The Sultanate of Brunei is a very small Southeast Asian country located in the island of Borneo. It shares a border with Malaysia, and is a few hours’ drive from Miri and Limbang in the Malaysian State of Sarawak. The capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan, is about 228 kilometres away from Kota Kinabalu, roughly 6 hours by land.
Despite its proximity to Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries, Brunei remains to be one of the most overlooked destinations in the region. There’s not much buzz about the country in the travel community and many think that there’s nothing to do there that’s why it is almost always skipped.
However, what a lot of people don’t know is that Brunei boasts of beautiful beaches and coastlines, majestic structures, and great food, making it stopover-worthy. While it’s not included in most travellers’ must-visit list, it is one destination you just might enjoy. Below are the reasons why you should visit Brunei Darussalam.
1. Brunei has a very relaxed atmosphere.
If you thrive on busy, frenetic, noisy, and chaotic travel destinations like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, then Brunei is not for you because you will not experience any of that in the country. The overall atmosphere in Brunei is relaxed and unhurried. There’s no rush in going to and from the workplace, like what you’d normally see in cosmopolitan cities. No jostling or competing for seats in buses or other modes of public transportation. A fast-paced lifestyle is simply not the norm in Brunei.
Because Brunei is such a wealthy nation, it is able to provide for its citizens. The result is a population that’s calm, contented, happen even. Well, they should be because their country’s welfare system is so great that they pay no taxes, and have access to free education, free healthcare services, free cooking gas, housing and food subsidies, subsidized petrol and commodities, and an attractive pension scheme. If that won’t make the locals happy, nothing probably will.
The country’s comprehensive welfare system is also the reason why you won’t find homeless people or beggars in Brunei. You can stay there for an extended vacation and won’t ever encounter a child or a mendicant asking for spare change.
2. Brunei is far from touristy.
Brunei may not have the allure of other more popular travel destinations in Asia but one thing you can be sure of is that it is absolutely not touristy. You can explore the city of Bandar Seri Begawan on foot or visit attractions without literally rubbing elbows with other tourists. A lot of people may find this a disadvantage but come to think of it, this also means no opportunistic individuals like taxi drivers or tour operators who prey on unsuspecting tourists. Plus, the attractions won’t be crowded. and there will be no one to ruin your best shots of a mosque or the Sultan’s palace with perfectly timed photobombs.
3. Brunei allows for an immersive cultural experience.
Because you are able to explore Brunei at a leisurely pace, your cultural experience is more authentic. The economy is not dependent on the tourism industry, so the attractions exist to preserve culture and tradition. There are no massive integrated tourist traps that attempt to attract and milk money from foreign visitors. You get to experience the country’s traditional culture by observing the locals, dining at a local eatery, or visiting mosques and museums at your own pace. Unlike other cities in Asia, you don’t have to travel to a remote village to experience Brunei’s culture as well.
4. Brunei is clean, peaceful, and safe.
Brunei is very peaceful and safe, making it an ideal travel destination even for female solo travellers. The crime rate is low so you can explore the city, even at night, with moderate caution.
Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol is restricted for non-Muslims (it is illegal for Muslims) so you are less likely to encounter people showing drunk and disorderly behavior in Brunei. The state also imposes harsh penalties on drug-related countries.
It is also very clean as the government is committed to maintaining cleanliness and providing top-notch welfare services for its citizens.
5. Brunei has many attractions to offer.
Contrary to what you may think, there are sights to see, places to visit, and interesting things to do in Brunei. Topping Brunei’s list of attractions are the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the Istana Nurul Iman (Sultan’s Palace), and the Kampung Ayer.
The mosques and the Sultan’s Palace are beautiful and majestic, and definitely worth visiting. The Kampung Ayer, on the other hand, is Brunei’s famous village on stilts. Located on the Brunei river, this very old water village is said to be the largest of its kind in the whole world.
Other noteworthy destinations in Brunei include the Regalia Royal Museum, the Brunei Museum, and the Malay Technology Museum.
6. Shopping is the favourite pastime in Brunei.
Because nightlife is close to nonexistent in Brunei, shopping is arguably Brunei’s favourite pastime. There are markets, malls, and shopping centres to satisfy your retail therapy needs. Not to be missed during your trip to Brunei is the shopping scene at Gadong, the commercial centre in Brunei that’s about 5 kilometres away from Bandar Seri Begawan. Check out the ‘The Mall,” an eight-storey shopping and entertainment complex.
7. Food is awesome in Brunei.
The food in Brunei is a mix of Indian, Malaysia, Singaporean, Chinese, and Indonesian cuisines. Must-trys during your visit are nasi goreng, ayam penyet, roti, kolo mee, chicken laksa meehoon, nasi katok, rending, and assam pedas.
Brunei has an emerging food scene so you won’t have a problem finding good halal or non-halal restaurants and eateries.
8. Brunei boasts of a string of natural attractions.
Brunei offers a range of natural attractions, the most popular of them are the beaches in Muara, and the Ulu Temburong National Park. Muara Beach, in the town of Muara, is popular for its mile-long strip of white sand and family-friendly amenities. Ulu Temburong National Park, on the other hand, is the country’s first national park, popular for its Canopy Walkway that provides visitors with spectacular views of the lush Bornean rainforest from over 60 metres above the forest floor.
Another attraction in Brunei is the proboscis monkey. Proboscis monkeys are large-nosed monkeys that are endemic in Borneo. You can spot these monkeys if you join a river cruise that will take you through the length of the Brunei River.
Getting ready for your tour in Southeast Asia? Check out the tours and excursions in Brunei and other countries on Travezl.com.
By: Brendelyn Balaga