Brunei – The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures !

Was so much wanting to write this post and just found the time to do it..here I am sitting in front of the computer at 4.30 am Singapore time after finished watching Robot until 12.00 am on national TV and English Vinglish online until now..

Our short trip was planned on our long weekend, J had booked to and fro tickets for the 26th afternoon and the 28 afternoon of October respectively , that left us with just 40 hours excluding travel and airport time.  With 15 hours of sleep for two nights we were left with just 25 hours  for exploration ! Would that be enough ? I wondered, before we left on our weekend getaway.

Well eh – after the trip -I’m here withdrawing my stand ! 25 hours was just perfect – we maximized time to the maximum possible extent that we covered all the must see places ! Loved this trip…absolutely !

Brunei as such is not a sought after tourist destination in South East Asia – We can generally hear of people holidaying at Bali(Indonesia) or Phuket(Thailand) or Lankawi (Malaysia) . I was wondering if it was really worth the dollars spent at Brunei but at the end of the trip I realize Brunei has much to offer in a short span. We rented out a car, sketched a schedule and had the most memorable experience of getting lost without a GPS or map and finding our way back to the hotel in an unknown country…

Brunei is predominantly an Islamic country with a total population of just 4 lakh inclusive of non-citizens. It’s an oil rich country and the people have great reverence for their Sultan.

Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque : This mosque was at walk able distance from the Jubilee Hotel, where we stayed. This is the first ever mosque I’ve entered in my entire life…I’d always want to visit a mosque but in Bangalore women are barred from entering mosques – I presume,  My Islamic female friends have told me so…So visiting the Saifuddin Mosque was really special for me.

This mosque stands beside an artificial lake. The structure is just beautiful – Luckily we visited the mosque on the 26th evening just as we reached there for a glimpse of the night view. To gain entry we visited on the 28th morning just before leaving for the airport…Here are the night and day pics…

 

Istana Nurul Iman: This is the Sultan’s Palace. The people of Brunei have great reverence for their Sultan. The Palace is almost hidden behind the Garden and from the gate you hardly get a view of it just as that of the Kaula Lumpur Palace. It was said, that it is opened to the general public only on the festival day of Ramzan.

Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque: Wow..This was a much bigger mosque as compared to the Saifudin mosque. The architecture – the golden domes, the garden was just mind-blowing.  It was closed for maintenance as it was their festival weekend and hence didn’t get a chance to enter.

Kampong Ayer – Venice of East: This amazed me, there is an entire community  in Brunei , who reside on water – Really ! I was so surprised – They live on water doesn’t mean they live on water boats..they built their stationary homes on the water. They will have to standout of their doors and wave out to water taxi’s to take them to the land to buy groceries or visit their clinic or go to school – The dentist, a hospital, a school – yaa they have all these on water too.  Such a hassle I thought, but that’s their culture and way of life. Our water taxi driver mentioned that he was born and bred there. This was so unique …Here go the pics :

Tesak Lama Recreational Park: This was more of a hilly mountainous exercise park in the heart of the city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Hidden within the park is a teeny weeny waterfall and M was so happy to see a waterfall for the first time in his life. Luckily we spotted a family of monkeys and M was entertained enough.

Gudong – The Mall: Just the same usual mall’s we get to see in every part of the world. We had our lunch when we visited this mall. Brunei didn’t seem to have any specific cuisine credited to itself, may be because it is so close to Malaysia. We just got to see the Singapore/Malaysian food on the menu.

The Empire Hotel Country Club : This was just awesome. The Empire Hotel Country Club is built on a beach with an amazing view. Tourists just enter through the country club to see this amazing view of the beach with a few islands placed so strategically by nature. I’m glad we visited this place. I would recommend this attraction to everyone who visits Brunei.

Royal Regalia Museum: The museum holds most of the memorabilia presented to the Sultan from different parts of the world . The Sultan’s childhood pics, the Royal clothes, The Royal procession chariot and such. Worth a stroll inside…

Jerudong Park : This was a more of a fun for kids park opened in the evenings. Carousel, Toy Train…Kids games and fun. I must say that M was such a sport during the trip…he enjoyed his flight, enjoyed the places we visited, walked long distances, enjoyed the boat ride to the max, ate whatever we ordered and had fun. M has become more of our friend than our baby !

Tips for Brunei visitors :

1. Singapore Currency and Brunei Dollar are tied to each other, which means that they can be used interchangeably. 1 SGD = 1 Brunei Dollar.

2. Hiring a Car and driving around costs a lot less than hiring taxi’s. Bandar Seri Begawan is a small city and driving around with instructions from people around can get you visiting most of the above mentioned places with ease. It’s best to self drive when you are travelling with a kid. M got to sleep at the back seat during our drive’s from one tourist spot to the other !

3. If you are planning a Brunei trip to Bandar Seri Begawan, you will surely not need more than 2 full days. A short trip is most ideal.

4. If you are entering a mosque it is best for both men and women to have your head covered to offer respect to the religious place of worship . Carry a Dupatta handy and you can literally feel the respect a woman with her head covered gets !

5. Be enthralled by the most friendly people you can ever meet. People of Brunei are always full of smiles and they warmly welcome outsiders 🙂

I hope you agree with me…A short trip to Brunei was not a bad idea after all ?

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