Bandar Seri Begawan Holidays
Formerly known as Brunei Town, the capital city of the Sultans isn’t what you expect. While there are some areas of opulence, the small city is far from El Dorado. Rather, you will find a large portion of the town’s residents living in stilt-water villages and spending their days and nights enjoying the vibrant market places. Visit Bandar Seri Begawan for a charming and affordable holiday.
In a city where royalty is supreme, many of the most lavish monuments in Brunei are attributed to the country’s powerful rulers while the towns other areas are starkly ordinary. Some of these sites include sacred places such as the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque and the Jame’ Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah mosque, erected to commemorate Brunei’s Sultans both past and present. When prayer time is not in session, visitors are welcome to enter these sites.
If you happen to be in the city during the first three days after Ramadan, you will have the opportunity to enter the Sultan’s palace, as this is the only time of year that the Istana Nurul Iman is open to visitors. The palace is one of the most visited sites in the city regardless and getting a photo there, even if it’s from the outside, is a tourist must.
Bandar Seri Begawan is home to the world’s largest water village called Kampung Ayer. This incredible stilt- settlement is home to an estimated 20,000 people and a visit here is a truly authentic Bruneian experience. You can traverse Kampung Ayer by water taxi and see the rainbow coloured houses of the locals.
Eat and Drink
Bruneian fare is spicy, flavoursome and has adopted and altered many of the dishes of nearby Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Sticky rice and noodles are staples that are often accompanied with satay chicken and fish dishes. As Islam is the dominant religion in the country, pork is usually avoided and foods meet halal (Muslim-law) preparation requirements.
A native dish that is considered a Bruneian delicacy is called ambuyat. It is made from the trunk of the sago palm tree and the sticky, gooey consistency is dipped in sauce to give it flavour.
Alcohol is illegal in Brunei but instead the locals enjoy a sweet, dessert-like drink called air batu campur. This icy drink is an intriguing combination of flavours foreign to most Westerners, a mixture of sago pearls, grass jelly, noodles and red beans. Coconut milk and fruit juices are also popular beverages.
Where to Stay
Whether you’re after a serviced apartment or a mid-range hotel, Bandar Seri Begawan has something for everyone. The downtown area is an ideal location to stay as everything from restaurants to shops is within walking distance, an advantage when public transport and taxis are limited.
Staying in the Gadong district means you are particularly close to the main commercial shopping area. Whereas, staying in the Kianggeh district means you are close to the open-air market and the waterfront. Both districts border each other and are centrally located.
Gadong Central is known as the shopping hub of the city. In addition to boutiques, large shopping complexes and restaurants there is also a lively night market located here. If the authenticity of the market experience is your preference, you must visit the Tamu Kianggeh open-air, riverside market. In addition to fresh food stalls you will also find handcrafts and souvenirs there.
Bandar Seri Begawan Like a Local
When Bruneians want to escape the heat and take a breather, they like to visit the Tasek Lama recreational park; a green paradise in the city centre. Here you will find picturesque running tracks, walking trails and a big, natural waterfall. The entire park is shaded and makes it the optimum location to have a picnic and unwind after a big day of sight-seeing.