Exploring the city

Bandar Seri Begawan Travel Blog

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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip:

After an exhausting ordeal getting into Brunei and the lack of an alarm clock, i awoke around 11am and quickly got ready for my only full day in the country. After heading to a food court for some lunch, i caught a local bus out to the Empire Hotel at Jerudong, about a 1 hour journey. It had been built by Prince Jefri at the staggering cost of $USD 1.1 BILLION!!! and was part of the reason why the Sultan tried his brother for wasting public money. Unsurprising really. I felt a bit out of place walking around in my t-shirt and boardies as some of the guests paid up to $22,000 for a single night! I ventured through the lobby, some of the dining areas and into the back gardens where i was greeted by enormous swimming pools and an 18 hole golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Unfortunately my budget didn't extend to staying the night, so i walked back to the bus station and headed back to the capital.

The day was already flying by, so i decided to go and check out Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the daylight. I walked around the circumference and discovered it had a very pretty lagoon, which mirrored the mosque and boat it housed beautifully. The boat reminded me of Cixi's Marble one in Beijings Summer Palace. I also coincided my visit with the time that i could go into the mosque, which was very beautiful, but unfortunately i couldn't take pictures. There were old Korans and the decor had held out well since it was built in 1958, for a monstrous $5,000,000. I walked over Teman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Safuddien field to get back to my hotel, just as it began to rain.

Taman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien field and buildings in the city centre

Thankfully the rain stopped after a short period, but it was already 5pm when i made a move for Istrana Nurul Iman, the Sultans Palace. The lady in my hotel told me to take the more frequent and cheaper bus to the palace, rather than the water taxi. What she forgot to explain is that you get no view of the palace from the main gates on the road! The guard told me to go back to town and take a water taxi :( Back in Bandar Seri Begawan i headed for the jetty, but the water taxis were trying to rip me off and i decided that i'd wasted enough time and effort and took a picture from a long long distance away and settled for that.

It was now dark and i decided that i would head back to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, to check out the reflections in the lagoon at night.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
I wasn't disappointed as it looked absolutely gorgeous, and spent a good half an hour walking around and photographing all the different angles. Whilst i was there, i got chatting to a most obviously local gay guy, who was very nice and told me of another mosque that i just had to go and visit. I thanked him whilst half cursing the fact that it was already 8pm, i was starving and now on another adventure to the outskirts of town.

Back on another bus and heading to Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, i pulled out my pages of Brunei Lonely Planet that i had ripped out of the book when leaving Julia at the port. I was surprised to read that there is a jail sentence accompanied by a huge fine for homosexuality in the country and it made me think of the bloke at the mosque and how hard everyday life must be for him.

Me with the boat at the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
It also made me wonder how he had never been 'outed' as it was pretty blatant by his dress and mannerisms of his sexual preference. Seems strange in a 'progressive' country such as Brunei that such rules still exist, whilst in most of the other South East Asian countries you spot lady boys all over without even battering an eyelid.

My thoughts were interrupted 20 minutes into the bus journey as the towering Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque came into view, with gold glistening in the horizon. The bus dropped me off and i entered the grounds for a closer look. I was trying to get the 'perfect picture' but found frustration at every turn as there always seemed to be trees obstructing the shot. It then began to drizzle so i headed back towards the bus stop and some shelter.

Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque

The rain subsided however and with 30 minutes to spare i decided to head outside the grounds to get a shot from distance. Around 10 minutes out, the heavens literally opened and the streets became flooded within seconds. Every inch of me became saturated as i rushed to put my valuables into my day pack, then the bag into a plastic bag. For some reason i decided that i would walk to a huge mall to get the bus rather than infront of the mosque, but i lost my bearings and ended up walking another 30 minutes, missing the last bus and the rain was still pounding down. I eventually managed to grab a taxi and the second it had dropped me home the rain completely stopped. I joked with myself whether it was Gods way of punishing me for paying too much interest in Mosques, then an image appeared at the window and spoke to me.

Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque in the pouring rain
... haha ok, so it didn't really, but i got you going! I crashed out hungry, cold, wet and tired, but content with all i had packed into the day.

The following morning i was up at 7.30am to start my journey to Miri to meet Julia. An hour wait for a bus was followed by a 6 hour journey, passing through the border and getting to see a small oil field, which contributes to giving Brunei its wealth. It was the end of an interesting action packed couple of days in Brunei Darussalam.

Deats says:
Hi Keith! I think Brunei is worth a couple of days to be honest. It really depends on what your interests are and how much money you have to spend. There are supposed to be some nice national parks (all be it small) that you can also visit. But the central areas, mosques and hotel can be comfortably done in 2 days at a leisurely pace, or 1 frantic day!
Posted on: Aug 17, 2010
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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Taman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifudd…
Taman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifud…
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Me with the boat at the Omar Ali S…
Me with the boat at the Omar Ali …
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque i…
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque …
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Inside the Empire Hotel
Inside the Empire Hotel
In the gardens of the Empire Hotel
In the gardens of the Empire Hotel
Inside the Empire Hotel
Inside the Empire Hotel
Empire Hotel
Empire Hotel
The swimming pool at the Empire Ho…
The swimming pool at the Empire H…
In the gardens of the Empire Hotel
In the gardens of the Empire Hotel
Entrance to the Empire Hotel
Entrance to the Empire Hotel
Opposite Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Opposite Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Opposite Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Opposite Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Taman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifudd…
Taman HJ Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifud…
Entrance to Istana Nurul Iman, the…
Entrance to Istana Nurul Iman, th…
Istana Nurul Iman, the Sultans Pal…
Istana Nurul Iman, the Sultans Pa…
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
JameAsr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Jame'Asr Hassanal Balkiah Mosque
Bandar Seri Begawan
photo by: cimtech