Brunei is a mysterious country.  Most known for its exceedingly rich and extravagant royal family, the country itself is rarely in the news.  This is because nothing newsworthy ever really happens there.  There is no social discord or political upheavals, due to the royal family’s absolute power.  While amassing unrivaled treasures for themselves, they’ve built a calm and prosperous oil republic.  The citizens either ignore or remain unaware of the fact that the royal family has one of the world’s largest fortunes, spending like few others.  They have jetliners finished with gold fixtures, the world’s largest car collection, and the world’s largest palace (2.2 million square feet, including 257 bathrooms, constructed for $1.4 billion in 1984).  Tourists are unable to visit the palaces, car collection or other excesses of the royal family, but are treated to Western foods and some of the best preserved bits of Borneo rainforest.

We only had the opportunity to visit Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city, which lacks the hustle-and-bustle of typical Asian cities.  Instead, it’s quiet, organized, clean and strangers say hello to you in the street.  If we had known better we would have stayed in Brunei longer to visit the rainforest there, versus in Sarawak and Sabah, to get a view of virgin, rarely visited rainforest.  Brunei is not cheap though, with “budget” hotels charging $28-40 for a double.  Generously though, most of the sights and museums are free-of-charge.  If you are in Borneo, Brunei should be on your list of places to visit, it is easily accessible from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah or along the bus routes from Sarawak to Sabah.


DON’T MISS: The Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, everyone makes a visit to the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, but the opulence of the Bolkiah Mosque is amazing!
MUST SEE: The Royal Regalia Museum where the entire coronation of the current Sultan is reenacted in a large hall complete with the carriage he travelled in as well as life-size photos of the crowd that lined the street.
MUST TASTE: The many restaurants in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city


TRIP PLANNING: The Brunei Tourism Board is a very well organized and well funded group worth contacting to plan your itinerary.  You can also pick up one of their great brochures with pre-planned itineraries provided at any of the tourist information centers and at many museums.
GETTING AROUND: The bus system in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city is very straight forward and basically all the drivers speak English making it easy to ask questions.  The center of the city is very small and easily walkable as well.


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $57.40
COST OF BEER: Beer is not sold in Brunei nor is it allowed to be brought in the country.
KEY MONEY SAVING TIP: Enjoy the day walking around visiting the museums as they are all free!


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Brunei is an Islamic Republic and muslim is the dominant religion, if you are a woman you will want to dress conservatively and bring a scarf to cover your head for entering mosques.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have spent more time in Brunei and made a trip to the virgin rainforests without having to battle crowds or going on a packed group tour.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Brunei Tourist Board and Wikitravel.  Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!


OUR HIGHLIGHT: Seeing Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at night, we were welcome to be outside the mosque as the sun sets and the evening prayer begins.  It was beautiful to see the mosque lit up at night and listening to the prayer chanting makes for a very surreal experience.
WHERE WE WENT: Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city
WE REGRET MISSING: Belalong National Park, it is a preserved part of the Borneo rainforest nearly untouched by humans.



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