Most people I know don’t even know that Brunei is a country. It’s tucked inside the Malaysian part of Borneo and has been independent since leaving British rule almost 70 years ago. However, their sultans date back a long time, and they’re still ruled by a famous sultan who happens to be one of the world’s richest people, because of the country’s access to oil.
Oh, and they’re also famous for how many things can earn the death penalty, like insulting the sultan, being gay, doing drugs, etc.
We flew on the national airline, Royal Air Brunei, which strangely started with a prayer in Arabic over the speakers before take-off. A friend of mine highly recommended staying at a house in the floating water village, so we stayed there, and it was fantastic. It’s $1 per person for a boat ride over to the other side.
We arrived late, got some sleep, and were up early the next morning to explore. We had asked about things we could see in nature, but we were told heavy rains were coming in and decided against it. Cost of the tour would be $35 each.
We hailed a water taxi to get over to the main city and during the ride mentioned that it was our first visit to Brunei. The driver offered us a water taxi tour for $10, so we agreed to see the city from a different view.
During this time, we saw a monkey sitting in a tree, and we mentioned to the boat driver that we had wanted to do a nature tour, but we thought there’d be rain. He said he could easily drive us up the river to where the monkeys hang out. $10 per person. That’s now $30 total for this city + nature tour in his boat. Beats the $35 each tour we declined previously. We were off!
During this time, we passed a crocodile in the water, and who did we spot watching it? The boat tour we would’ve gone on, packed full of tourists.
Then, we got to where the proboscis monkeys hang out and saw a giant family of them moving from one location to another. We watched them for a while and really enjoyed how close we could get to the bank in this small boat.
Unfortunately, the proboscis monkeys will probably be extinct within 5 years. People here eat them, they don’t reproduce at the rate at which they’re being hunted, and the different family units have been cut off from one another, which limits the ability to grow and keep breeding.
After we’d had our fill, we took the boat back and got off where we’d originally thought we were going: other side of the bank to explore the city.
We walked through this open area and then over to the mosque, and there was a bunch of activity with soldiers, police & firefighters prepping for a giant parade for the sultan’s birthday the following week. We turned and headed a different way to get away from the blocked off areas and trucks.
We then walked up to the Royal Regalia Museum, or the “look at all of my cool presents I got for being sultan” museum.
The sultan was at university in the UK when his father abdicated the throne, so now that he’s old he’s been sultan for a long time. The floats are from his 50th anniversary of taking the throne. Lavish beyond lavish.
Our next idea was to head north out of the city to the giant Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque and a nearby shopping area with a vegetarian restaurant for lunch. “We’ll just wave at a taxi”. Not a chance. The whole country only has 50 taxis! We found that out when we went into a hotel to ask for help finding a taxi, and they had to call one. When your country has oil, gas is cheap, and everyone has a car.
Pureland had some great food. Nothing impressive or spectacular, but it was good.
From here, we walked over to the mosque. It was just opening up for visitors when we got there.
When we saw this “shoes off” hall, we left our shoes at the very start, walked about “forever” miles, and then got to the actual entrance where…there were shoes. You only need to use this when it’s packed, but you can just walk up to the door and drop your shoes there, said the guy managing the guest book. Hi, we’re not from around here.
“Women need one of those robes” and by robe it’s more like ridiculous black trenchcoat. No pictures in the upper area where the prayer room is, but it was massive and intricately designed.
From here, we thought we’d walk over to a bus stop we’d seen and try to find something heading our way or a taxi or something. Again, nope. This bus stop is just for the free bus out to the national hospital. No ‘bus service’ here. No taxis, once again, so we asked a local if she could call a taxi or something for us. She said she could use the app “Dart”, which is like Uber, and get a ride for us. After tons of confusion, the car arrived and took us back to the water taxi port.
When we went to pay, the guy told us the girl who requested the car had paid for us just to be nice. What a great bunch of people Bruneians are. We caught the water taxi back to the house in the water village to collect our stuff and head to the airport.
This was a short trip for a small country and felt pretty sufficient. We knew there was an airport bus service not far from the water taxi port, so we walked over there. Funny enough, we saw our taxi driver from earlier and had him drive us to the airport.
Brunei was a cool little country worthy of a small trip to check it out. The nature part was definitely awesome.This entry was posted in asia, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei