Brunei’s Billionth Barrel: A Day In Seria

Brunei is based around oil, so it seemed important to see the oil-related part of the country. Especially since Brunei doesn’t have much culture of entertainment, and the options of things to do are limited. Buses stop running at 6pm, alcohol is prohibited by law, and we heard somewhere that gathering in groups of 10+ is also prohibited (although I am not sure how true this is). One of the few tours offered is to the oil town, Seria, and a nearby town called KB close to the border with Malaysia. These tours cost $125 Brunei Dollar, at minimum. $125 Brunei Dollar, at minimum, is not in budget. We found our own way.

We were told two things repeatedly: “There are no buses to Seria” and “The [nonexistent] bus to Seria takes 4 hours.” Meanwhile, there are ample buses to Seria that depart every 40 minutes and take about 2 hours. Shell appears to have a monopoly on oil, with a crude terminal and offshore and onshore rights. There are many, many oil tanks and processing areas, but more interesting were the housing compounds, recreation club and other shell-associated buildings.

The town is more upscale that BSB, and the Oil and Gas Discovery Center is a highlight. Although we were told before arrival that it was shut for renovations, we wanted to see the grounds so we feigned ignorance and headed across the lawn. As we entered a girl said “Where did you come from? Did you drive here?” “No, we came on foot.” She gave us a concerned look.

The must-see item in the city is the Billionth Barrel Monument, erected to commemorate – wait for it – the billionth barrel of oil extracted from the ground! We walked to the monument a mere 20 minutes in the grueling heat, on an attractive path lined with palm trees where zero other individuals were walking. As we approached we noticed a weird fence around the monument, and a sign that said CONSTRUCTION ZONE DO NOT ENTER. As we’d traveled 2+ hours for this monument, we just walked ahead in anyway. Until a man stopped us. “Sorry I cannot let you go in there.” We bargained with him and eventually he said we could go alongside the fence to look at it. At this time some other men in jumpsuits beckoned us from under a tree and told us we could go in through an opening in the back. We went in through the opening in the back.

After this we hopped a bus south to the town of Kuala Belait, or KB. It looks close, but actually takes a long time as the route is circuitous and nauseating.This town is bigger than Seria, and the main sight is a hotel with a rooftop bar. Unimpressed, we hit the beach where we found some washed up urine samples from a drug test.

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