15 Places to Visit in the Brunei-Muara District
Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB, the capital of Brunei, is the main hub of this small wealthy nation. It is located in the Brunei-Muara District. Among the many capitals that I have visited, BSB is unique, because it has a laid back feel, where you get the luxury of time and space, while its grandeur is palpable through the structures sprawled around the city.
The Brunei-Muara District includes BSB, Berakas, Jerudong, and Gadong, where our hotel is located. Getting around Brunei-Muara will take you to various landmarks. There are travel agencies that can take you around the main attractions through a city tour, which will make it easy for you.
A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kind of tour is somehow a challenge with the limited buses and taxis, not only that they are not as plenty as in other major cities in the world, but their routes are also confined in certain areas. Still, you can consider going around by public bus since it is affordable with a flat rate of only BND1 (Php35 or less than USD1) to any point around the city.
The best option to see most of the Brunei-Muara District, based on my opinion, is to have friends living in the city take you around since private transportation is a more common option in this part of the globe. Yes, Brunei has a high rate of car ownership compared to other countries in the world. I think I was fortunate that I met my Filipino kababayans, Nonoy Hautea and Poks Grajo, who were kind enough to show us the fascinating spots in Brunei’s capital.
Here are some of the landmarks we visited during our recent trip there that you might want to consider checking out while in Brunei:
1.) Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
This is the biggest mosque in Brunei and was built in celebration of the 25 years of the current sultan’s rule. It was opened in 1994. Another name for this mosque is Kiarong, among the locals.
From our hotel in Gadong, the four minarets of the mosque dominate the skyline. We would pass by the mosque going to various parts of BSB and the rest of the Brunei-Muara District. Whenever we drive around the rotunda near the mosque, the golden dome was always a sight to behold. I have viewed the mosque at various times of the day. But it was night time when we were able to enter the complex, which glowed amidst the dark backdrop.
A closer look at its exteriors show how lavish it is. The materials used for the posts, minarets and the dome look high grade. There was an escalator at the front hall that is solely for the sultan. We weren’t able to enter the mosque though, so we content ourselves with marveling the outside beauty of this structure.
Visiting hours are 8am-12nn, 2-3pm & 5-6pm during Mondays to Wednesdays and Saturdays; 10:45am-12nn, 2-3pm & 5-6pm on Sundays; it is closed on Thursdays & Fridays. Make sure to read the rules before you enter the mosque.
Address: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Hwy, Kampung Kiarong, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
2.) Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque
They say that this is the most photographed landmark in Brunei. Named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the father of the current sultan, the Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque was completed in 1958. Its most interesting feature is its main dome, wherein its visible layer is made of pure gold. The 52-meter main minaret is the tallest structure in Bandar, the central part of BSB. No building within the vicinity should be higher than a mosque’s tallest point, the reason why there are no skyscrapers near a mosque.
True enough, the mosque is majestic. We rounded the washing area and walked to the sides to be awed by the beauty of their place of worship. It is built right at the riverbank of Brunei River and near Kampong Ayer. A marble bridge leads to the replica of the 16th century Sultan Bolkiah Mahligai Barge.
This is the only mosque that I was able to enter, but cameras were not permitted. There are specific days and hours allotted for non-Muslims. For ladies, be sure to cover your head. Good thing I brought a shawl with me. You are also required to don a black robe over your clothing before you can enter. Once inside, stay within the cordoned area and do not wander around as some places are prohibited.
Visitors can enter the mosque at 8:30am-12nn, 1:30-3pm and 4:30-5:30om from Saturdays to Wednesdays. It is closed during Thursdays and Fridays. Guests can roam the exterior compound from 8am to 8:30pm everyday except during prayer times.
Address: Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
3.) Royal Regalia Building
The Royal Regalia Building was majestic as it showcases the Royal Regalias used during the sultan’s coronation and his Silver Jubilee, the gifts to Brunei’s royalty, the history and development of the royal family and other items pertaining to them.
The building is domed and reflects beautiful Bruneian architecture and design. Footwear is not allowed inside the building. Photography is not allowed as well, except at the lobby where the Royal Chariot is on display. One can get awed at the items inside the building, signifying the wealth of the nation.
Visiting hours are 9am to 5pm during Sundays to Thursdays; 9am to 11:30am and 2:30pm to 5pm on Fridays and 9:45am to 5pm on Saturdays.
