Brunei is the last ASEAN country on my list before I can proudly say that I’ve been to all of them. To say the least, I was looking forward to this trip because of that. I worked hard and saved enough so I can slowly tick them off one by one.
So, yeah! I visited these countries; Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines (where I’m from), Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos and finally Brunei. I couldn’t be more pleased with myself.
ASEAN countries completed!
This is an accomplishment for me which reminded me of when it all began. While growing up in a family of six or when I was a little younger with my Mommy (Lola), we barely had spare money for out-of-country vacations like this. It was during those times that I told myself, I wanted to go out and explore. This dream stayed with me until I started working. I set a goal for myself of at least visiting the Southeast Asian countries first.
Even though Brunei isn’t as popular as the other Asian countries in terms of tourist attractions, I actually found it a very unique destination. Its culture and tradition make it distinct from the others. For one, the majority of the population in Brunei is Islamic. I expected there’ll be more mosques than temples and their rules will be different from what I’m used to. But it’s the reason why I travel, to discover the differences and embrace them.
Here is a list of Brunei’s top 12 tourist destinations.
1. Brunei History Center
Where is a better place to start learning about Brunei than to visit its museum?
There are three floors in the museum. The first is where the information is. Bags aren’t allowed especially if going to the 2nd and 3rd floors. So they have lockers to keep your belongings while walking around.
Traditional games and the people’s way of entertainment are exhibited on the first floor. I noticed its many similarities to my own.
On the second and third floor was an exhibition of the water village which includes different kinds of houses, people’s way of living, and their culture.
Entrance is free.
2. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
It’s a grand Islamic mosque located in the capital of Brunei. It is often considered as one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific.
To get inside, women should wear long black cover-up. No cameras or videos are allowed and shoes should be removed.
Be respectful which means to not make any loud noises and to obey the rules inside the mosque.
We walked around and took beautiful photos outside. Taking photos inside is not allowed.
Entrance is free.
3. Royal Regalia Building
Another museum on our list was the Royal Regalia Museum, previously called the Royal Regalia Building. From its name itself, it houses regalia of the Sultan and the royalty. It also exhibits the celebration of the Silver and Golden Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s rule of Brunei.
On the first floor was the chariot used for the parade carrying the Sultan on the streets of the city during his 1992 silver jubilee celebration.
Bags, as well as cameras and mobile phones, are not allowed. They have lockers for safekeeping. As a result, we didn’t have photos inside except the ones on the first floor.
Entrance is free.
4. Tasek Lama Park
Just within a walk from the city is the Tasek Lama Park. Since we were just near to it, we decided to give it a visit despite our rumbling stomach.
It was quiet and peaceful. I’ve seen a couple of Lolos walking around. It’s abundant of trees with wild monkeys and birds. It has a waterfall too which was our destination. We didn’t stay too long though because it was past our lunchtime.
5. Jame Asr Hassanal Mosque
Another famous mosque in Brunei is Jame Asr Hassanal Mosque. It was built in 1988 and was named after Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.
The same rules apply to visitors regarding clothing and that picture-taking is not allowed inside. We took our shoes off. Women should wear long black cover all before getting inside.
Entrance is free.
I look like I’m a member of a choir. Ha!
6. Istana Nurul Iman Palace
The Istana Nurul Iman is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei. It’s the world’s largest residential palace, said to be more than four times the size of the Palace of Versailles. How cool, huh?
We only stayed outside
Only once a year that the palace opens for three days during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, after the month of Ramadan.
7. The Empire Hotel & Country Club
Now, geez. How can I start with this hotel? It’s as magnificent as you can imagine royals should be treated. Everything is just grand with its pools and breathtaking views.
Visitors can come in anytime, dine or just take a walk around the hotel.
8. Proboscis Monkey & Mangrove
Proboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey with an unusually large nose. It is endemic to the southeast Asian island of Borneo and some inhabit in Brunei.
9. Kampong Ayer or “Water Village”
Kampong Ayer, literally means “water village”, is a cluster of traditional villages built on the Brunei River. Centuries ago, half of Brunei’s population lived here. Many still continue to reside in their houses on the river but they are far more updated and modernized, not like the ones we’ve seen in the museum.
10. Brunei City Center
Strolling around the city center, we found government offices, shopping malls, and small shops.
Located in the waterfront is this sculpture of Mercu Dirgahayu 60. It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.
‘Dirgahayu’ comes from the Sanskrit words ‘Dirgha‘ meaning long and ‘Ayu‘ meaning life. “Dirgahayu” means “long life”, the equivalent of “Long Live the King“.
11. Gadong Wet Market
Gadong market was our saving grace in terms of food shopping. Food and drinks are affordable, cheaper than if we eat in the restaurants. It also became our main source of local Brunei delicacies even though I found the taste quite similar to other Asian food. Most local people come and buy ready-to-eat meals here too.
One large-sized cold milo drink for 1 BND. I think I could live here. =)
12. Ulu Temburong National Park
Ulu Temburong National Park or “
In order to visit the park, we needed to book a tour to an authorized agency. Although it wasn’t cheap, we joined a day tour which became one of my best experiences in Brunei.
We visited all of these in 3 full days. It’s also worth mentioning that there is not a lot of taxis in Brunei because most of the people have their own vehicles. You need to book an airport transfer for convenience. Another option which we did is to discuss with a driver a negotiable price, say for a day tour. Our driver was recommended by our reception staff. We paid 40 BND (29 USD) for 8 hours tour. He drove us to wherever we wanted to go and would pick us up after.
I want to experience other seasons especially spring and winter.
For now, I’m thinking of Japan, Korean or China and still thinking…
Thanks for reading!