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We were so lucky and fortunate that my cousin accommodated us for the duration of our visit to Brunei. Aside from the fact that we don’t have to exert an effort to think of where to go, she was also kind enough to drive us around. Which gave us the pleasure of seeing some of the tourist spots located on the outskirt of Brunei – such as the Billionth Barrel Monument.
This particular trip may not appeal to some, in fact, I’ve seen several reviews about the place saying “it’s just a monument, there’s nothing much to see – nothing special about it”. But knowing that oil and gas are what drive Brunei’s economy gives me the “get-up-and-go” attitude to see the oilfields for myself. I believe that the monument does not only represent its one billionth barrel crude oil production but it also reflects Brunei’s efficient management and use of their natural resources.
So off we went to Seria where the iconic Billionth Barrel monument is located. The road trip from BSB (Brunei’s capital) to Seria took us 1.5 hours by private car. If you wish to go there via public transport you may do so. There are buses that run roughly every hour from 7:00am until 5:00pm, and the trip takes about 2 hours. That may cost around B$5 or less per person. Alternatively, you can hire a car for the whole day with a driver like Hertz. The best way, however (in my opinion), is to just ask your hotel for the tour since Brunei’s not an easy country to get around via public transport.
The Billionth Barrel monument nestled a bit off-skirt from the main road but it’s quite easy to find as the huge arch can be seen from afar. Adjacent to it is a Shell petrol station, where you can buy authentic Brunei gasoline in a small bottle for souvenirs, although you might not be allowed to take that with you inside the plane.
We drove in, parked our car, and walked along the pavement, towards the massive arch that is shaped like a huge engagement ring! Designed as such to remind visitors that Brunei is the jewel amongst Islamic nations. There are slabs on each side of the pavement with bronze etchings of shell’s history in Brunei. Hence, when the time you reach the monument you already know how the history unfold!
After about 10 minutes of walking, we reached the foot of the monument with a sign that reads: built in 1991 to commemorate the production of the billionth barrel of oil produced in the onshore oil field in Seria. Interestingly, each element or part of the monument has significant meaning. The arch symbolizes the flow of crude oil from beneath the earth to the surface. The number of posts, which is six in total symbolizes a period of oil exploration and production to achieve the billionth barrel. Lastly, the national emblem on top represents prosperity to the people and the country, Brunei Darussalam. The tiles covering the floor also exhibit an Islamic pattern, signifying the Islamic influence on the architecture.
Also in the area are hundreds of pump jacks – the instruments that are used to pump out crude oil from the ground. These are affectionately referred to as “donkeys” because the sound they make when drilling for oil resembles that of a donkey’s braying. Others even call it “nodding donkeys” due to the way it moves (up and down). I got excited and snapped almost all nodding donkeys along the way. Hahaha! I had no idea why I was so amazed by it!
Although you can stay and walk right up and through the outsized concrete legs of the structure, the monument is best viewed from a distance where you can see its totality, especially at sunrise or sunset. Looking at the beach made me feel sad, though. Clearly, the oil drilling has taken its toll on the water. There’s oil spill everywhere making the beach appear brownish-black. Perhaps they don’t care much about the sea, but this is a major environmental concern and they should do something about it before it’s too late.
Nonetheless, it’s an interesting place to visit… Come to think of it the entire population of this country is just about 400,000 people and they have billions of barrel of crude oil! No wonder Brunei is so rich!
Next stop: Agro-Technology Park