Address: Jalan Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
4.) Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex
Right across the Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque is the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex. At the other side of the complex is Kampong Ayer. It’s a shopping place with lots of restaurants, stores, and other amenities. There’s an open space at the center that has an attractive water fountain. What I like most about the complex is that the buildings have Bruneian accents to it, such as the eaves and the ceiling, where carvings are visible.
“Yayasan” in Bahasa Malay is Foundation, which is usually attached to charities and non-profits. Portion of the proceeds of the complex is allocated to help the well-being of the Bruneian people.
Visiting hours are 10am-10pm from Saturdays to Thursdays; 10am-11:30am and 2pm-10pm on Fridays.
Address: Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
For more info:
5.) Kampong Ayer
It’s a whole village on stilts, standing on Brunei River, connected only by foot bridges. This water village has been around for a long time because Antonio Pigafetta, who was part of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet in 1521, has described Kampong Ayer as the “Venice of the East”.
Given that, this place truly has significant heritage value to Brunei. When we roamed the capital and asked to see heritage structures, such as those that pertains to the earlier sultans, we remembered that prior to the British settlement, Bruneians were living on water. It was only later that they moved inland. Despite the changes, Kampong Ayer has remained in the river and now a major attraction in the city.
Tourists can tour the whole village by crossing Brunei River on motor boats or what they call as water taxis. Just be sure to ask first the price and negotiate beforehand prior to getting into the boat. That was the advice to us by the locals there. But we never got in any of the boats because it started to rain, so we opted to stay along Jalan McArthur and appreciate the village from the other side of the bank.
6.) Istana Nurul Iman
Istana Nurul Iman means Palace of the Light of Faith. This is the palace of the current sultan. It is considered as the largest living residence of a head of state, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records .
It was Betsy’s curiosity of the palace that got us in Brunei in the first place. Literature states that the palace’s exterior was designed by Filipino National Artist for Architecture and a known Negrense, Leandro V. Locsin. The construction was also done by Filipino firm Ayala Corporation.
No one is allowed inside except during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri wherein the palace is in an open house state for three consecutive days each year. Visitors can shake the hand of the Sultan and the royal family and can partake of the buffet.
We only got until the gate. But we caught a glimpse of the golden dome from one part of the highway. Even at the riverbanks of Brunei River, across Kampong Ayer, the dome shines through, whether at daytime or nighttime.
Address: Jalan Menteri Besar, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
For more info:
Istana Nurul Iman website
7.) Prime Minister’s Office
Brunei’s Prime Minister is His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is also concurrently the Home Affairs Minister and Finance Minister. The Prime Minister’s Office was instituted on January 1, 1984 when Brunei Darussalam resumed its full independence and sovereignty.
It was a magnificent complex. Like some of the important structures in Brunei, the PMO building also has a dome. There are several structures inside the compound. The official residence and the Ash-Shaliheen Mosque is also found within the property. Some of the landscaping of the Prime Minister’s Residence and around the compound was done by K.N. Nursery where one of our hosts, Poks Grajo, works.
Address: Jalan Perdana Menteri, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
8.) Ash-Shaliheen Mosque
The Ash-Shaliheen Mosque is one of the unique and beautiful mosques in Brunei. It has a Moorish Andalusian design. The roof has layered domes or arches and two tall minarets stand on both sides. It has an attractive butter-yellow color that has an earthy charm. The two domes and the minaret tops have that beautiful azure color that blend well with the yellow building. It also has a retractable roof over an inner courtyard that make it high-tech and modern.
Located near the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ash-Shaliheen Mosque was opened to the public on July 12, 2012. I am not sure if it is also open to non-Muslims. We only went at the back where a fountain could be found and did not attempt to enter the mosque since it was their prayer time.
Address: Jalan Kumbang Pasang, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
For more info:
Ash-Shaliheen Mosque Facebook page
9.) International Convention Centre
The International Convention Centre (ICC) is the largest venue in Brunei that can host large events. It is sprawled on a 20-hectare elevated property near the stadium. We only drove through the entrance of the ICC as there was a large event going on at the time when we passed its driveway. It would be good to check its facilities because it has eight meeting rooms with the largest room having a capacity of up to 3,700 people. From the outside, the design has an Asian touch with its wooden roofs wherein the highest point extend outwards.
Address: Jalan Stadium, Berakas, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
10.) Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam Mosque
Right along the highway of Jerudong, an attractive green dome catches my attention. I asked the name of the mosque and I was told that it is the Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam Mosque. It has a tall minaret that also has a green roofing. Similarly, we weren’t able to enter the compound as we only passed by on our way to other attractions in Jerudong.
