The golden domes of the Sultan’s magnificent palace proclaim the presence of Asia’s last remaining ruling monarch, who presides over his quiet little kingdom with benevolence. One of its most exciting attractions are its verdant rainforests, which are known (but only among a select few) as one of the best preserved and most accessible jungle escapes in the region.
The Beauty of Brunei
Brunei is a small yet prosperous country situated on the island of Borneo and flanked by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. This oil-rich land is known primarily for the astounding wealth of its Sultan and its inhabitants, where the citizens live a tax-free, heavily-subsidised existence. It comes as no surprise that its population enjoys one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, owing to its wealth of natural resources relative to the size of the country and its population.
Brunei is also well-known for its multi-faceted beauty – a quaint little country with so much aesthetic and intrinsic qualities to offer.
Brunei’s Cultural Beauty
Brunei is a land steeped in culture and traditions – and the Bruneians are quite proud of that fact, too. Brunei embraces the Old Malay World culture, of which practices can still seen in the country today, such as the use of theJawi script – an archaic script consisting of Arabic characters, used as a mode of written communication of the Malays in olden times – in most (written) official communications, official ceremonies, daily customs, and formalities. But although Brunei still holds on tight to its old culture and traditions, it is a vastly modern country in terms of trade, economy and technology – a fact which is the very core of Brunei’s appeal and charms.
In the heart of its strong Malay culture and traditions, lies its strong Islamic foundation. This unique and balanced blend of Malay culture and Islamic practices is the Bruneians’ way of life – a national philosophy, where faith is interspersed with culture – which is the core of its unique cultural identity. But despite the fact that Brunei remains a devout Muslim country, it still maintains a respectful tolerance towards other religions and beliefs. This mutual respect and understanding creates an environment that is both harmonious and stable, fostering unity within the country.
Brunei’s Architectural Beauty
Many buildings in Brunei incorporate Islamic style and influences in its architecture, especially its mosques. The Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Brunei’s largest mosque, is easily recognisable by its spectacular 24-carat golden domes which glitter in the bright sun during the day and glow during the night. It also features fountains sprouting `colourful’ jets of water at night, gold-plated tiles, marble stones and fine Islamic calligraphy on its interior, making it one of the most magnificent mosques in the world. Another mosque which is just as impressive is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, also topped with golden domes. The mosque is also considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. It sits on an artificial lagoon near the Brunei River, with a life-sized replica of an ancient royal barge sitting outside the mosque in the waters. Like the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, it is also lit up at night, giving an ethereal quality to it.
The palace of the Sultan, the Istana Nurul Iman (Nurul Iman Palace) is reputedly the largest residential palace in the world, with over 1700 rooms in it. It is located on top of the hill overlooking the city, and its majestic domes are covered all over with 22-carat gold leaves. Its sheer size and intricate design render the palace a truly spectacular sight to behold, but it is only open to public during Eid-ul Fitri, the only time when the Sultan meets and greets his visitors.
Brunei’s Natural Beauty
The raw, unspoilt nature of the island of Borneo means that Brunei is also a prime example of natural beauty, despite its modern establishments. Well-preserved rainforests make up more than 70% of the land area in Brunei, and its national parks are some of the finest in Asia – examples of the perfect ecosystem. Best of all, these national parks are easily accessible as they’re located near the main cities.
The Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei’s main nature reserve and wildlife field-study centre, is home to an extensive array of flora and fauna from thousands of different species. Taking a luscious ride down the river in a longboat gives you the opportunity to experience Borneo’s wildlife up close and personal – proboscis monkeys hanging off the
branches, Nipah palm trees gracing both sides of the riverbank, melodious twittering from colourful birds perched on branches of trees and butterflies from some of the rarest species fluttering around. Alternatively, you can also choose to walk through its lush surroundings, dense with plants from hundreds of species – some of which could not be found anywhere else in the world.
Brunei’s beaches are also perfect getaway spots with its pristine, white sandy beaches and private atmosphere. Muara Beach, which is less than 27kms from Brunei’s capital, is perfect for family outings with its well-equipped picnic areas and a children’s playground. Pantai Seri Kenangan Beach is a scenic spot located just a few minutes’ drive from the town of Tutong. The beach’s feature attraction is a narrow strip of land which is flanked by the South China Sea on one side and the Tutong River on the other. Meragang Beach’s unspoilt beauty provides the perfect background for those who want a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
There is so much more to Brunei, a tiny country with huge wonders, that could only be seen to be believed. Direct flights to Brunei are available from Asian and Middle-East destinations, and major European cities. It can also be reached on land via trains and coaches from neigbouring Sabah and Sarawak.
Bandar Seri Begawan : Things To See & Do
Omar Saifuddin Mosque
This majestic mosque beckons you with its glittering golden dome bathed in sunlight during the day, and fluorescent green light during the night – one of the most impressive treasures of the country.
Royal Regalia Museum
Filled with the Sultan’s full collection of royal regalia, together with an extensive collection of opulent treasures.
Built entirely over the Brunei River, this village consists of a sprawling cluster of several Malay houses built on stilts, connected to each other by wooden planks.
Jerudong Park & Playground
One of Brunei’s best-known attractions, this 57-hectare state-of-the-art wonderland is filled with endless excitement for thrill seekers of all ages.
This museum houses elaborate displays of artefacts, from relics of war to gilded Holy Korans, as well as Borneo ethnographic displays and shipwreck treasures.
|National Day||23 February
Brunie celebrates its day of independence, prepared months in advance, with mass prayers, Quran readings, performances and processions at public gatherings all over the country.
|Brunei Book Fair 2016||27 February – 7 March
Held over 10 days, this book fair is brought by the Language & Literature Bureau at the National Indoor Stadium, Hassanal Bolkiah Sports Complex, with an array of titles sold at discounted proces.
|Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day||31 May
A tribute to the dedicated service of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, this celebration features military parades, artillery displays, parachuting and exhibitions.
|His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei’s Birthday||15 July
One of the most important events in the national calendar, the day starts with a mass prayer in mosques throughout the country, where His Majesty addresses the nation in a royal speech, followed by an inauguration ceremony held at Istana Nurul Iman (Nurul Iman Palace), as well as various activities and festivities held nationwide.
|Eid-ul Fitri (Hari Raya Aidilfitri)||2 October
This three-day celebration following the month-long Muslim fasting period begins with mass prayers held at mosques throughout the country, followed by `ziarah’ where families and friends visit each other’s homes, with an array of festive delicacies offered to guests such as meat satay, ketupat (compressed rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves) and rendang (spicy marinated beef dish). This is also the only occasion that the Nurul Iman Palace is open to public.
|Eid-ul Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)||8 December
Also known as Hari Raya Korban or Hari Raya Aidiladha, this day commemorates the day when the Prophet Ibrahim `sacrificed’ his own son, Ismail. Farm animals such as goats, cows and camels are sacrificed on this auspicious day, where the meat is then distributed to the needy and the less fortunate, signifying one’s `sacrifice’ in the name of Allah.