Along the northwest coast of Borneo, is Brunei – the Sultanate Brunei Darussalam, rich in oil, culture and heritage. ‘Darussalam’ meaning ‘Abode of Peace’ in Arabic bows to its Islamic history that dates back 1,500 years.
His Majesty Sultan Bolkiah (full name Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’iazzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien) oversees this Kingdom and his fortune of ~$20 billion, that continues to pour in from gas and oil preserves.
Sandra Tang, our local licensed guide notes that “…anything that you see that looks like it’s gold, IS gold!”
This Kingdom is known for its Islamic architecture, endangered Proboscis monkeys and 70% of its country is undisturbed rainforest – one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. In fact, crocodiles and monitor lizards have often been sighted in the water and land areas, sometimes blocking roads.
Guide Sandra continues… “Brunei remains the world’s only Malay Islamic Monarchy with a continuous royal lineage that has ruled the nation for the past 600 years. In 1984, Brunei gained full independence and continues to hold some of the highest standards of living in the world. It’s a small and peaceful nation with about a half million population, 2/3 being ethnic Malay and the remainder are Chinese, Indian, and other indigenous people.”
The Sultanate has four districts: Bunei-Muara including the capital, Temburong, Tutong and Belait. We had a layover in Brunei and only a few hours for a quick tour of Brunei.
Sharing some of the highlights from what we saw in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei.
TIP! Reserve a tour with licensed local guide Sandra Tang email: firstname.lastname@example.org She can drive you to see the sites and share insights about the Kingdom of Brunei. She has a postivie attitude with a fun personality. I learned a lot from her in just a few hours during my layover.
- Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque: The largest mosque in Brunei and one of the most visited places in Brunei with 29 gold domes representing the Sultan as the 29th reigning Monarch. Non-Muslims can enter outside of prayer time.
- Gate at Istana Nurul Iman, His Majesty’s Palace: From Kampong Ayer, you can see the golden domes and vaulted roof at the official residence of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. Not open to the public, however during a few days during Eid after Rammadan, the Palace is open to all to meet His and Her Majesty, partake in a feast and receive a small momento before leaving the Palace. The Palace has 1,788 rooms and 250 bathrooms, plus a 2-story garage that houses the Sultan’s collection of over 400 cars that include 98 Rolls Royces.
- Lapau and Dewan Majlis: The Royal Ceremonial Hall hosts the Sultanate’s traditional royal ceremonies under a golden dome.
- Kampong Ayer Water Village: Visit the world’s largest water village, called the ‘Venice of the East’ and home to 10,000 people on the waterfront. This famous water village consists of wooden houses on stilts over the Brunei River and are fast disappearing and being replaced by modern homes on the water. Take a water taxi and ride through this maze of deserted boardwalks and neighborhoods.
- Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque: Completed in 1958, this iconic landmark is named after the 28th Sultan, the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuudien, known as the Architect of Modern Brunei.
- Royal Regalia Museum: This museum holds a collection of royal regalia, with a royal chariot, gold and silver ceremonial armory, jewel encrusted crowns from the coronation and a replica of the throne used by the Sultan on state occasions.
- Istana Darussalam: Located on Jalan Sumbiling, this wooden palace showcases the architectural heritage of old Malay palaces. Visitors can only view the exterior. Located near the Brunei River and waterfront with an artificial lagoon.
- Shopping: Visit the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation where you will see traditional Malay blended with modern architecture.
- Brunei Arts & Handicrafts Center: Brunei’s ancient and traditional arts and crafts – kain tenunan, silver and brass ware, wood carvings and basketry are some of the items for purchase.
- Tamu Kianggeh Market: Visit the open-air morning market on the banks of the Kianggeh River. Open every day at 7:00 am with stalls – order a rice or noodle dish and sit down to enjoy your breakfast on the park benches.
- Night boat excursion to see the fireflies! Wasn’t able to go on this trip, but will on my next visit to the Kingdom of Brunei.
Information above shared from Brunei Tourism and our local guide. For more information, visit www.bruneitourism.travel
How to Get to Brunei? Fly Royal Brunei Airlines