1 DAY TOUR IN BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
November 1, 2019
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE TOURING BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN FOR A DAY
Many blogs described Brunei as a boring destination. Former visitors seem to agree that Brunei’s capital – Bandar Seri Begawan, is not among the most exciting places to visit in Southeast Asia. Most of them described it as lifeless and lacking in attractions.
It got me thinking, what if it is not real? Maybe they just expected too much from this small capital? Well, what better way to find out than go there myself. I initially planned on transiting to Kuala Lumpur on my way to Amritsar, but in the end, I decided to go to BSB first before going there. Luckily, Cebu Pacific offered a promo on their miles program the day after deciding to go here. Since I have some extra mile points, I decided to use it to buy the ticket. Hooray for “almost” free travel; I still needed to pay some taxes, though.
LANDING AT THE AIRPORT
We landed at Brunei International Airport at around 00:00, and it was smooth and easy. The immigration officer just asked for an outbound flight, and she stamped my passport after providing it.
I read that public transportation is only until 23:00, so I decided to book the hotel the next day and sleep at the airport. The airport offers an hour of free internet, so I used it to post stuff online and do some last-minute research before I dozed off.
The next day, I immediately went to the bus stop for the first bus to the city center. However, there is no fixed bus schedule, so I waited for 2 hours before one came. I immediately went to the hostel and rested for a bit before starting my tour.
THINGS TO DO IN BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
The first place I visited was the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, a structure built during the 1920s and named after Brunei’s 28th sultan. It is the country’s most iconic building, found in everything Brunei related.
While I was taking some pictures, a guide approached and offered to tour me around, to which I declined. He was cool with it, and he told me that I need to buy stuff and eat now because everything will close in an hour. According to him, Friday is a worship day for Muslims, so they close everything from 12:00 to 14:00. I finished taking shots of the mosque, and I looked for somewhere to eat. I ate at this Malay/Indian restaurant near the mosque that serves cheap and good food.
Sure enough, stores started closing down after I left the restaurant. Since I just started my day, I decided to continue touring, so I went to the dock to go to Kampong Ayer, also known as the stilt house community. A one-way boat ride costs $1, and they also accept tour offers. The place was empty due to the prayer time, so I just roamed around and took some shots.
This type of house is common in our province because it floods easily during the monsoon season. As a result, residents built their homes on stilts. It is the same in Kampong Ayer, and the only difference is that they are posh looking.
The next destination I visited was the Royal Regalia Museum. It is a museum that showcases dignitaries’ gifts to Brunei’s reigning sultan and some of his collection. It was a nice place, but not significant. Nevertheless, I still stayed there for more than an hour to cool down from the heat outside.
There were other places that I wanted to visit, like the Jame Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, but I was running out of time, and it was out of town. So I decided not to. I went back to the Omar Ali Mosque at night to see how it looks like all lit up. With nothing much to do, I decided to call it a day.
MY PERSONAL OPINION OF BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
So final verdict, is Bandar Seri Begawan boring? Well, it is suitable for a day’s visit. However, staying for more than two days is too much. Visiting on a Friday was not a good idea too. It also has some redeeming factors, such as inexpensive food, which costs as low as $1. Locals are also charming and helpful.
I am glad I visited the country even for a day. Another ASEAN country ticked off from my bucket list!