Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brunei 101: Your Basic guide to BSB

...and my 6-day trip to Brunei is over! I know it's a week too late (reality grabbed me by the throat the moment I came back!) but to cap off my vacation in the peaceful city of Begawan, let me share with you my ultimate guide to Bandar Seri Begawan!

Tourist Spots
1. Sultan's Palace - A trip to Brunei wouldn't be complete without checking our where the royalty lives. You can't really enter it, but you should at least drop by to see where the sultan lives. Who knows, you might come at the right time and find yourself face-to-face with his majesty *wink!
 TMF trivia: the place was built by our own Ayala Group!

2. Brunei Museum / Royal Regalia Museum - Normally, I don't like it when museum tours get included in city tour packages but I have to make an exception for Brunei. If you really want to understand what Brunei is all about, it is a MUST that you visit the museums. It would also give you a sneak peak into the lives of the Muslim royalty!

3. Mosques - One of the "must-sees" in Brunei are the gorgeous mosques. When we arrived, it was the first thing that mesmerized us about the country. Just seeing the gold and intricate design of the mosques (even from afar) is captivating! The view is even more beautiful at night! The lights are amazing, it got us singing, "A whole new world!..." Very Aladdin indeed!
4. Jerudong Area/ Jerudong Park - Lucky for us, Jerudong Park has been reopened! Basically, Jerudong park is a theme park free for all Brunei citizens. It used to have a lot of attractions but it was recently closed and was reopened in March of this year. Now, there are only a few attractions left, but it is still worth the trip, just to get a feel of what the locals do for fun. (park hours are at 4pm-11pm)
...and since you're in the area, you would want to check out the:

5. Empire hotel and resort - So okay, it's a hotel. But think of it as being like the Venetian in Macau. It is worth the visit because it's one of the few 6-star hotels in the world. It is also very opulent, which makes it faithful to the overall "rich" Brunei feel.

6. Gadong district/ Night market - Shopping areas in Brunei are limited so if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, visit Gadong District and the Night market (more of "hawker street") to get more of the local buzz.

7. Optional: Ulu Temburong / Mangroves / Kampong Ayer - if you're more into adventure trips, go to Ulu Temburong (a national park), go on a boat ride to see the mangroves or take a water taxi and tour kampong ayer, which is Brunei's water village (similar to our houses in stilts found on rivers).

Finding a cheap hotel is a challenge in Brunei. Not because the hotels themselves are of top quality, but more of because almost everything in Brunei is expensive. Take for example our 130usd/night room at a 3-star hotel which didn't even serve buffet breakfast and looked more like a serviced apartelle rather than a hotel. For a similar price, we could have stayed at a 5-star hotel in Bangkok!

One very important thing to consider in booking your hotel is to get one IN the city center. Buildings in Brunei are quite far apart from each other. Even the city center is not so congested. Getting a place far from the city then is not advisable.

I say the BEST thing about Brunei is their food! YUMMY! Everything that touched my lips in that country sent me to food nirvana. Everything tasted good and looked "clean". Even the ones from the night market were sanitary and well prepared.

Malls and other shopping areas are not very big in Brunei. For shopping, the best place to go to is the Gadong District or The Mall. However, I have to say shopping in Brunei is a big disappointment. Maybe it's not the country's strong point but I was really disappointed with the lack of things to buy. Even the souvenir shops didn't offer much. They say you should buy textile in the country, but with the sky-high prices, simple tourists like me can only stare :(

Transportation is one of the major challenges in Brunei.The buildings are too far apart and taxis are scarce! They say there are only 40 taxis in Brunei and half of them are in the airport, so you could only imagine how the scattered the other half are! The best way to go around Begawan then is to book a package tour or hire a car to take you around. The costs of going to one place to another is relatively high so plan your trips ahead! Also, be sure to have someone PICK YOU UP at your destination because locals sleep early so if you find yourself out at night, it is best to have transpo ready. (Buses are a good option too! Very cheap but they are only available up to 6pm)

There you have it! The basic low down on Bandar Seri Begawan! Will be doing another post which would give you a more comprehensive idea of Brunei... those that travel guides don't normally disclose. *wink!


  1. Did you join the tour for the entire duration of your trip? If yes, which tour agency did you join?

    Would you mind sharing which areas are located near each other? I'm having a hard time researching coz most blogs don't mention 'how to get there".

    Thanks in advance!

  2. you're right about the shopping here in Brunei is basically nada. hehe it's nice tho you enjoyed your stay :)

  3. Transpo is crucial, so big thanks for this tip ... "Also, be sure to have someone PICK YOU UP at your destination because locals sleep early so if you find yourself out at night, it is best to have transpo ready."


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