Brunei has long been synonymous with opulence and oil money. And, in fact, there’s little that immediately counteracts that image in this nation of shimmering whitewashed mosques and golden-tipped minarets. In the west and all around the well-to-do capital at Bandar Seri Begawan, you’ll see nodding donkeys and the industrial workings of the sultanate’s petroleum industry. You’ll spot rich arabesque palaces and ambitious building projects erupting on every corner.
But let’s not forget that this is Borneo either; and with Borneo comes real wildernesses. We’re talking dense rainforests and volcanic peaks. We’re talking rustic villages of longhouses and the occasional sighting of an uber-rare clouded leopard! Granted, you’ll have to head deep into the southern or eastern recesses of the nation for those, but there are always – tantalizingly – there.
So, with everything from buzzing markets to monkey-trodden jungles, check out this list of the best places to visit in Brunei:
1. Bandar Seri Begawan
Bandar Seri Begawan (or just BSB) is perhaps the most richly-adorned capital you’ve never heard of.
Home to just 50,000 people, it’s a pint-sized lesson in how oil money can change the world.
Having been transformed in the last century, from a seaside trading town to the gilded epicenter of drilling and home of the great Sultan of Brunei, the town hosts wondrous – if a tad gaudy – sights like the gold-tipped Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the colossal Istana Nurul Iman, which holds the world record for the largest governmental building on the globe.
There’s also fascinating Islamic craft on display in the Brunei Museum, and oodles of shopping to be had in the malls of Gadong.
2. Ulu Temburong National Park
The revered Green Jewel of Brunei, Ulu Temburong sits nestled deep in the recesses of the country’s eastern exclave.
A veritable mecca for ecotourists and wildlife lovers, it’s been hailed across the globe as a fine example of state-sponsored conservation.
In all, it covers a whopping 550 square kilometers of primeval rainforest, and hosts the exotic likes of rhinoceros hornbills and swinging gibbon colonies.
Visitors who make their way here can enjoy safaris on specially constructed rope bridges in the canopies, which offer a unique perspective atop the old growth jungle.
3. Kampong Ayer
Sat smack bang in the middle of the winding Brunei River as it weaves through the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, this standalone area of the city can be seen as a destination in its own right.
Also known as, simply, the water village, it’s formed completely by homes that jut just above the channels on stilts.
Many are connected with rickety boardwalks, and play host to happy local families who love showing unexpected visitors around.
The only way to reach Kampong Ayer is by flagging down a water taxi from the banks in BSB.
4. Pekan Tutong
Pekan Tutong (that’s just Tutong Town in English) is the regional hub for the whole Tutong District – the area found immediately to the east of Bandar Seri Begawan on the northern edge of Brunei.
Located right on the edge of the South China Sea, it’s home to a clutch of acclaimed schools and a few good guesthouses.
However, the major pull is surely the golden stretch of sand that lines the city at Seri Kenangan.
This sparkling, wide beach runs along the courses of the Tutong River, and plays host to enticing beach bars and seafood restaurants as it goes – it’s surely one of the top places for sun, sand and sea in all of Brunei.
5. Kuala Belait
Rubbing shoulders with Malaysian Sarawak on the very western edge of Brunei, this oil-fed town of nodding donkeys offers an image of the Brunei of the modern age.
Bustling and packed with business folk who’ve come from afar to seek out petroleum beneath the ground, it’s also home to the famous teapot roundabout.
It’s also got its very own beachfront, which finds its zenith with the welcoming little park at Silver Jubilee.
For food, shopping and souvenirs, also be sure to make a beeline for the Tudong Saji: a bazaar that erupts after dark with fish dishes and Asian crafts.
Bustling with the biggest bazaars and marketplaces in all of Brunei, the area of Gadong – officially a separate town, though much more like a suburb of the capital at Bandar Seri Begawan – is the place to go for shopping in this small Asian nation.
Start with the huge malls, which are packed with electronics sellers and high-street fashion outlets, not to mention the only McDonald’s brand in the country (hence the perpetual queue!). And when the evening comes, it’s time to hit the energetic night market, which throbs with smelly fish stalls and stir-fry stands, the fragrances of tamarind and ginger and chili and soy all wafting through the air.
Muara juts out into the South China Sea with its own needle-shaped finger of land, forming the western end of the populous Brunei and Muara District.
