Brunei, The Heart of Borneo
Two Reasons Why You Should Visit Brunei Darussalam
1. Location - Do you know where Brunei is located?
Brunei is one of a the smallest countries in the world and is located in the heart of the island of Borneo. Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It's located at the geographic center of Southeast Asia, north of Java island, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra.
The island of Borneo is politically divided into three countries: Malaysia 26%, Indonesia 73%, and Brunei 1% in the north. Borneo it's home of one of the oldest and most dense rain forests in the world and it is best accessed through Brunei. Brunei's rain forest has recently become famous among travelers for its beautiful trekking trails and various extreme adventure activities along the island.
2. Royalty - What type of government does this country have?
Brunei is one of the few Sultanates left in the world! At the peak of the Bruneian Empire, Sultan Bolkiah (reigned 1485–1528) is alleged to have had control over most regions of Borneo. Brunei was visited by Spain's Magellan expedition in 1521 and fought against Spain in the 1578.
During the 19th century, the Bruneian Empire began to decline. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. During World War II, Brunei suffered from Japanese occupation and in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British and in 1984, Brunei finally gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
Economic growth sparked during the 1990s and 2000s and transformed Brunei into an industrialized country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei is the most developed South East Asian country, after Singapore. All this history and economic development has made this country a hot destination in recent years.
About my Trip
When I was planning my SEA trip, I decided to incorporate Brunei because despite the fact that it is a small country, it is rich in culture and has some beautiful landmarks. Based on what I wanted to see, two days were sufficient. I decided to book two nights only at LeGallery Suites Hotel and the cost per night was about $35 USD. I took a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brunei with AirAsia.Com - World's Best Low Cost Airline, landed in the late afternoon on day 1, and after dinner I immediately went to sleep since I was exhausted from a red eye the day prior.
The next morning I booked a private car through my hotel to take me around the city. The first stop was Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque - Wikipedia. I loved the turquoise color tiles throughout this mosque. It reminded me to the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. I spent about two hours there in the late morning and took several photos (see below). It was the perfect time to be there after the morning rush and right before the afternoon call to prayer at 1pm. I recommend that if you are doing a day trip or 2 day trip you visit this mosque either on your way from or to the airport as it is only a couple of kilometers away. However, if you do not get a chance to do so, do not worry, Brunei is a small city and won't take more than 15 minutes to get there from wherever you are.
After my visit to Jame' air mosque, I headed off to Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque - Wikipedia, the famous "Sultan's Mosque." My driver dropped me off there and I'd spend the rest of the day exploring the city on my own. I arrived just in time for the call to prayer (which I wanted to be part of); however, they didn't allow me in since it was a Friday. As in many Muslim countries, Friday is the sacred day and the call to prayer here is reserved exclusively for Muslims. This is something I completely overlooked and later regretted, so make sure to keep this in mind if this is something you want to experience. I waited outside in the beautiful gardens and took some pictures of the front of the mosque instead.
About Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque...
This beautiful piece of architecture was completed in 1958, Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien – named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei (the late father of the current Sultan). This mosque is surrounded by an artificial lagoon that serves as a reflecting pool. The interior is pretty lavish. The floor and walls are made from the finest Italian marble, the chandeliers were crafted in England and the luxurious carpets were flown in from Saudi Arabia. A 3.5-million-piece glass mosaic overlaying real gold leaf covers the main dome.
The mosque's 52m minaret makes it the tallest building in the city as ordered by the Sultan. A few years ago, the nearby Islamic Bank of Brunei building exceeded this height and so the Sultan ordered that the top floors removed. The ceremonial stone boat sitting in the lagoon is a replica of a 16th-century mahligai (royal barge) where Quran-reading competitions were once held.
After spending a few hours wondering around this mosque, I headed off to the river, where I found a restaurant and had some local Bruneian dishes. I observed the boats caring people in and out of the floating island (town) as the sun was setting. After dinner, I walked around a local food market and enjoyed the smell of fresh seafood and the colorful dishes of Bruneian cuisine. I enjoyed a local dessert before heading back to my hotel.
I took a local bus Brunei-Muara Public Bus Routes : Brunei - Reddit and within 15 minutes I was dropped off in front of my hotel safely. I spent my last night meeting some locals at the restaurant next to my hotel while enjoying a cup of Sumatran coffee.
The next morning, bright and early I took a flight to Kuala Lumpur and then to Manila, The Philippines. Two days were exactly the time I needed to spend in Brunei. Some people choose to stay longer and go trekking in the rain forest, which I would have loved to do but given time constraints I was unable to do it. If you are interested on such activities, here is a useful link https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjsuvuz9_rVAhXhhlQKHeDOCa4QFghsMAU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.freme.com%2Fbruneitours%2F&usg=AFQjCNEN278pe_an0cEMufF8N4SAteBfMQ.
I recommend visiting Brunei Darussalam if you are planning a SEA trip. Although it is similar to Malaysia, it is different in that it is a Sultanate and you can feel the sense of "Royalty" all around. It's rich culture can be appreciated all over the country with elegant architecture, exquisite flavors, and a royal experience. I hope you enjoyed this post and it inspires you to plan a future trip to Brunei.