Due to its compact size, travellers are bound to enjoy exploring Brunei’s capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, since they can do so in less than 24 hours. The following are the places that Gaya Travel Magazine has selected for travellers to understand more about the city and its denizens.
8.30 am: Kianggeh Open-air Market
This wet market where locals buy fresh local produce such as meat, fruit and vegetable has been operational since the 1960s. This is also the best place for travellers to be in touch with the community by witnessing how the locals go about their business, transacting and interacting with each other, besides learning about local ingredients and gastronomy. The market opens daily from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (but closes every Friday from 12:00 noon until 2:00 p.m.).
10.00 am: Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
Being the largest mosque in Brunei, Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, also known as Kiarong Mosque by the locals, is a perfect example of impressive Islamic architecture. It features 29 golden domes made of 29 carat gold, 29 ornate minarets and 29 glittering crystal chandeliers. The interior of this mosque is also resplendent, indicating the country’s wealth. The number ‘29’ symbolises the 29th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who reigns the country since 1967, making him the world’s third-longest reigning monarch, who is also one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The overwhelming size of the mosque can accommodate up to 4,000 worshippers at one time.
11.30 am: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Built on an artificial lagoon on the banks of a river, the mosque is actually the tallest building in the city. It was designed by Italian architect Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli and was made of materials specially flown in from abroad: marble from Italy, granite from China, stained glass and chandeliers from England and handmade carpets from Saudi Arabia. Besides holding large congregation prayers, it is also used as the special place to hold the solemnisation ceremony for Muslim weddings.
1.00 pm: Lunch at Aminah Arif Restaurant
For good old traditional Bruneian cuisine, travellers are recommended to try the ambuyat, a starchy local delicacy made of sago. It is typically eaten using chopsticks called chandas and dipped into sauces such as sambal belacan (grounded chilli mixed with prawn paste, both cooked together), vegetable soup and meat.
2.30 pm: Royal Regalia Museum
A stop at the Royal Regalia Museum is a must when being in Brunei, as traveller can learn about the royal family that rules the country. Opened in 1992, the museum was specially built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s accession to the throne of as Brunei’s reigning Sultan. Here, travellers can learn about the chronology of the Sultan’s life, from his upbringing, education, marriage, travels and coronation to the elaborate gifts offered to the Sultan. The museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., but the museum is closed from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday in observance of Jumaat prayers. Admission is free.
4.00 pm: Kampong Ayer
Travellers can stroll around Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery to learn more about Kampong Ayer’s history, background and what makes the place special. There is no specific opening hours for Kampong Ayer, but we suggest that travellers visit the place from morning till evening when it comes alive with various speedboats crisscrossing the river and locals go about their daily lives. Each single journey to Kampong Ayer from the main jetty costs BND1 per person one way. Some speedboat operators also offer to take travellers to see the Proboscis monkeys at a nearby village at an extra BND10 to BND15.
8.00 pm: Dinner at Gadong Night Market
The night market is the ideal place to visit for travellers to continue experiencing Bruneian gastronomy. We suggest that travellers try the selurut, which is a traditional sweet snack wrapped in cone-shaped young coconut leaf.
10.00 pm: Overnight at The Rizqun International Hotel
Conveniently located in Gadong, Bandar Seri Begawan’s renowned commercial and entertainment district, Rizqun International Hotel is the hotel of choice discerning business and leisure travellers. This luxurious hotel offers opulently appointed guestrooms, spacious meeting and function rooms that can hold various types of events, and a variety of delectable gastronomic offerings served at Rizqun Coffee House such as the divine Creamy Butter Chicken. It has an impressive entrance with grand marble pillars, elegant lobby adorned with fancy chandeliers and regally decorated rooms, giving guests a sense of privilege and entitlement as soon as they step through the door. Room rate at The Rizqun International Hotel starts at BND320 nett. Call +6 73 242 3000 or browse www.rizquninternational.com for more info.
For more information on travelling around Brunei, please contact Freme Travel at www.freme.com.