Bandar Seri BegaWandering: 3 Spectacular Sights in Brunei’s Capital City

Asia — By on June 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

By Chantal and Carolyn Moclair
Exclusive to the Lost Girls

Before visiting, the only thing we knew about Bandar Seri Begawan was that it is the capital of Brunei, one of the smallest countries in the world. Small turned out to be an understatement, as it took us longer to say “Bandar Seri Begawan” than to actually walk around the city central. An hour and half was all we needed to discover some of the most fascinating sights and to realize this city was unlike any other capital city we’ve ever visited.  While there, we learned some interesting facts, such as the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in the country, the food is great, the people are friendly (all two that we met!), it has one of the only 7-Star hotels in the world; made entirely of gold, and the youth hostel doesn’t check their e-mail.  (We’re talking to you, Pusat Belia!  We’re still waiting on a reply on whether or not we can stay there, and we’ve been back home in Canada for quite some time!) All joking aside, we really enjoyed being in Brunei and  compiled a list of our top three favorite things for future Bandar Seri BegaWanderers. 

The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque1) The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque:  As we walked along the Jalan Sultan (Sultan Street) towards our first tourist pit-stop, formally titled Masjid Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, we were pleasantly surprised by the sensational sculptures that lined the streets. It was thrilling to look from left to right at the unique and unexpected figures, of varying colors and shapes. We particularly enjoyed snapping a few photos of the flower statues and circular sculptures.  Wandering around, we passed by the Royal Regalia Building, and turned onto Jalan Elizabeth 2. We walked by the Secretariat Building, which is the Prime Minister’s office, and the Radio Television Brunei building, but as we turned to look across the street, we saw what we had been eagerly anticipating: The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, built in 1958. Seeing pictures of the mosque pales in comparison to being in the presence of the real thing.  We felt as if we’d been transported into the Disney movie Aladdin, and were standing in front of the Sultan of Agraba’s palace. In our opinion, the golden dome, the white walls, the swirling pillars, the beautiful fountains outside and the lagoon beside the mosque housing the Ceremonial Barge work together to make this one of the most magical mosques in the world. The walk to the mosque is great and the mosque itself is a can’t-miss sight for future Bandar Seri Begawanderers.

Kampong Ayer Water Village2) Kampong Ayer Water Village:  As we walked along the Sungai Brunei (Brunei river) on Jalan McArthur, we looked across the water at a section of Kampong Ayer water village, a national heritage sight in Brunei Darussalam.  Nicknamed the “Venice of the East,” the water village stretches five miles along the Brunei river and is made up of houses on stilts.  We were curious about the place, and when a water taxi operator asked if we wanted to explore the water village, we readily accepted and negotiated a fair price.  While touring around Kampong Ayer, we were amazed to learn that the water village houses almost 40,000 residents, and amazed to see the police stations, mosques, schools and clinics that make up this water village, connected by bridges and walkways.  Kampong Ayer is unlike any sight we’ve ever seen, and we highly recommend setting sail along the Sungai Brunei to explore this wonderful water village. 

3) Ulu Temburong National Park: the final sight we recommend is technically not in Bandar Seri Begawan, but is definitely worth the trek away from the capital city; A day trip to Ulu Temburong National Park!  We booked our eight hour day tour through our hotel and by 8:00 a.m. we were aboard a mini-bus headed toward the water taxi jetty.  The water taxi met our longboat in Temburong and we proceeded upriver into the lush rainforests of Borneo, into the National Park.  On our tour we learned that around 40% of Temburong, a district of Brunei, is occupied by Ulu Temburong National Park, and that the National Park is considered to be one of the best preserved rainforests in Borneo.  Memorable highlights of the tour included seeing the suspension bridge, trekking the 1200 or so steps up to the Canopy Walkway (where we were stalked by a giant wasp), climbing the wobbly aluminum staircase of the Canopy to see panoramic views above the treetops, jumping in the water fully-clothed at a nearby waterfall, trying not to cringe as the guide kept pointing out tarantula nests on our walking tour, and taking a tour around a hotel in the middle of the rainforest.  By 4:00 p.m. we were back at the Bandar Seri Begawan water taxi jetty, and extremely happy we ventured out into Ulu Temburong National Park.  This fun-filled day of adventure was definitely worth it, and we highly recommend it to future Brunei tourists.

Overall, we really enjoyed our short jaunt to Brunei.  Bandar Seri Begawan is as serene as a capital city can get, and it was an interesting place to explore.  It was very unique, and we will definitely consider returning to Brunei one day to further our Bandar Seri Begawandering!

Chantal and Carolyn Moclair are identical twin sisters with a great love of travel!  They were bitten by the travel bug at the early age of three months old while in Brazil for their first trip abroad.  Twenty two years later, they’ve traveled to 40 different countries with no plans of stopping. Recently graduated from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada with an undergraduate degree in Honors Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice and Public Policy, they will soon be embarking on another adventure:  Completing a year-long Master’s Degree in Publishing at Kingston University in London, England.  They both have big plans for the future, hoping to embark on a Lost Girls journey of their own one day. Follow them on twitter @MoclairTwins.

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