Sightseeing in Brunei: A day of downtown sightseeing in Bandar Seri Begawan - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sightseeing in Brunei: A day of downtown sightseeing in Bandar Seri Begawan

As the travel enthusiast I am I always seek to explore new places I haven't yet been to. When I was in university I would spend my holiday backpacking South-East Asia, and recent years I've had the pleasure of visiting countries like Myanmar, Palao, the Philippines and the Maldives.
This year my darling and I decided to try out yet another unknown terrain; the Empire of Brunei. Doing our usual light research online (I usually don't do much research, as I prefer to go to a new destination with an open mind and just see what I stumble upon while I'm there) we soon figured out that there weren't many sources that could help us on the way. Hopefully, my series of posts about Brunei can be of help to some of you out there considering a visit to this beautiful country.

Above: The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
We stayed in Brunei for 5 days, and one of the things we did during the stay was the mandatory visit to the capital city Bandar Seri Begawan. For the first half of our trip, we stayed at the Palm Garden Hotel, which was located a 30 min walk from the city center. Although our hotel offered free transportation service we figured it would be nice to walk to town on the first day to explore our surroundings a bit.

There wasn't too much to see on our way to the city though; the streets lay quiet and few people were to see on the street. Brunei is one of Asia's richest countries in terms of GDP per capita and having made its fortune on oil the country enjoys an abundance of black gold, with gasoline being extremely cheap here in comparison to other commodities. On our way walking towards the city center we were surpassed by a number of fancy cars, all of them seemingly brand new. It was clear that most people here get around by car.

Above: On our way, we passed by the Royal Regalia Building, established in 1992 as a part of the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the Sultan's coronation as the king of Brunei

After having walked around 20 min or so we reached the downtown area of Bandar Seri Begawan where a number of important buildings such as the Royal Regalia Building and the Brunei History Centre Pusat Sejarah Brunei are located. Unfortunately, the museum was closed this day, but we took a break by the Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien venue grounds (named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei), watching as the local kids were playing around. Here we were yet again reminded about the powerful sultans of Brunei, with a giant picture of the current Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah in the middle of the field.

From Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien we continued our stroll to the nearby Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a mosque that was named after Brunei's current Sultan's late father. The mosque is surrounded by an artificial lagoon, and its lavish interior consists of the finest Italian marble, chandeliers from England and luxurious carpets from Saudi Arabia.

Above: The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque seen from the other side of Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien
The mosque is open to visitors of any background from 8.30 - noon, 13.30-15:00 & 16.30-17.30 in between Saturday to Wednesday, but stays closed on Thursdays & Fridays. Foreigners are also allowed to enter the mosque to gaze upon its beauty as long as one has an appropriate attire, but luckily the guards will lend you clothes to put on before entering if necessary. It is not allowed to take photos inside the mosque, but the guardians kindly offered to take our photo with the inside of the mosque in the background.

We took some minutes to enjoy the tranquility of the mosque before continuing our exploration of the surrounding area, including the artificial pond on the backside of the mosque.

We continued our stroll towards the downtown area and soon discovered that it was smaller than what we're used to seeing when visiting the Japanese countryside. Besides a shopping mall and some restaurants there really wasn't that much to see here.

Above: The local Hua Ho Department Store
We walked down to the riverside where we could gaze upon the Kampong Ayer village on the other side, a village that is said to contain the largest stilt settlement in Asia. This time we didn't get the chance to visit so this will have to wait till we get another chance to visit Brunei.

Above: The Mercu Dirgahayu 60 was presented as a gift from the people of Brunei to the current Sultan on his 60th birthday in 2007.
Walking back to our hotel we agreed that one day to explore the city center of Bandar Seri Begawan had been enough for us. We did come back for some of the museums, but the area surrounding our hotel also had some shopping malls and restaurants, so we ended up spending more time there than we originally had expected.

Above: The Brunei River, seen from Edinburgh Bridge
That's all for now, but Brunei still had numerous exciting adventures waiting for us, and we spent the upcoming days visiting local markets and taking day-trips to the rainforest to see the native Iban tribe, all which I'll get back to in my next posts.

 Basic Info
  • ・Brunei Darussalam - Bandar Seri Begawan
  • ・Places mentioned in this post: The Royal Regalia Building, Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien, the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the Hua Ho Department Store, Mercu Dirgahayu 60

Related blog posts

Recommended Hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan

The Empire Hotel and Country Club
The Empire Hotel
 → review
The Brunei Hotel
The Brunei Hotel
Star Lodge
Star Lodge
Palm Garden Hotel
Palm Garden Hotel
→ review

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Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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