B is for Brunei and….that’s about it.
Joking, joking, but Brunei is renowned for being perhaps the most boring country in the world. Primarily this seems to be because Brunei doesn’t really care about tourism. They’ve pretty much got it made, with 99% of their exports being oil and natural gas. For a country with only 400,000 citizens, they’re estimated to be the 5th richest country in the world. That’s insane! But what to do in Brunei?
What to Do in Brunei
The main point of this post is for me to find something in Brunei that warrants more than 48 hours there. I feel as though every blogger has tried and failed. However, I also feel I am likely different in that I generally like a good day or two to relax in any place just wandering around. However, you’re probably not interested in my reading a book for 12 hours straight while in a foreign country so we’ll find some other stuff to do!
Brunei is on the island of Borneo, which is divided between three countries; Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Of these three countries, Brunei is the one by far the most committed to preserving their forests. Not only that, but they are fairly committed to preserving their Pangolin species, which are endangered (but adorable).
Ulu Temburong National Park is in the more mountainous and least populated area of Brunei (although it’s still only about 2 hours away from the capital where over 1/4 of the population lives!). While this park is fairly large, visitors are restricted to only a tiny part of it. You also will need a guide, which is unfortunate, but necessary because humans are generally awful people (sadly). There look to be wonderful canopy walks and glowing mushrooms! I love mushrooms <3 Because I’m me, I’d choose a tour which had an overnight option in the jungle. I think it’d be rather fun to take one of the nighttime walks in the park.
Bandar Seri Begawan
One could not get away with a post about Brunei without mentioning its capital. As previously mentioned, it’s by far and away where the majority of the people live. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I like taking river or boat cruises when I can. I’m not terribly fond of buses and for some reason the added element of water makes it so much more fascinating than your typical hop-on hop-off tour bus. The capital has water taxis, which will likely give you the best view of the largest private residence/palace in the world, belonging to the Sultan of Brunei.
I think the best place to stay would be in the Water Village (one of the largest on-stilt villages in the world) where 40,000 people live. At Kunyit 7 Lodge, there looks to be a nice homestay option. A free trip to the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is a must, and it is the featured image for this post! Tamu Pasar Besar Gadong Night Market looks to be a great stop to try some more traditional Brunei foods. Trying the most famous Brunei food, Ambuyat, seems almost a necessity. It’s made from sago palms! We used to have those outside our house in Florida 😀
Diving in Brunei is also a good option and if I ever manage to get my scuba license I’ll definitely use it here! The waters and wildlife are meant to be very well preserved and less tourist-y than other nearby countries.
What you Should Know
Dressing relatively conservatively seems to be a good idea. Brunei has some enforcement of Sharia law, the only country in east Asia to do so. LGBT rights are non-existent, there is no freedom of speech (you cannot speak ill of the sultan), and you can only have access to alcohol during certain events and circumstances. However, it is unlikely to effect a tourist’s travel there. Knee-length bottoms and shirts with shoulders will be just fine, no need for a headscarf (unless you want to).
As a former protectorate of Great Britain, everyone here speaks English. However, if you speak Malay you may be able to get by although the dialect of Melayu Brunei is more prominent and the two are not generally mutually intelligible. I would like to visit the Tutong district of Brunei, as Tutong is a minority language spoken by about 17,000 people in Brunei!
The Brunei dollar is tied to the Singapore dollar, and either currency can be used in both Singapore and Brunei. Brunei is a fairly expensive place to stay based on backpacking standards. $50 a night is fairly standard although there are a few options out there for cheaper.
Based on what I’ve discovered, I don’t see why I couldn’t comfortably fill 5-6 days in Brunei. I’m sure I’d choose another daytrip, perhaps to visit Tutong or one of the other nature parks.
This is a Series!
Now that I know all the countries in the world and where they are, I want to actually learn about them! As a part of this series I want to choose a country from every letter of the alphabet I don’t know enough about, and write about it. Details on things I might want to do, a little history maybe, a bit of the language? Who knows! I think it’s important, as a traveler, to be cognizant of the different cultures in the world.
Check out my last post: A is for Azerbaijan