Brunei does not usually appear on the lists of places to travel to before dying, yet it has been gaining more popularity among those travelers who love Southeast Asia, and who have already visited some of its neighboring countries.
Brunei is a country north of the large island of Borneo, and very small in size. It is one of the richest in the world thanks to oil.
Its cities and towns remain surrounded by almost virgin tropical forest, one of the reasons why it is worth visiting this little paradise.
It is a country that is governed by strict religious and moral laws, it is a Muslim country and the Muslim culture and religion is palmed as soon as you arrive.
Thanks to one of the largest and most important oil fields in the entire area, Brunei has not needed to transform its forests into palm plantations. Something that makes it a more authentic and virgin place.
In the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, the main attractions are food and shopping, where the most modern mosques contrast with an ancient water town
In this post I will tell you the reasons why it is worth knowing Brunei, what to see and do in this small country, where to stay... Here you have a complete guide to explore the country.
WHAT TO SEE IN BRUNEI
1. Visit Ulu Temburong National Park
The first essential stop is to climb to the tree canopy of Ulu Temburong National Park, the most virgin forest on earth and swim in the cool waters of a river in the middle of the jungle.
In Brunei much of the country is virgin jungles, and that is the main charm of Brunei. This National Park has an area of 500 square kilometers of virgin forest that covers the south of Temburong. It is so intact that barely a square kilometer is accessible to visitors and always within guided circuits. To protect it, the rest is off-limits to everyone except scientists, who flock from all over the world to see this place. Among the permitted activities, there is a footbridge to contemplate it in perspective, brief tours through the jungle, along marked trails and the possibility of bathing in the fresh waters of the Sungai Temburong.
The forests of Ulu Temburong are full of life. There are up to 400 types of butterflies, many varieties of insects, reptiles and mammals live in this amazing place. The best time to see birds and other animals, both in the forest and on the riverbanks, is at sunrise and sunset.
The only way to access the Park is by boat. The main attraction of the park for travelers is an aluminum walkway, between the treetops, and at a height of 60 meters above the ground. Then you can walk the trails and soak up the peace in this incredible place.
To visit the Park you must book the excursion with an agency or visit it requesting the reservation with the official website.
2. Sail to the water town of Kampung Ayer
Once you are in the capital of Brunei, you can take a boat from the port and sail to the water town of Kampung Ayer. There are many companies that offer this service and it will not be difficult for you to find them. They are named water taxis. You can always ask at your hotel.
It is the largest water town in the world, and is a reflection of how they lived years ago in Brunei.
Kampung Ayer is 42 contiguous villages built on stilts along the Brunei River. A century ago, half of the country's population lived in this area and even today many Bruneians prefer the aquatic lifestyle to that of land. The population has schools, mosques, police stations, family doctor and firemen. There are several water taxis that they use to get to the mainland, if they need to.
The settlement has more than 1,000 years of history. It is a very humble area of Brunei that survives thanks to fishing and tourism. Here several of their houses offer the possibility that you enter to visit them, you can buy some handicrafts or textiles... in exchange for some money. The population is very friendly and they welcome you with open arms.
A good starting point for a visit to this watery neighborhood is the Cultural and Tourist Gallery, a cultural center that will familiarize us with pre-oil Brunei and also has a glass-enclosed viewpoint with panoramic views.
3. Get to know the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan
In the capital of the country the two most impressive places, which demonstrate the ostentation of the sultan are:
The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a beautiful mosque surrounded by an artificial lake and whose interior shows luxury in every corner. Italian marble floors, artwork, British chandeliers, Saudi-made rugs, and gold accents everywhere. Its minaret is the tallest structure in the city center and it is forbidden for any other building to rise above it.
Museum of Royal Presents, a museum where there is a very extensive exhibition of all the (very expensive) gifts received by the Sultan of Brunei. Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan of Brunei, is on the list of the richest men in the world.
In the capital, don't forget to also visit the Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque, the Gadong night market, the Teng Yun Buddhist temple...