Address: Jalan Jerudong, Jerudong, Brunei-Muara District, Brunei Darussalam
For more info:
Masjid Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Mariam Facebook page
11.) Taman Rekreasi Hutan Bukit Shahbandar
While at the Jerudong area, we made a side trip to the Bukit Shahbandar Forest Recreation Park. We only drove around the area to see the surroundings. People were walking and hiking. Some were exercising at the facilities within the park. Students were strolling in groups, as they were obviously having an educational trip. Huge signages warning visitors not to feed the monkeys were placed all over the park areas. There were colorful playgrounds for children as well.
The good thing about this place is that the entrance is free. People come here to commune with nature, to stretch their muscles and to sweat it out going uphill. There are trails if you just want to walk around and see the flora and fauna in the area. Picnic tables are also available if you like to have some outdoor relaxation.
Address: Muara-Tutong Highway, Jerudong, Brunei-Muara District, Brunei Darussalam
For more info:
Brunei Forestry Department webpage
12.) Agrotechnology Park Greenhouse
While the Agrotechnology Park (ATP) is temporarily closed to the public (READ: The Brunei Times’ Agrotechnology Park closes for renovations, development works), the greenhouse continues to cater to those interested to buy plants and flowers. They are even coming up with various promos in their Facebook page, which visitors to the ATP Greenhouse (or K.N. Nursery) can avail.
Step inside the ATP Greenhouse and you will find various kinds of flowers, ornamental plants, herbs, and other gardening tools and materials. It was here where I spotted a red dragonfly near the entrance of the greenhouse. Orchids, star cacti, succulents, petunias, and annuals of different varieties fill the building. Entrance is also free in the ATP greenhouse.
Address: Kg Tungku, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
13.) Pantai Jerudong
We never planned to go in Jerudong Beach but we got a good view of the coast when we visited the Brunei Cancer Centre. The beach was clean and serene. It is a great place to unwind and just relax and rejuvenate, while therapeutic to those who want to get well. Instead of the usual coconut trees found in most beaches, Jerudong Beach is lined up with what seems like pine trees. No, we weren’t able to dip our feet in the water nor strolled the sand, although I would love to do it. The view in itself was enough for us to feel the glory of nature.
14.) Jerudong Park
The Jerudong Park Country Club opened in 1994 and it featured various rides and attractions of an amusement park. In the beginning, entrance was free but now, there are ticket prices to avail of the amenities of Jerudong Park.
The park has been a venue of many major events. One of the most notable was the free concert by Michael Jackson. It has a Ferris wheel, carousel, go kart, pools, junior roller coaster, mini golf course, and a lot more. The whole property also houses the Jerudong Park Polo Club, Housing Estates and the Royal Stables.
The whole property is truly expansive. We probably weren’t able to round most of it but from what we have roamed, it was indeed huge with lots of promise for more developments in the future.
Residential – Child (BND8), Adult (BND15), Family Package (BND40)
Non-residential – Child (BND10), Adult (BND20), Family Pakcage (BND50)
Playground – 4pm to 11pm on Thursdays; 3pm to 11:30pm on Fridays; 10am to 11:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays;
Water Park – 4pm to 6pm and 8pm to 10:30pm on Thursdays and Fridays; 10am to 12nn, 1pm to 3pm, 4pm to 6pm, 8pm to 10:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays;
Water Fountain – 8:15pm and 9:15pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
15.) The Empire Hotel and Country Club
The Empire Hotel and Country Club is considered as a six-star hotel and a luxury resort in Brunei. From the main gate to the lobby, we saw how large the property is. There’s a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course within the hotel grounds. The lobby was a sight to behold. The majestic columns were enough to wow us. The opulence is apparent through the paintings, the floor mosaic, the interiors, and other design details.
The Empire has villas and deluxe rooms; there’s the Empress Suite, the Ambassador Suite and the Emperor Suite. It also has several pools and restaurants and a spa. But what also makes Empire Hotel stunning is the ocean view.
It was sundown when we went there and we were able to get out of the main lobby to the rest of the property, such as the pool and the lagoon, when it was already dark. By the way, did I mention that there’s a theatre within the complex, too?
Address: Kg Jerudong, Muara – Tutong Hwy, Brunei
We were able to visit all these in three full days in Brunei. Although these days were not enough to see more, it was a relaxed exploration, without rush to be in the next location. But because the places are not too close from each other, getting from one point to another also took some time. Good thing there was no traffic, save for some checkpoints on certain places.