Sunday, October 7, 2012

Backpacking Brunei: Touring Around the City

As we arrived in Brunei from Labuan Island, my friend's ASEAN summit friend Amiru fetched us at the port. He was with his brother but that was until we arrived. He left us afterwards and we were with Amiru our whole stay in Brunei touring around the city.

It was really convenient that we have someone to go around because in Brunei, there are less public transport since almost everyone owns a car. And I'm not blaming them since gas prices here are very cheap. Surprisingly, even if almost all people there owns a car, there is less traffic. Indeed a haven for car owners.

The capital city of Brunei Darussalam is Bandar Seri Begawan. This is where most of the tourist attractions are. The country is being run by the Sultan Bolkiah. It is relatively a small country but it is very rich thanks to the oil they produce and export to other country. They have taxi and bus that pass by per hour but it is not that abundant since most of the people there have a car.

Streets of Brunei

Our first stop was the Hostel where we will stay. It is located at Bandar Seri Begawan and a few minutes drive from the port. It was a short stop at the hostel. We just paid the fee and left our stuff so we can still go around. Since we still haven't changed currencies, our new friend paid it for us to be paid a few minutes later as we go to town and look for a forex. We stayed at the hostel for a while since we wanted to have lunch before Amiru go to the mosque.

Brunei is a Muslim country and almost all the population there are Muslims. Every Friday, they go to Mosque to pray and to listen to the sermon of the Imam. It is like our Sundays here in the Philippines but for them, this is set at around noon and no one should miss it.

One of the restaurants which serves Nasi Katok

Since it was still around 11am, we decided to eat lunch. Gladys, our Malaysian friend in Labuan said that we should try Nasi Katok there and so, Amiru brought us to a nice place. Good thing the place is still open since some already closed to prepare to go to the Mosque. We had a quick lunch and Amiru returned us to the Hostel to rest a bit while he go to the Mosque. Going there, the Sultan's convoy passed through us. It was customary for the people there to stop and wait for it to pass before resuming driving the road. In that short moment, we saw the Sultan's convoy and had a glimpse of his car. As we arrived at the hotel, we were tired from the previous night, we really slept for an hour before he came back to continue our tour.

Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Our first part of the Brunei tour is the Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. It is the biggest Mosque in the city and it is very beautiful with golden domes above. This Mosque is where the sultan of Brunei go to every time. He has his own entrance with an escalator. Good thing we went there after he just left and so the place is still dressed up for him. Unfortunately, we cannot enter it since it wasn't scheduled for tourist that day, We just decided to go around it.

BDU Campus

One of their new buildings

Their Dorm

Other Buildings in the campus

After the Mosque, Amiru decided to take us to his university. It was a few minutes away from the city and you need to go to the express way on the way there. The Brunei Darussalam University  is really big and it is like UP here. I instantly missed my Alma Mater and wished that it was as pretty as this. They have this nice dorm rooms which looks like condo units. It was really pretty there and we enjoyed touring around.

The Empire

After the BDU tour, Amiru decided to take us to a 6-star hotel there, The Empire. The hotel is very famous here and it was good that you can tour it around even if you're not a guest. We toured around and was amazed by the luxury and beauty of the place. I just wish I could stay for a night there but for the cost, I'd rather travel around on other countries.

In the afternoon, Amiru needed to pray and we decided to hang out at The Mall. It was one of the places where people hang around. We decided to have a snack first and then roam around shops to buy for souvenirs while we waited for our friend. I bought a shot glass for my collection and we just window shopped around while waiting for Amiru. After that, we went back to the Hostel to rest since he also needs to rest. We decided to continue the tour in the evening, since there are a lot more to see.

After another short rest, Amiru was back and he toured us to see the Sultan's palace. We just passed by it and it was really pretty and majestic at night with all the lights around. Also, the Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque was equally pretty at night. I got a photo of it but it was a bit blurred.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Market across the river with the water taxis

After that, we walked along Bandar Seri Begawan to see the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and their Water Village. The Mosque was lighted at night and there is this perfect spot to take photo of it. Good thing we were brought there to take photos.

hello there Jollibee :)

We hanged out at the mall that evening and surprisingly, there is a Jollibee store there. We were so happy to see this bee in a foreign county!

Fishing Area with Amiru and Marvin

Entrance to the Brunei Museum

In the morning, we went back to the mall to see the sites once again and in attempt to buy some more souvenirs. We had breakfast in a small cafe before Amiru once again fetch us for another tour. We went inside the Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque in the morning since we could already enter. After that, we went to the fishing and picnic spot that people there used to hang out. We just stayed there for a while and then went back to see the Brunei Museun where all their history and achievements were showcased. We were supposed to go to the popular theme park Jerudong Park where the royalties play around a long time before but now is open to the public, however, it was closed at that time and so we just went on other places that day.

The Mangrove Paradise Resort Restaurant where we had our last lunch

We had our last lunch there at before we got our stuff from the hostel and Amiru driving us to the airport. We had a last look at the beautiful and rich country of Brunei before we headed for our next stop, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Generally, you can tour Brunei in around one to two days. I am just not sure if you could reach all the places in public transports, and how much it will cost. There are more to see in this place but I am contented in all the places I've seen here. It was a nice experience in Brunei and we are thankful that we had someone to tour us around. It was convenient and we had seen a lot of places there. It was nice to have a new friend there.

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