Brunei is not very big, so staying in the capital is the best option. And from here you can take your transport every day to visit the different National Parks and places on the outskirts of the city. Later I will tell you about some accommodation options in the capital, but if you want you can search for accommodation offers from this link.
4. Life under water
One of the strengths of Brunei are its beautiful reefs and its marine fauna.
Because Brunei was forgotten and rarely visited until a few years ago, there were not many companies dedicated to discovering the seabed, nor were there scuba diving companies that offered travelers the chance to enjoy this wonder.
At present, there are already several companies with which to make excursions of this type. So if you are in love with diving in Brunei you can enjoy a real wonder. Here there are hardly any crowds, there are few travelers (unlike other countries in Southeast Asia) which is an added advantage.
There are several interesting places to dive, some of them offer the possibility of visiting some sunken World War II ships, and many intact reefs, even practically unexplored. In almost all the dive sites there are colorful hard and white corals, such as gorgonians and acoparas. You can dive among cuttlefish, octopus, moray eels, hedgehog fish, puffer fish and the occasional sea snake.
For those who do not dare to do so much and prefer to snorkel, there are also areas to enjoy the beach, the sea and the marine fauna at a shallow depth. Muara beach and Serasa beach are the best options.
5. Navigate through Mangroves
From the capital of Brunei, you can take an excursion to visit its mangroves and meet the proboscis monkeys.
These excursions are made by motor boat. You can hire the excursion in the port right there, or the hotel itself offers the option of acting as an intermediary.
As you enter these channels surrounded by jungle and mangroves, you will be able to see small alligators, all kinds of birds, proboscis monkeys (the most popular) and some monkeys of other smaller species.
6. Eco accommodation or VIP accommodation
In Brunei you will have several accommodation options, including the option of sleeping like sultans or choosing an Eco accommodation.
If you decide on luxurious accommodation, in the capital there are some of the hotels in the best-known hotel chains, such as Radisson, the Empire Hotel... among others.
If you decide for a greener and more authentic experience, a few kilometers south of the capital, Batang Duri is the starting point for boats heading to the national park. As you go down to the south of the country, the roads become unpaved roads and in this area the villages begin, such as that of the Murut.
This area of the country is jungle and jungle. And between the jungle and natural environments there are some more ecological accommodations and camps.
The Sumbiling Eco Village is an environmentally friendly accommodation located next to the river.
Here you can sleep in tents or bamboo cabins. Don't expect big luxuries! You will sleep in single beds, with a mosquito net and a ceiling fan. The luxury of this place is undoubtedly the attention of the staff that runs it and the natural environment!
You can do many outdoor activities, go on night walks, sleep in the middle of the jungle, enjoy the river and go down it in a kayak or inflatable tires, and you can even visit the Ulu Temburong National Park.
7. Eat on the street
Eating on the street is something you can do in any country. Asia is characterized mainly because in practically all its countries the locals at home do not have kitchens (not as we are used to) so they make all their meals on the street.
In Brunei, the food is very good, and you just have to follow the aroma that floats in the air to find the street stalls, where they will offer you traditional dishes.
Among its most popular dishes is ambuyat, a kind of viscous and gelatinous puree made with the marrow of the sago palm, ground and mixed with water, which is taken with different sauces. Ambuyat is usually dipped in cacah, a sweet and sour sauce made from sambal belacan and tamarind. It can also be accompanied with fish, shellfish or with salads.
In the night markets and restaurants you will find all kinds of grilled meat and fish, seafood, salads, steamed vegetables, some soups, noodles, and sweets.
Buahulu tea is popular in Brunei, a simple dessert made with eggs, flour and sugar. Kuripit sagu is a variant of buahulu in the form of a cookie, flavored with coconut.
In Brunei alcohol is absolutely prohibited, so you will not find restaurants that serve it, nor will you be able to buy it in supermarkets. If you are caught consuming alcohol at least you will get a financial penalty.
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Brunei very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!