Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam

Canopy climb at Temburong

For nearly a century the destination of Brunei has been shadowed by its abundant reserves of oil and subsequent wealth. But now, as the country aims to attract more tourists rather than oil companies, its history, culture and people are slowly starting to shine through.

Comprising of two unconnected pieces of land and spanning only 5,766 square kilometres, Brunei, known as the Abode of Peace, is one of the smallest South East Asian nations. It is surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia and has a population of around 400,000, the majority of which practice Islam, the official religion.

Macaque monkey

And while Bruneians live a comfortable life (their Sultan provides free health care, housing and education and subsidises petrol and food and waives income tax!), Brunei’s charm does not lie in a show of financial riches but rather national modesty. Brunei does not cater to mass tourism, the entire country only consisting of a little over 2000 hotel rooms and operating less than 50 taxis.

Families or independent travellers that do decide to venture to the Abode of Peace will find that it is a refreshing escape from the noisy hustle and bustle that is so prevalent in other South East Asian countries.

Kiarong Mosque

Travellers will not find high rises, clubs or bars, but rather a wealth of historical and natural treasures, one of which is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque, locally known as the Kiarong Mosque. Built to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sultan’s reign, the mosque is an architectural masterpiece with grandiose gold plated domes that can be seen from the sky and the outskirts of the city.

Kampong Ayer water village

Another beautiful part of Brunei is Kampong Ayer, the world’s largest and oldest water village with over 1300 years of history. The village comprises of more than 4200 homes, schools, shops, restaurants and mosques built above Brunei River, all linked together by boardwalks. Visitors can take a local water taxi to explore the many wooden structures which house nearly ten percent of the country’s population.

Traditional longboat

To the east of Kampong Ayer is the district of Temburong, the country’s little piece of Borneo. Here, within the lush tropical rainforests, visitors are able to experience the wilder side of Brunei, with fun activities such as canopy climbing, jungle trekking, animal spotting and white water rafting offered by local eco-lodges such as the Ulu Ulu Rainforest Resort. Visitors can only get to Temburong on a traditional longboat, which despite being a wet ride, does provide an unforgettable journey into Brunei’s heart of green.

Bandar Seri Begawan

For those that prefer city life, there is always the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, where you can shop til you drop in the city’s largest shopping centre, The Mall. Or, why not try the local cuisine at the Gadong night markets, a short walk from the commercial district. Lined with rows upon rows of street vendors, curious travellers can sample everything from fresh durian to chicken and beef skewers to sweet crepes.

The best time to visit Brunei is between June to September just before and after monsoon season which stretches from October to February and then May to June. And while its tropical climate sees daily temperatures range between 25-35 degrees Celsius, some might say that’s the perfect excuse for a mid-year holiday in Brunei Darussalam.

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L
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