Brunei Darussalam

Bandar Seri Begawan Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 14 › view all entries

With an early flight in, and an evening flight out, we spent today in Brunei. Brunei Darussalam, ‘the Abode of Peace’ is one of the smallest countries with less than 6000 square kilometres and 500 000 people, 300 000 of which live in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB). Brunei is ruled by the 29th Sultan, the heir of the longest continually reigning monarchy in the world.


After catching the bus from the airport, we walked along the Sungi Brunei to the Sultan Omar Ali Saituddien Mosque, built in 1958 at a cost of $300 million. It is quite a large mosque, white with gold roofs, surrounded by a moat. The moat has a replica of a 16th century mahligai (royal barge) in it. I got to go inside the mosque and have a look, but Jodie couldn’t since she was wearing shorts.

The inside was wonderful, with Italian marble, gold mosaic, Persian carpets and English stained glass, but I couldn’t wander very far.


In all of Brunei we only saw 2-3 tourists, except for about 50 soldiers (from Brunei?) which were everywhere taking photos and travelling in a tour bus.


After the mosque we walked to the Kampung Ager, or water village. The water villages are still quite large in Brunei, with 30 000 people, but they are built as well as the rest of the houses, have fresh water piped to them, and there were many schools in them (we saw maybe 10 schools), with everyone obviously being richer than in Malaysia.

There were also plenty of markets, mosques, hospitals, police and even fire stations in the water village (a couple of houses had burnt down the week before as unlikely as that seems).


We also had a walk through the centre of BSB, where we saw the Brunei History Centre, the Lapau (Ceremonial Hall) and Dewan Majlis (Parliament House). We had lunch at the YSHHBFC (Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolleiah Foundation Complex), which is the main shopping mall, and is as snazzy as anything in Sydney. We also visited the Royal Regalia building, which is full of royal Bruneian artefacts, with gifts from other rulers to the Sultan, APEC meeting memorabilia, photos from the Sultan’s childhood (if you really cared about how well he did in primary school, or military school in England, and how much he loves polo) and so on, finishing up in the main foyer with the royal chariot.


Next on our list as the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolleiah Mosque, the largest in Brunei.

We were going to catch a bus there, but since the road sings didn’t match our map we kept on missing the bus and spent an hour walking there. It was quite impressive, but we didn’t get there until praying time, so we missed out on going in.


After our hot walk we stopped in for a few drinks and pizza near the mosque, and after a long wait managed to catch a taxi back to the river. There we hired a boatman to take us to see the sights on the river. He pulled out from the docks, and immediately lit up a cigarette (a big no-no during Ramadan, and enough to get him in jail with a $250 fine) and told us about how he was having it hard since his wife had a hysterectomy after a difficult childbirth of their fifth child (he was trying to get extra money for the tour and was quite obvious about it).


He showed us the Istana Nurul Iman (the Sultan’s palace, or at least on eof them), the largest residential palace in the world, and the water village and tried to show us monkeys upriver, but there were none. With our flight at 7pm, we didn’t get a chance to visit Jerudong Park Playground, the largest theme park in the world built free as a gift from the Sultan to the country for his 48th birthday.


Back at Rasa Ria we went to the Nocturnal Watch for an hour, and saw a tortoise come out, but no other animals.

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Bandar Seri Begawan
photo by: cimtech