Some reflections from home base.
30.03.2010 12 °C
It is difficult, on looking back, not to make some comparison between the main holiday in New Zealand and our stops before and after in Brunei. However, let me first put across some of my pertinent thoughts on New Zealand:
• A country slightly larger than the UK but with a population of roughly 4 million people; it is therefore sparsely populated when compared to that of the UK with roughly 65 million. While driving on some routes we often went for miles without seeing a car. The extremities of the country - north of the North Island and south of the South Island - are very sparsely populated. Being composed of two elongated islands which stretch between the parallels 35 and 47 it has a more temperate climate than Australia with parts subtropical and some of it closer to that of the UK. Having said that there are areas of it much drier and others much wetter.
• Physically the country has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen – high jagged snow-peaked mountains, vast tracts of rolling pasture land, manicured vineyards as far as the eye could see, hills clothed in variegated forests lush and green to where they met the sea, and, of course, the beaches – some with the dark volcanic sand, others with pure white sand washed with breakers that are magnets for the keen surfers.
• The prime income for New Zealand was agriculture but this has now been overtaken by tourism. People from all over the world visit but most tourists come from the U.K. France & Germany, Malaysia, China, Australia and Japan.
• The availability of space and the sparse population has led to a tendency to build bungalow-styled houses (apart from city centres). There are few brick buildings and, because of the easy access to wood, most are weatherboard or a composite. I’m led to believe that one of the other reasons for this low-style housing is the treat of earthquakes; the western side of the country is on a major fault line.
• With such attractive and varied scenery throughout the islands there is no wonder that the people love outdoor sports and life. Many take every advantage in their spare time to take part in some of the great range of outdoor activities and lead a healthy lifestyle. Because of the physical layout of the islands one is never far from a beach or from hills and mountains. With the abundance of water, mountains, rolling hills, wildlife and breathtaking scenery it is a paradise for those interested in any aspect of outdoor sports. General sports facilities are of a high standard throughout the country. On the few occasions we played tennis or golf we were surprised at what was available and their easy access. For example we played a round of golf in the park in the centre of Christchurch where the fairways and greens were well maintained and also of a good standard for an inner city public course; on two occasions we played tennis, again in Christchurch, where there were 16 courts (grass, hard-court and astro turf – some floodlit). One evening we were playing tennis when it was just getting dark; a couple of members put on the floodlights for us and waited around until we were finished to turn them off again. I also found it very easy to cycle round the town and cities; cycling is encouraged and there are ample cycle lanes and tracks. It is compulsory to wear a helmet while cycling.
• The people and cultures: N. Zealand is a multicultural society combining old and new cultures. The Maori are fiercely proud of their origins and culture; there is much greater recognition of it now than in previous years. The national museums provide an illustrious and graphic account of their history accompanied with a great variety of artefacts. With immigration over recent years there is a growing influence of Chinese and Malaysian cultures making an impact on the population.
• The people are friendly, polite, warm and welcoming; they are very easy to talk to and helpful, often going out of their way to be so. They generally have an open, optimistic attitude towards life and seem to enjoy it to the full. I saw little evidence of crime or violence and litter and graffiti were rare. This seemed indicative of a sense of national pride in their country. Everything pointed to it being an ideal country to start a new life and one which provides opportunities and a safe environment for bringing up a family.
• As you can see from the above I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in New Zealand but would have loved more time to visit and explore all the places I didn’t get to. Maybe a further trip needs to be arranged.......
I cannot finish with saying a few words about Brunei, our stopover visits before and after New Zealand:
• Brunei is a small country on the island of Borneo. It is surrounded by and split in two by Sarawak (part of Malaysia).
• Just situated north of the equator, it has an equatorial climate with temperatures of 32 – 40 degrees Celsius. The best time of the day to do any energetic activity is early morning or late evening; avoiding direct sunlight from 10:00am to about 4:00pm is preferable. Most homes, all shops, offices and commercial buildings have air conditioning. When we were out and about during the day we tended to shop-hop in an attempt to keep cool.
• The country is oil and gas rich, making it the richest country in the world per capita, bearing in mind the population of the whole country is less than 500,000. Every family has, at least, one car and there are no personal or land taxes. The health care system is of a high standard and is free to all nationals.
• The Sultan is the ruler of the country and the government is formed by him. He is looked upon with respect and seems to be a popular ruler. Though his own palace and accessories are luxurious, there are many examples of his philanthropy and generosity. Education and sport are well provided for within the country. The standard of education is high and there are financial incentives for students to achieve high grades; high achievers complete their university education in the U.K. The sports facilities we saw, particularly on the outskirts of BSB (the capital) catered for a wide range of sports and were all of a high standard throughout.
• Brunei is a strong Muslim country where mosques are plentiful throughout. Alcohol is illegal, though it is accessible in some hotels; gambling is also against the law. Crime is rare and people seem to be generally honest. On one occasion when Catherine left her handbag (with her passport and purse in it) in a taxi, the taxi driver phoned the hotel at which we were staying and they in turn contacted us to let us know that the handbag was found and in safe keeping at our hotel. Would that happen in London?
• I found Brunei a very interesting country to visit and one which made clear to me the influence financial resources have on the standard of living of its population. It’s a country I would like to visit again in about five year’s time to see if the continued thirst for materialism will have any impact on the culture and religion of its people.