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The Sultanate of Brunei is a small, but thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources, very rich country in Southeast Asia. It is surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically positioned on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs. (less...) (more...)
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The Sultanate of Brunei's heyday occurred between the 15th-17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. It was offered to join Malaysia as a state in 1963, but opted out of the federation due to a disagreement on the amount of its oil income that would have to be given to the central government in Kuala Lumpur. Independence was achieved in 1984. One family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.
The Istana Nurul Iman is the world's largest occupied residential palace. The 300-acre palace sits on a man made hill with a clear view of Kampong Ayer. Istana Nurul Iman is the residence of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the palace is quoted to have an estimated value at USD600 million.
For things to do in and in the near vicinity of Bandar Seri Begawan, see Bandar Seri Begawan.
There are many eco-tours which typically go to the Temburong district by boat then to a native "longhouse". It is then followed by a powered boat (by the natives) up the river to the Belalong National Park, a reserve in the Borneo rainforest. There is a canopy walk and research centre at the park headquarters.
Jerudong Park was once a decent theme park with a multitude of rides. Sadly, a downward cycle of neglect, declining admission and unaffordable maintenance costs led to the closure and sale of most of the big-ticket rides, including the three roller coasters. This has given the park a sad "circus left town last week" air about it. Most people who visit only go at night to avoid the heat during the day. Outside the park, but very close, is a small complex of restaurants which is open at night, though only a few of the stalls are still operational. The local papers have reported plans to renovate the park with a new selection of attractions.
Brunei offers some great diving. In addition to coral and fish, Brunei is home to several shipwrecks and many species of nudibranch - one of the best places in SE Asia for macro photography. Water temperature is generally around 30 degrees and visibility is usually in the 10-30 meter range, although this can be changeable during the monsoon season. As diving here is not overly developed, it means that the sites, and especially the coral reefs, are unspoiled and in pristine condition.
Popular dive sites include the Blue Water Wreck, a 80m trawler that gets her nickname from the blue water around her and is still completely intact. Cement Wreck, a 2,687 ton Japanese freighter that hit a sandbank in 1980 while carrying cement. She has a length of 92m and a 15m beam. Easy to penetrate, the freighter lies upright on the bottom at 30m. Australian Wreck, In 1949 while on a voyage to Manila it struck a mine off Brunei and sank. The wreck lies in 33m of water and is roughly 85m . Experienced divers will enjoy exploring the interior of the wreck. Rig Reef, a decommissioned oil rig. There are 9 structures to be explored, each seeming to be home to one dominant group of fish.
Diving is very reasonable, averaging out to $35–45 per dive depending on how many dives you do and whether you bring your own gear.
Bruneians love to eat out and there are many excellent restaurants in Brunei serving a wide variety of cuisines, thanks to the large number of foreign workers in the country.
There is also the local nasi katok, a simple combination of rice and curried beef or chicken, which can be quite spicy. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to other food that you can buy, for example local food such as chicken rice. However, it is not a healthy option, with few vegetables and too much fat.
Another choice is ambuyat, a culinary experience unique to Borneo. It is a starchy and gooey paste made from sago that can be dipped into a savoury sauce.
- Kueh melayu (sugar, raisin, and peanut-filled sweet pancakes)
Brunei is a dry country: alcohol is not sold anywhere in the country and consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited by law. That said, non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in up to two litres of alcohol (wine or spirits) plus up to twelve cans of beer every 48 hours, and there is a wide array of duty-free shops just across the border in Malaysia to cater to this demand. However, alcohol permits must be obtained upon arrival in Brunei while going through customs.
Many higher-end restaurants allow guests to bring in their own alcohol and corkage is not charged, though this is technically illegal and it's best to keep a low profile if you choose to consume in a public establishment. At the lower end (particularly Chinese restaurants), many restaurants supply illicit booze under euphemisms like "special tea".
One should definitely try out teh tarik, a sweet milk tea, as well as the wide array of coffee (kopi) available in restaurants.
The local currency is the Brunei Dollar ($) you might hear Ringgit used to refer to the dollar but be sure that participants are not talking about the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) which is valued at less than half a Brunei dollar.
As of January 2010, $1 = RM2.421 = £0.449 = €0.512 = USD0.705
The Brunei dollar is tied to the Singapore dollar at a 1:1 rate. By law both currencies can be used interchangeably, so if you're coming in from Singapore, there's no reason to change money as your cash will be readily accepted. (Likewise, any leftover Brunei dollars can be used at par in Singapore.) However, many stores refuse Singapore notes with seemingly microscopic tears in them, and notices to this effect are posted at the cash register. Malaysian ringgit (RM) will also be accepted in a pinch, but the exchange rate may not be in your favour. The ringgit is not available at Brunei banks but can be obtained from money changers.
The Brunei dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are banknotes from $1 to a whopping $10,000 (handy if you're shopping for Rolls-Royces) and coins of 1-50 cents. All smaller notes and the 2004 series of larger notes are printed as brightly coloured polymer notes.
By Southeast Asian standards Brunei is roughly on par with Singapore, meaning roughly twice as expensive as neighbouring Malaysia. You can reduce costs by eating at local restaurants and avoiding the more expensive restaurants in hotels. Budget accommodation, once very limited, has expanded in recent years and you can now get a decent bed for the night for around $30.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Brunei on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Brunei
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Bandar Seri Begawan, also known as BSB or just Bandar, is the capital of Brunei.
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
- Jame\'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
- Royal Regalia Museum
- The Mall
- Empire Golf and Country Club
Points of Interest in Brunei
- Ulu Temburong National Park in Bangar
- The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan
- Bandar Seri Begawan has a couple of museums dedicated to the history of Brunei and that of the monarchy.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque - Bandar Seri Begawan
Jerudong Park - Jerudong
Kuala Belait Mosque - Kuala Belait
Ulu Temburong National Park - Bangar
Jame\'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque - Bandar Seri Begawan
Royal Regalia Museum - Bandar Seri Begawan
The Mall - Bandar Seri Begawan
Empire Golf and Country Club - Bandar Seri Begawan
Muara Beach - Bandar Seri Begawan
Serasa Beach - Bandar Seri Begawan
International Convention Centre - Bandar Seri Begawan
Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium - Bandar Seri Begawan
Jerudong Park Medical Centre - Jerudong
Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club - Bandar Seri Begawan
Royal Brunei Golf Club - Bandar Seri Begawan
Pantai Mentiri Golf Club - Bandar Seri Begawan
Malay Technology Museum - Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Museum - Bandar Seri Begawan