3 days at a sultan's palace (sort of)
when i flew into brunei, my rough plan was to stay in an $18 (BND) a night hostel room in downtown bandar seri begawan, see the local sights (there aren't a lot in brunei, due to its relatively small size), and head out to bali a few days later.
instead, after a mixup with reservations, a chance encounter at the hertz rental booth at the brunei airport, here i am in the heart of the empire hotel and country club, where i most likely don't deserve to be, at a price that is absurdly low compared to their rack rate.
to fit in with the general opulence of the place (and hide my current identity as budget backpacker, which definitely doesn't fit in the rest of the people here), i've been tempted to assume the personality of some rich young playboy (i couldn't decide between stock market tycoon, or heir to the mccormick/schilling spice fortune, or succesful internet entereprenur), i decided to simply be me as usual and just dress a little nicer for a change. as for the social apects here, i think joan didion wrote in "the white album" about a smilar social milleu in a hawaii beach hotel.
the empire hotel and country club is fanastic -- a 5-story atrium in the main building, endless swimming bools and beaches, full dive/acquatic activiies center, 6-lane bowling alley, championship golf course, multi-screen luxury movie theater with plush leather seats, delicious asian cusine at the hotel's several restaurants, etc etc. while ive been dipping into the activities here, i've spent most of my time relaxing by the pool, listening to the hushed british accents of british families while i sip some tropical drink and listen to my ipod.
it's been great being here, but both budget-wise and just "need to get out and experience a country beyond the confines of a resort"-wise, it's time to move on. so i'm flying to bali for about a week to explore the surroundings over there.
if you're looking to read even more detail on this place, one of my favorite nomadic travel writers, elliott hesther, has written a great essay on the empire hotel.