Bandar Seri Begawan (Muara), Brunei
For two centuries the Sultanate of Brunei was the one of the great dynasties of Southeast Asia, the ruler of all Borneo. The arrival first of colonizing Europeans and later the depredations of James Brooke, the notorious "White Raja" of Sarawak, reduced Brunei in size and scope. By the late 19th century the Sultanate had become an English protectorate. The discovery of vast deposits of offshore oil in the early 20th century revitalized Brunei's fortunes. The Sultanate gained full independence from the United Kingdom in 1984, and today Brunei is one of the world's smallest and richest countries.
Once the ruler of all Borneo, Brunei today is surrounded by Malaysia's Sarawak Province. The capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, a city of some 75,000 people. Bandar boasts elegant modern Islamic mosques, museums and palaces. Brunei's other chief attractions are its exotic water villages at Kampong Ayer and its pristine rain forest.