Here’s why you should add Brunei to your travel bucket list
Brunei has some of the most magnificent mosques in Asia, and quite probably the world. If you are the spiritual kind, or you’re just looking for some peace in the hustle and bustle, these places are a must for you. Even if you are not, the mosques are a must visit for their stunning architecture.
While I was there, I visited many of them, but three of the most beautiful ones were the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, the Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque and the Ash-Shaliheen Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Yep, you read that right. It is a water village. Kampong Ayer is a historical settlement area in Bandar Seri Begawan. It literally means 'Water Village', and consists of a cluster of traditional stilt villages built on the Brunei River, mainly in the vicinity of the present-day City Centre.
What’s really interesting about the village is that the people there were given the option of getting relocated back to land, but they chose not to. To them, living in the water village is a very significant part of their culture that they will not let go. Every day, these people commute to and from their work, schools or daily tasks from the water village to the mainland by boat. In general, almost every person we saw from our boat waved at us like the happiest souls on the planet.
Muara beach is located in Muara, a town in the north-easternmost part of Brunei. The beach is about a mile long and consists of clear white sand. We went there on a weekday afternoon, and the whole beach was empty.
Apparently, the beach is more or less empty most of the weekdays. It gives you the feeling that you are on your own private beach.
We were travelling with kids, hence the well-equipped picnic area, children’s playground, the great changing and toilet facilities, as well as weekend food and drink stalls were definitely a plus.
Located just a short walk from the heart of the city, Tesek Lama Recreational Park is a popular spot with locals and visitors alike in Brunei’s capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. Locals sometimes refer to as the Waterfall Park.
It may be hard to believe that such a pretty and peaceful park exists within the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, but once there you are sure to enjoy the calm and serene atmosphere, not to mention the varied activities, fresh air, and nature-spotting opportunities.
The main walking trail, which leads uphill slightly, heads you to one of the park’s highlights, a small but charming waterfall. There may only be a small amount of water flowing in the hot season, but it is still a pleasant sight. The water flows over a flat rock, landing in a murky pool at the bottom. A wooden platform allows you to gaze upon the waterfall and spend some time enjoying the tranquil air.
The Royal Regalia Museum is located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan. It mainly houses the regalia of the Sultan and the royalty.
A historical review of the present Sultan's life is narrated through family pictures with detailed narrative texts in which he is highlighted through many of his portraits and a hologram. And as you can see from the picture, the place has amazing light!
Without a doubt, this club, sitting on lush greenery, has to be one of the most beautiful and elaborate ones I’ve been to in my life. Apart from its amazing architecture, it has the biggest swimming pool ever beside the most peaceful beach you can think of.
Brunei isn’t exactly the shopper’s paradise but there are a few places one can go to for some basic shopping. One of these was the Hua Ho Store in Pekan, Tutong and the other was the Jaya Hypermart at Kampong Gadong. We didn’t really have a lot of shopping on our minds when we went, so these two were pretty much enough for gifts and chocolates. But if you really want something more, Brunei also has amazing shops for silk clothing items. One of these that we went to was the Firoz Zaya Silkhouse. It has amazing silk materials sold by the metre that can be used for kameezes, saris, scarves and pretty much everything else. If you’re a silk aficionado, this place is surely a must visit.
In the seven days we spent in Brunei, I realized the people there are some of the friendliest you can think of. The neighbourhoods are extremely well thought out with beautifully designed homes, some even in the middle of forests.
What’s amazing about them is how they did not mess around with the natural habitat of animals and did their best to preserve them while making homes there. The roads are amazing, there’s little to no traffic or sound pollution. In fact there’s little to no pollution in the whole country whatsoever! Truly an abode of peace!
• If you’re travelling there, USD1 would give you around BND1.28, and many places in Brunei also accept Singapore dollar.
• There are very few options of public transport there. So you need to figure out a way around that.
• Food: Mostly similar to Malaysian food.
• Level of conservativeness: Moderately high.