic guide: Eric. How he does it we don’t know, but he sees everything and points the animals out to us with a laser pointer: a sturdy python that has entwined itself around a branch, a tarsier that raises its mischievous head from behind a tree trunk, an osprey standing high in a tree top letting its gaze wander across the river ... 'Do not put your hand in the water', he warns us. 'The water is cloudy, and you can’t see them, but there are masses of crocodiles.'

NOSES, NOSES At nightfall, countless proboscis monkeys prepare for the night. Whole families climb up in the trees and install themselves in the tree tops. They hang on the branches in formation. At the top is the pater familias, the guardian of the extensive offspring. He turns his back to the river, because possibly danger comes from the jungle, not from the water. The rest of the clan is nestled under him according to age and importance. The little ones cling firmly to their mothers. It is a bizarre and playful sight: a tangle of long legs, light orange coats and grey tails. We cannot call the proboscis monkeys beautiful. Cute though, with their beige faces, round bellies and exceptionally large olfactory organs. Thanks to these external characteristics, the animal was given the name 'orang belanda' in Malay which means 'Dutchman'. The local population saw similarities between the animal and the first Dutchmen who showed up on the island in the course of the 17th century. The big nose that hangs down like a flat pickle is only found in males. It serves to impress rivals and of course the females. The females themselves have a blunt nose and the young animals have a snub nose. The proboscis monkey is only found on Borneo. The animal is legally protected. It is the umpteenth endangered species. The island only has about 4,000 proboscis monkeys left.


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EVENING CRUISE ON THE RIVER Twilight falls. Eric brings coffee, tea and banana cookies upstairs. While we enjoy the snacks, we watch the sun slowly sinking and finally disappearing behind the horizon in a dramatic play of colours. The chorus of frogs swells, and the cicadas make their timbales vibrate. Eric paddles silently through the water and takes us to a tree full of fireflies. They flicker like the twinkling lights of a lavish Christmas garland. Instantly, the river bathes in a fairy-like atmosphere. But is not this misleading? For are there no evil, wiry men hiding in the dark forest keeping an eye on us with machete and blowpipe?


TRAVELPORSCHIST THE INFAMOUS HEAD-HUNTERS Many travel accounts of explorers and adventurers contain horrifying stories about barbarian, Bornean tribes who ruthlessly cut off the heads of unwanted visitors and displayed them on wooden poles. They were the Dayaks, a people feared by everyone. The Dayaks are still there, even though they are no longer carrying out their deadly practices today. They now live neatly in longhouses (large, elongated houses) and live off agriculture. For the Dayaks, headhunting had nothing to do with punishment, revenge or bloodthirst, but everything with their animistic religion in which nature, spirits and ancestor worship were paramount. In their mindset, the victim's life force passed to the person who had killed him. The skulls were dried and strung up so that their strength could also be transferred to the rest of the community. In the 19th century this practice was stopped by the British rajas, but when Borneo was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, the Allied commandos encouraged the Dayaks to sharpen their knives again. The goal justifies the means, maybe? Meanwhile most of the Dayaks have been converted to Christianity. But what is the use, for where barbaric practices are abolished for the sake of general civilisation, they are reintroduced into the neighbouring country for religious reasons. Strange animal species, the human being ... C

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The Dayaks: the head-hunters of yesteryear.

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IN THE GOLDEN GLOW OF THE DAWN We take to the river again at the crack of dawn. The jungle is awakening. The proboscis monkeys stretch their stiff muscles and descend, young macaques flash through the tree tops and a bearded pig burrows through the high vegetation. A brightly coloured kingfisher dives into the water and comes back up with his breakfast. Along the river we move from lodge to lodge. The lodges are simple, but well cared for. Residents of nearby villages are there to stir the cooking pots. What we are eating isn’t always clear to us, but it tastes good and that is the most important thing. Behind the buffet in the Abai Jungle Lodge we find Amelia. She looks beautiful in her fluorescent green dress. We ask if we can photograph her next to the river and take dreamy pictures.

