Vacation time soon approached and I was excited to begin planning my trip to Malaysia. I did research on where to easily hop to while in South East Asia and while researching, I saw that Brunei was easily accessible, so I began to plan my visit. Like most people the only thing I knew about Brunei was that the Sultan was the richest man in the world, but my adventurous spirit drew me to see what more the country had to offer.
The main attraction in Brunei is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. This exquisite mosque is beautiful during the day, but I feel it is more enchanting at night. My first night, I walked from hotel to the mosque and stared in awe of its magnificence and beauty. I went on to explore the park and night market located next to the mosque where families were enjoying a lovely Friday night.
While in Brunei, you’ll also want to take a water taxi to the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery. The museum gave a detailed rich history of the humble beginning of Brunei as a country on the water, referred to in historical text as, “The Venice of the East.” Upon leaving I hailed a water taxi man and we started talking, he offered to take me on a tour of the mangroves in search of the countries famous proboscis monkeys… right after he picked up his kids from school. Always up for an adventure, I agreed and off to the school we went. After picking and dropping the kids off we started towards the mangroves.
The water tour gives an additional view of the mosque from the water as well a in-depth tour of the complex Kampong Ayer water community with has its owns schools, homes and fire department. We passed the Sultans compound, Istana Nurul Iman, the largest royal palace in the world which I mainly only saw trees, guards and rooftops. We sailed a few minutes and it was untouched nature in all her beauty, just water, trees and sounds of wild life. Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys. but we did see different species of birds and crocodiles and on my way back to my hotel I was able to explore the Kianggeh Markets which had a little of everything from fruit to cooked food to clothing.
Other things to see while here: The Royal Regalia Museum, Brunei River Cruise and Ulu Temburong National Park.
Lay Your Head Down
Brunei is not known for tourism so nice and reasonably prices hotel are hard to find. Those I recommend for location purposes are The Jubilee Hotel, The Radisson and the Brunei Hotel. I choose to stay at the Jubilee hotel.
Jubilee Hotel gives you a studio apartment that is very modest, clean but dated. I can be a no-frills traveler, where I just need a clean space, bed, hot water and air condition. It is located downtown and walking distance to the main attractions of the city. They offer free transportation to and from the airport to the hotel and a free breakfast.
If your idea of nightlife includes drinking and dancing to loud music don’t look to find it in Brunei. This country is “dry,” meaning it is illegal to drink and serve alcohol. This is a very family oriented country where a Friday night means riding bikes in the park, having ice cream while taking long walks or eating at the night market. I have heard of speakeasies and secret lounges where alcohol is illegally served. There are also whispers of secret dance parties that are invite only. Be as adventurous as you like but keep in mind these events can be raided by the police and no one wants to be locked up abroad.
I had no expectations of Brunei but was pleasantly pleased by the friendly people and culture they were willing to share.