Adventure begins with just one step into the outdoors and Brunei Darussalam is our Abode of Peace that’s just waiting to be explored! So whether you want to see the urban sights or get away from it all and surround yourself with nature, there’s something for everyone. Brunei may be one of the smallest nations in the world, known for its wealth thanks to the oil and gas industry, but it is also rich thanks to its diverse culture, undying traditions and abundance of flora and fauna.
Whether you’re a local resident looking for something different to do, or a first time visitor to our Sultanate, there’s always something going on and waiting to be discovered.As the saying goes, we often don’t fully appreciate what’s on our own doorstep – and everyone can enjoy getting out and discovering something new to do or see, especially as nowhere is that far away. So if you haven’t been to the rainforest, cruised down the river to see proboscis monkeys, relaxed on the beach or been to one of the museums in a while, there’s no better time to do it.
For our visitors, Brunei is more than your average South East Asian destination thanks to our national philosophy of MIB (Melayu Islam Beraja), which puts race, religion and monarchy on top of every Bruneian’s way of life, sustaining much of its traditions and customs as a national identity. Much of what you can find in Brunei is the simple life with a little bit of everything –a unique harmony that combines modernity, tradition and nature in one comprehensive package.
So where do we start? What is the best way to get THE Bruneian experience? Here’s our pick of just a few of the places to go and things to do.
Exploring the City
The waterfront of the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (or BSB to the locals) has an abundance of attractions that can keep you occupied and entertained with the perfect picture to take home to show your family and friends. Let’s start with the centrepiece, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque, Brunei’s symbol of pride and piety for Islam.
The mosque combines Mughal architecture and Italian styles and is ranked one of the most beautiful in the world. Snap one for the album from every angle you can find, but save some of those shots for Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s very own water village that’s just across the river. Take a boat tour for a speedy run around the community but for the best experience, ask the boat driver to drop you off for a walk around. If you’re after the best shot of the town, you might want to look into the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery – they have an exhibition of the community’s history, lifestyle and crafts as well as great panoramic views.
If you want to stay over and truly experience life in the water village and no doubt make some new friends, then why not book a homestay with one of the families offering this unique opportunity.
Back on land, the Royal Regalia Museum displays a priceless collection of regal treasures for you to marvel at, or take a look at the latest items on offer at the Brunei Arts & Handicrafts Centre.
For food lovers, one stop you have to make is to Tamu Kianggeh, the local market that’s a spectacle of sights and smells that will excite you with a variety of fruits, vegetables and bite sized delights. You can spend less than $10 and walk out with bags of treats to keep you going all day. But if you’re looking for a fuller meal, head over to Soto Pabo just a few minutes away for a local dining experience with a great view of the river. If Japanese cuisine is your thing, then Kaizen Sushi on the waterfront is an institution with an equally wonderful vista.
Getting back to nature
The Sultanate isn’t short of green spaces and you don’t even have to look far for forest reserves such as Tasek Lama and Bukit Shahbandar, if you want to escape the urban jungle without having to travel a long way out of town. You’ll find plenty of locals are there to simply enjoy going for a stroll with their friends, as well as those who take more arduous hikes for their daily exercise. If you want to get off the beaten track, then across the river from the capital is Pulau Berambang, an island offering idyllic walks and some spectacular views, so long as you don’t mind the hill trek to get to the vantage point. For a more gentle experience, Tasek Merimbun in Tutong has the largest black water lake in Brunei, where you can cruise around by boat admiring the abundant wildlife, including over 200 bird species.
In Belait district, visiting the Labi waterfall and lake makes a great day out, where you can also discover a traditional Iban tribal longhouse.
The jewel in the crown of course is the Ulu Temburong National Park where you are surrounded by nothing but some of the most pristine rainforest in the world. Whether you go for just a day trip or opt for a longer stay, it’s an unforgettable experience with Mother Nature, with some added attractions such as the famous canopy walk, tubing on the river and night excursions to explore the forest.
Sun, sea and adventure
If you want to swap a bit of greenery for some blue skies and waters, Brunei has some wonderful beaches to discover, plus a growing number of water sports to enjoy. If idyllic seclusion is your ideal, Meragang Beach near Muara is often the place to head for, where you can often be the only person in view. Further along the coast, Muara Beach attracts family visitors to hang out and enjoy the recreational facilities on offer, whilst the Watersports Complex at Serasa Beach is the place to go for more adventurous pursuits such as hiring jet skis, banana boat rides and going diving. With over 30 shipwrecks to explore and pristine reefs to view, diving in Brunei has a wealth of underwater treasures to enjoy.
Tungku Beach is the place to head for if you want to catch some waves, where you’ll often find the Tungku Board Riders in action, as well as it also being a favourite hangout for locals relaxing at the weekend. If the water’s not your thing, but you’re still after some fun, then simply hire an ATV and spend a couple of hours cruising along the coastline.
Staying somewhere different
Let’s face it, whatever your budget, it can often feel that many hotels around the world offer a similar experience, that’s not always unique to the country you’re visiting. One exception of course is Brunei’s Empire Hotel in Jerudong, which is an attraction in itself and well worth a visit just to admire the luxurious interior.
For that truly immersive experience however, there’s nothing better than actually staying with the locals to get to know their way of life and customs. If you opt for a Homestay, you’ll be welcomed into a Bruneian home and enjoy warm hospitality, home cooking and the opportunity to make new friends. If eco-tourism is more your thing, then there are now a growing number of camps and retreats in villages across the country, all offering unique places to stay and a chance to get back to nature whilst respecting the environment and supporting local communities.
Of course there’s so much more to do and see that we can’t cover here, so take your pick and sort out your Brunei experience the way you want it! After all, it is a Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures waiting for you to discover.