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A ray of light in the otherwise dark Gomantong cave

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GOMANTONG: PERFECT DECOR FOR A HORROR MOVIE The Gomantong caves are the largest limestone caves in Sabah. In this cave of Pluto, millions of bats hang like closed black umbrellas on the walls. They share their home with as many swallows. While swallows have the reputation of cute songbirds that bring prosperity and happiness, bats have an image problem to deal with. Unfairly, they are associated with vampires and other devilish scum, even though they are really gentle animals. In the cave, we are certainly not troubled by them. The actual danger lies below us. The mountains of guano on the ground spread an ammonia smell that is barely tolerable. Numerous insects, cockroaches and snakes live in this mess. The deeper we walk into the cave, the worse the air becomes. At the back of the cave there is an opening in the roof through which a bundle of golden sunlight streams inwards and throws an enchanting light on the multi-coloured cave walls and the countless moss species that grow on them. The fresh green creates an uplifting aspect in an otherwise obscure and oppressive environment. Here, Steven Spielberg could have shot a perfect scene for one of his Indiana Jones films. In the twilight hours it is showtime: the daily mass exodus of the bats and the return of the swallows for the night.


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PORSCHISTTRAVEL AND THERE THEY ARE When we leave the cave, we have an enormous stroke of luck. In the trees just in front of us sits an orangutan mother with her infant. The mother gently meanders back and forth through the greenery and gives us every chance to take pictures. “I estimate that the mother is 25 years old,” whispers Eric. “I derive that from the dark colour of her fur and the number of wrinkles in her face. The little one? Judging by the distance between mother and infant, it must be three to four years old. Offspring stay with their mother for a very long time. On average up to eight years. Only then do they start an independent life.” Eric points to a place high in the trees. There we see the dark face of a male orangutan looming. He has the typical, forward-facing cheek flaps that give the face a cup shape. Eric gestures that it has been enough. When father, mother and child are together, and discover strangers in their midst, you have to take care. Anyway, we have managed to see them and that is the best gift they could have given us.

BRUNEI MALEISIË

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GENERAL INFORMATION BRUNEI Area: 5.765 km² (of which 8,6 % water) Population: 440.000 inhabitants Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan Regeringsvorm: Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy Official language: Malay and English Time difference: During summertime Brunei is 6 hours ahead of Belgium, during wintertime 7 hours. Travel documents: International passport, no visum required. With special thanks to: - Clement Chong (Deputy General Manager Porsche Centre Brunei) - Liezel Lee (Public Relations Officer Porsche Centre Brunei) - Nigel Badminton (General Manager The Empire Hotel) - Nermin Girginol (Public Relations Turkish Airlines)

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Interview with Clement Chong, Managing Director of Porsche Centre Brunei

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Today we have an appointment with Clement Chong, the dynamic managing director of Porsche Centre Brunei. Clement is good-natured, energetic and funny. Just before the interview, we drove to the palace of the Sultan for a photoshoot in the lava orange Boxster that Clement had put at our disposal. To our great surprise, we were allowed to park the car just in front of the gate of the royal residence. "As long as you do not disturb the coming and going of the ministers," was the only comment from the military guards. This is truly exceptional. In other countries we are not even allowed to slow down when we approach the residence of the ruler.

We have been here for a few days now and it is clear that Brunei has no shortage of expensive cars. No, that's right. There are many imported cars with a hefty price tag on the Brunei roads. Brunei is a prosperous welfare state and almost everyone owns a car. Public transport is therefore non-existent. Yet there is very little traffic. Well, Brunei is only a small country with few inhabitants. About ten years ago you saw almost no cars on the road here. Today there are many more, but you will never sit in a traffic jam here. By the way, there are only twelve traffic lights and only one highway in Brunei! How long has Porsche Centre Brunei been in existence? We first opened the doors in 1999. I came to work here in 2006. Today my team consists of 24 employees. What is the most popular Porsche model in Brunei? That is without doubt the Macan. This model sells very well in Asia. The reasons for this are simple: the car is not extremely expensive, it is the perfect family car and it remains a sports car.


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And the 911? How is that doing? The 911 naturally remains the Porsche par excellence. Last year we sold 12 of them. My absolute favourite is the GT3 RS. To my great pleasure, we currently have one on display in our showroom. Any idea how many Porsches are currently driving around in Brunei? At the moment, there are 567 Porsches of which 300 are 'active' customers. By 'active' customers we mean Porsche owners who come to our garage for service appointments and who we regularly meet at our events. We try to approach our clientele as directly as possible. Once a month, for example, we organize a test drive event. There is no race circuit In Brunei, but for those events we invite our customers to Kuala Lumpur. At the Sepang Circuit they can then fully enjoy themselves and test different models at will.


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What is the profile of your customers? They are mainly business people. They usually work in the oil industry. Shell bosses in other words. There are also a number of restaurant owners among the customers. These are mostly Brunei citizens of Chinese origin. How high is the import tax? It depends on the engine capacity. At 2000 cc you pay 20% import tax. An additional 25% will be added above 3000 cc. And for a diesel version you also pay an extra 5%. The obvious question: does the Sultan also drive a Porsche? Oh, the Sultan has many Porsches. He probably has the most impressive collection of cars in the world with more than 7,000 cars. I do not know how many Porsches are included in that, but there will be quite a lot. His cars are set up in large warehouses. Each brand of car has a separate wing.

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Does he buy his Porsches from you? Some he does, but because he prefers very exclusive models he often buys them from London or directly in Germany. I know that Prince Jefri has just recently bought a white GT3 RS. Had Prince Jefri not nearly become persona non-grata at the court following a number of scandals? It is true that there have been some rumblings within the Royal Family, but in the meantime the Sultan has reconciled himself with his younger brother and since 2006 Prince Jefri has been living in Brunei again. How do the people view the Sultan? Sultan Hassanal Bolkia is very popular. Almost everyone respects him. The Sultan allows everyone to benefit from the wealth of the country and that is appreciated. There is free education, healthcare, a good infrastructure, etc. Moreover, he is a lovable man. He shows himself regularly in public and likes to have a chat. Every year at the end of Ramadan, anyone who wants to visit him can do so. The palace is open to the public for three days at that time. The Sultan receives every visitor personally. He shakes the hand of 40,000 subjects per day on average. Have you ever met the Sultan yourself? I have seen the Sultan once. Of course, he never comes here for service appointments. He owns a whole army of technicians and mechanics who know perfectly well how to take care of the many expensive and exclusive cars. But I do know that he likes to drive himself and that he does it regularly.

Is there a speed limit in Brunei? Yes, speed is strictly regulated. In dry weather you can drive at a maximum of 100 kilometres per hour, when it rains only at 80 kilometres per hour. But to be honest: everyone drives faster. However, there is a strict points system for fines. Recently, speed cameras have even been installed. It is a question that has been burning on our lips for a while: how much does a litre of petrol cost? At least twice as much as a litre of water. (laughs heartily) Petrol Premium 97 costs 33 eurocents per litre, petrol Premium 92 is 32 eurocents per litre and diesel is 20 eurocents per litre. That is something we can only dream of. A final question: why should visitors come to Brunei? Come to Brunei for the whole picture: the nature, the culture and the friendly people. Brunei is undoubtedly one of the greenest, most pristine areas in the world. Visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and sleep in the magnificent Empire Hotel where you can swim, play golf, play bowls and enjoy the fabulous sunset! Make sure you visit the Brunei Museum and Kampong Ayer, the largest water village in the world. And a visit to the Shell installations cannot be left out either. Then you will immediately see where the wealth of Brunei comes from. Clement, many thanks for all the info!