Brunei Darussalam is a country rich in culture and heritage. It is a small, peaceful, prosperous kingdom located on the island of Borneo. The Sultanate has four districts: Brunei-Muara, which includes the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, Temburong, Tutong, and Belait. Due to its cultural and historical richness, in recent years it has positioned itself as a promising tourist destination. Brunei remains the world’s only Malay Islamic Monarchy with an unbroken royal lineage that has ruled the nation for the past 600 years. It is also currently known worldwide for its large reserves of oil and natural gas.
The nation became independent in 1984 and because of its larges reserves of oil and gas, it has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Everyone owns a car in Brunei so taxis are very expensive as nobody uses them. Buses are the only public transportation in Brunei and the service ends at about 8 pm. Therefore, I would recommend staying in a very good located hostel/hotel where you can easily walk to the main attractions. You can find a bus from the airport to the city center, but it doesn’t run late.
Brunei is possibly one of the friendliest places to visit in the world. The country used to be a British protectorate, so everyone speaks fluent English. As a girl, you won’t face any kind of problems but, because it is a Muslim country, I would recommend wearing long sleeves and pants. This way it will be easier to visit the beautiful mosques and feel comfortable while walking. It is also important to mention that you have to be careful with what you say about the country, especially the Sultan because it is a sensitive topic with legal implications.
BANDAR SER BEGAWAN
Given the size of the country, it is possible to visit the main tourist attractions of the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, in a few days. Even if Brunei is small in size, its capital has a lot to offer. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of the most spectacular mosques in the region and the country’s iconic landmark. The mosque was constructed over an artificial lake and has a bridge with a shape of a ship that is only used during official ceremonies. The minarets of the mosque are made of white marble and its domes are covered of gold. The mosque is surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains which are ideal to have a walk.
A few steps from the main mosque you will find Kampong Ayer, the world’s largest water village that is home to more than 30,000 people living on unique wooden houses on stilts over the Brunei River. On the banks of the river, you can rent a boat to have a better view of the water village. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to see the long-nosed monkey, which is endemic to the island of Borneo. From the boat, you will have a great view of the Nurual Iman Palace. Although not open to the public, except during Hari Raya Aidil Filtri, its golden dome and valued roof can be viewed from Kampong Ayer.
ROYAL REGALIA BUILDING
One of the favorite tourist attractions is the Royal Regalia Building. The museum is home to a collection of royal regalia, including the royal chariot, gold, and silver ceremonial armory, the jewel-encrusted crowns used during the coronations and a replica of the throne, which is used by the Sultan on state occasion. The entrance is free. On the other hand, Brunei’s national museum spotlights Brunei’s role in Southeast Asia’s history. It is famous because of its Islamic Art Gallery and a commendable Quran collection.
JAME’ASR HASSANIL BOLKIAH MOSQUE
Another great construction is Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. This is the biggest mosque in the country and it was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Sultan. The mosque has 29 domes made of gold and it is surrounded by beautiful gardens. During prayer hours tourists are not allowed to enter so make sure visit the mosque during opening hours: Sun to Wed Time: 8 am- 12noon, 2pm-3pm, and 5pm-6pm. It closes Thursdays and Fridays and shoes are to be removed before entering.
BRUNEI ARTS AND HANDICRAFTS CENTRE
Before leaving the country you must buy some traditional souvenirs. Ancient and traditional arts and crafts, silver, wood carving, and basketry, are showcased in Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Centre. There is also an open-air market on the banks of the Kianggeh River where you can find traditional dishes, fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Here you can taste some Bruneian dishes which are often spicy and are commonly eaten with rice or fish. Due to the predominance of the Islamic religion, the food is halal and pork is avoided. Here is also a good place to have some traditional beverages like tea and coconut milk. As well, The Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex is the capital’s most popular shopping venue. It combines both traditional Malay and modern architecture.
DISTRICTS OF BRUNEI
Outside the capital, you can explore the district of Temburong and visit the Ulu Temburong National Park. Here you can explore Brunei’s lush virgin forest through lofty canopy walkways, scenic hiking trails and a thrilling river ride to the park on the Temburing River. On the other district of Tutong, you can visit Tasek Mermbun, Brunei’s largest lake which has an island in the centre accessible via a wooden walkway and various facilities for picnics. Brunei is arguably best known today as an oil producing country. In the district of Belait, you will find the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre, an interactive science center which aims to make science exciting and accessible.
In this context, it is important to mention that Brunei is ruled by the Islamic law which prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol. Therefore, there are no bars or nightclubs and restaurants tend to close early. However, you are allowed to drink the homemade rice wine in Temburong district during the harvest festival. If you are interested in culture, history, gastronomy, architecture and sustainable tourism, Brunei is a destination worth exploring. In the same way, the hospitality of people will not disappoint you.
Have you ever visited Brunei? Please share your own tips with our readers in the comments below.
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