Known primarily as one of the sultanate’s top beach towns, its home to a great stretch of golden sand and a clutch of picnic spots and playgrounds for those with kids in tow (look for the manicured lawns of the Muara Beach Recreational Park). Other pleasant walks can be had along the palm-dotted spit of Serasa Beach to the south, while views out across the ferry-dotted ocean are to die for.
8. Andulau Forest Reserve
A sea of waxy palms and ancient teak trees awaits travelers in the Andulau Forest Reserve, which sits neatly placed in the midst of Brunei, just a short jaunt east from the capital.
Made famous by the proliferation of old growth evergreen woods that dominates its interior, the area is also endowed with wild, muddy rivers and crashing waterfalls with splash pools for swimming.
Don’t expect to see many locals here (it’s one of the least-populated parts of the Sultanate), unless – that is – you mean tropical creatures in the ilk of rare clouded leopards and monkeys overhead!
One of the few towns to be found in Brunei’s exclave of Temburong, Bangar represents the administrative and commercial heart of this detached district in the east.
A small and compact place, it is well-connected to the capital at Bandar Seri Begawan by speed boat, which can be seen departing from the jetties of the riverside harbors here from morning until night.
The real draw of this place is surely the wild rainforests that lurk on the edges of town, with the legendary Labu Forest and the aforementioned Ulu Temburong National Park both on the menu.
However, it’s also a good spot to meet the locals and get to grips with the wilder character of the eastern region.
Nestled deep in the south-western corner of the Sultanate, little Labi town is one of the top spots for ecotourists heading to Brunei.
Essentially just a clutch of bamboo homes and rain-doused villages, it sits right on the edge of the wild Labi Forest Reserve.
That means guests get to keep company with gibbons and geckos and all manner of other woodland fauna, all whilst seeking out gushing waterfalls and swamps and hidden forest trekking trials.
A smattering of good nature lodges can be found in the village, while nearby Terawan and Tarunan also have other guesthouse options of their own.
Roughly contiguous with the aforementioned town of Kuala Belait, Seria also makes its home on the northern coastline of Brunei, where the sands and the city promenades dip down into the South China Sea.
Now famed for its wealth of prolific oil wells, the area is peppered with nodding donkeys and the recognizable relics of that decades-old petroleum industry.
In fact, Seria’s very history has been defined by oil since the very beginning, with WWII battles between the Allies and the Japanese taking place here as the two powers vied for control of Brunei’s rich petroleum wealth.
12. Labi Forest Reserve
Named for the small village on its periphery, the vast reserves of the Labi Forest range from the south-western flats of Brunei to the borderlands where the Gunung Mulu park of Malaysia crashes down from the Borneo highlands.
It’s a wild and untamed place, offering breathtaking viewpoints over the tops of the jungles, the gushing waterfalls of Wasai Kadir, and chances to see rare rainforest creatures on the trails.
Another major pull are the traditional longhouses of the Iban folk, which line the dirt tracks close to the reserve.
Jerudong is a flash place of neon signs and in-your-face attractions, located just on the edge of the ocean and directly west of central Bandar Seri Begawan.
Although now largely contiguous with the capital, the suburb has its own distinct character; largely thanks to the brightly-lit casinos and flamboyant gaming halls that line up along the streets by the bucket load.
The go-getter vibe is carried on by one mind-boggling roundabout shaped like a giant diamond ring, not to mention the countless theme parks and manmade beaches, where loop-de-loops meet babbling water fountains and country clubs.
14. Tasek Merimbun
Surrounded by the protected hinterland of the Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park (one of the top conservation areas in the sultanate as a whole), this huge lake – the largest natural lake in the country, no less – draws in visitors with the promise of unique flora and fauna.
Around its tiger lily-spotted banks, you’ll see age-old skiffs docked on weathered jetties, all of which are shrouded by the blooming greens of the jungle canopy.
It’s there where the white-collared fruit bats flit between the branches; there where the clouded leopards and the red leaf monkeys stalk the undergrowth.
15. Hutan Simpan Bukit Ladan
Another fine example of Brunei’s lush and verdant backcountry comes in the form of the Hutan Simpan Bukit Ladan park, which buts up to the Malay border on the western edge of Tutong District.
Be sure to pack one sturdy and sure pair of walking boots for this one, because the trails often come caked in mud and slippery as they pierce deep into the jungles.
You’ll be able to seek out interesting blooms of orchids between the fern fields, wonder at colossal teak trees caked in moss, and even take a canopy walk that lets you survey the vast hills from atop the rainforests that blanket them.
Source : thecrazytourist.com