Brunei – a tiny country with a lot of history. Alot of travellers overlook tiny Brunei. I mean, they can be forgiven. It is sandwiched between two of the most adventure packed states of Sarawak and Sabah.
Brunei used to be a very powerful nation back in it’s day, but over time the sultanate lost more and more of it’s territory to the territories which would eventually become modern day Sabah and Sarawak. However, Brunei is no backwater. This tiny country is a wealthy nation, and bases it’s economy on oil resources. The city is clean and modern. In fact, the median income for people living in Brunei is comparable with Australia.
24 Hours in Brunei
There is not a huge focus on tourism in Brunei, and you can easily see the main sights in one day.
What do you get the Sultan who has everything? If you ever need to present a gift to the Sultan of Brunei, and you want to make sure he doesn’t already have something like it already, you better head to the Royal Regalia museum. A stop here, at this immense and beautiful building is a must to be able to comprehend the richness of this country.
The museum is free and beautifully air conditioned. You will not be allowed to take any photos, but lockable lockers are provided free of charge. As you wander the halls of this building you will see ceremonial objects, photos of the Sultans lives, and of course, all of the gifts given to the Sultan by different nations.
After visiting the Royal Regalia museum, head down Jalan Stoney to the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. The most impressive mosque in the city centre, this immense white and gold building is surrounded by a moat. If the water is still, you can get some amazing reflections of the mosque in the water. There was a bit of a breeze when I visited, but you can still see some of the reflection in the photos.
After stopping to admire the mosque, head to the waterfront. This is a great place for a stroll or to sit and relax and enjoy the cool breeze off the water. On the other side of the waterfront you will see a bunch of houses on stilts. There is an entire community that lives out here on the water, and you will soon be able to explore it.
As you meander down the waterfront, you will without a doubt, be approached by all sorts of men in small boats offering river tours. You will definitely want to take them up on it. Don’t worry, you won’t have any trouble finding a guide. All you need to do is get within one meter of the waterfront, and you will have already been spotted by a prospective guide.
Negotiate a price and hop in. I was quoted 10 dollars per person for a tour of the water village and palace, and 20 dollars per person to also go and visit the monkeys. I was originally not planning to visit the monkeys, but was talked into it. I wish I had brought my telephoto lens, but nevermind!
You will first visit some of the water village. The houses look a little haphazard and run down, but all classes and incomes live here. The village is totally self sufficient. It has it’s own school, sports stadium, police station, and fire brigade… all up on stilts. If you want to explore further you can catch a water taxi here and wander the rickety bridges and walkways.
You will then head past the back of the Sultans palace. The thick forest here makes it hard to see much more than the top of the palace. Next you head on wards to the mangrove trees where wild Proboscis monkeys play in the branches. These are the monkeys with awkward looking huge noses. Well actually it is only the males with huge noses. This monkey can only be seen in Borneo, so you don’t want to miss seeing this monkey in the wild.
We visited three mangrove spots with no monkeys. I was starting to worry that we wouldn’t find any. Then finally in our fourth stop we saw five monkeys leaping in the trees. I had left my telephoto lens in the hotel, but I managed to capture a few OK shots.