A Sultan's Palace in one of the world's tiniest countries, this side of Borneo sounds like a fairytale.
We enjoyed our visit here although the customs and laws are so different than ours, we felt out of step . A short visit suited us just fine.
On one hand you have the riches of the King living in a sprawling Palace and a Golden Mosque and on the other there are people living in little shacks on stilts over the river.
We were pleased to see many money changers and an ATM at the airport.( lots of ATM's in town too).We knew it would be expensive here ,as the 11km ride from the airport was $25.00. There was little tourist information available on arrival and although there were lots of buses ,we had no idea how long the wait for one would be. We later learned the lack of information may be due to the lack of tourists. Brunei is a littleoff the tourist trail !
We booked our hotel before leaving home .The Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam is conveniently located in the city center and a short walk to the waterfront and other sites. The service here is very friendly ,the rooms are large with a comfortable bed. The only drawback is a musty odour,even though it was very clean.I suspect its caused by the high humidity. None the less it was a good choice at $120.00 a night.
We only spent two nights here so we spent all our time taking in the sights.
We started our day exploring. The following is an out line of our self directed tour.
The Water Village
There is no problem finding a boat to take you out . They seem to appear from nowhere when yoou approach the waterfront. We negotiated an hour for $15.00. Ou "captain" spoke a little building and was able to point out at least some of the things we were seeing.
There are about 30000 living in very modest homes here. Quite a contrast to the 1700 room Palace which can be seen in the distance. The village also has a small Mosque ,which can be recognized my the speakers ,needed for the call to prayer ,which are arranged around the top.
There are also severl small schools in the village.The village is connected to the city center by foot bridges but most seem to use boats.
The Golden Domed Mosque
Built in 1958 the 171 foot high mosque with its pure gold dome can be seen from virtually anywhere in Bandar Seri Begawan. Named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the mosque as a symbol of the Islamic faith in Brunei . The call for prayer rings out twice a day for all to hear.
The Royal Military Museum
The museum is an elaborate and richly design building. It houses the King's chariot and all the gifts given to him my heads of countries at his coronation. Admission is free and its a worthwhile vist .We spent abut an hour here roaming around.We saw the stone walrus given by our country Canada.
The Outdoor Market
There is an ancient outdoor local market on one end of town .We came here hoping to find handicrafts but it was mostly a food market for locals. There were many exotic spices ,fruit ,honey and loads of smelly dried fish!!
Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex
The largest shopping center in Brunei is the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex . It is located close to the riverfront. It has severalfloors and a big department store on one end.maybe shopping is what this town does for entertainment as it seemed to be the busiest spot in this sleepy town!!We stocked up on snack food at the modern grocery store here.
Alcohol is a no no here. As a foreigner you can import a small amount but it must be consumed in your hotel room . There are stiff fines and even jail time for those who disobey.
We flew from Brunei to Kota Kinbalu with Royal Brunei Airlines. We booked using our credit card online and were able to check in online as well.It was a short comfortable flight The plane was pretty dinghy however ,my seat was taped together with duck tape!!....makes you wonder how well it was maintained mechanically. For us it was a short flight but I think the no alcohol policy would be difficult on a long flight..