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9 tiny countries with big appeal

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei

Photo: Nicram Sabod/Shutterstock

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Brunei

Brunei is a small nation on the coast of Malaysian Borneo. Exclusive fishing rights and its location near an important shipping lane, in addition to its massive oil wealth, have made it a rich country. Officially called “the Sultanate of Brunei,” it has been ruled by the same royal family for the past 600 years. To this day, the sultan remains the most powerful person in this land of nearly 400,000 inhabitants, though he now shares authority with a parliament.

Because its oil fields are concentrated offshore, much of Brunei's inland remains untouched. Small stilt-house river villages that sit directly over the water are everywhere, even near the modern capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. Virgin rain forests, colorful coral reefs, and quiet rivers make this an ideal eco-tourism destination, while the palatial mosques, modern architecture, and mixture of Malay and Chinese culture will give urban tourists plenty to see and experience.