Saturday, August 6, 2016

Brunei 2016

" The distance between your dreams & reality is called action "

" What take us back to the past are the memories. What bring us forward is our dreams "

" Simply have a dream isn't enough. Taking the steps to fulfil the dreams is the key "

" My 5 days 4 nights solo visit to Brunei - mini bussing the capital & major towns of Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan, Muara, Tutong, Seria & Kuala Belait) from 1-5/8/2016 "  

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia > Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) > Muara > Bandar Seri Begawan > Seria > Kuala Belait > Seria > Bandar Seri Begawan > Kuala Lumpur

Total expenses incurred (5 days): Rm535.08 + B$46.30=Rm677 (US$165)

Air Asia ticket (KL>Bandar Seri Begawan return) : Rm$278.08 (inclusive of airport tax & insurance)
Flight: KL>BSB-13.10>15.30;BSB>KL 15.55>18.20
Airport Skybus KL: Rm11 x 2=Rm22.00
Airbnb homestay (4 nights): Rm$235.00
Food: B$17.30
Transport Mini Bus: B$27.00
Boat: B$2
Exchange Rates: B$1=Rm3.07; US$1=Rm4.11

Map of South East Asia
Map of  Brunei

My last visit to Brunei was in 1983 on a short working trip which took me to Seria & Bandar Seri Begawan. After a lapse of over 30 years, I decided to make another visit to Brunei, a small wealthy Asean nation endowed with abundant oil & gas resources in South East Asia. It takes about 2 1/2 hours by air from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. 

For this visit, I spent a total of 5 days in Brunei. As the country is well served by public transport, mainly mini busses, I was able to visit the major touristy places and country towns in and around Brunei. You can easily visit the major tourist sites & iconic landmarks in Bandar Seri Begawan within 3 days on foot and using public mini bus (B$1 per ride) ! However, when nightfall, there will be no mini bus services in Bandar Seri Begawan & suburban areas so you have to rely on taxi to move around ! 

For those who like to see a bit of the country side outside of the capital, you can do a mini bus (B$1) day trip from Bandar Seri Begawan to Muara and another day trip to Seria & Kuala Belait. Mini bus services (B$6) from Bandar Seri Begawan pass the Tutong town before arriving in Seria. From Seria, it only takes approx. 30 mins by mini bus (B$1) to Kuala Belait. From Muara, you could take a ferry to Labuan, a duty free island town in East Malaysia and from Kuala Belait, you could visit Miri, a border town close to the Brunei & Malaysia border ! The adventurous ones could join an overnight day tour (B$160) to Ulu Temburong, the famous rainforest in Brunei ! 

In some places of Brunei where public bus services were not efficient or irregular, I resorted to hitch a ride from passing vehicles. I did it in 3 instances on my return journey from the places of interests I visited to the city center ie in Pantai Muara (Muara Beach), Billionth Barrel Monument, Seria & Brunei Museum, Kota Batu , Bandar Seri Begawan. 

As for my hostel accommodation, I had my first homestay experience booked through Airbnb website and I should confess that I thoroughly enjoyed my 4 nights stay (Rm235) in Bandar Seri Begawan ! 

If you are not particularly fussy about food, why not savior the local Nasi Katok (deep fried chicken + rice) which costs B$1-1.50 per plate or pack for takeaway ! If you enjoy eating spicy Indian food, a plate of rice with mixed vegetables costs B$1.50 and with meat, the price is B$2.50 ! Alcoholic drinks are banned from drinking in the public places in this strict Muslim country ! 

In Brunei, Singapore currencies (same value with Brunei dollars) are widely accepted here. Guessed what, I took out a S$50 note initially from my wallet to change for smaller notes in a local bank and towards the end of my trip after taking into account of my entire public transport & food spending throughout my five days stay in Brunei - I still had a few one dollar notes left in the pocket ie the total expenses incurred was only B$46.30 ! Incredible ! 

Travel Highlights: 

1) Bandar Seri Begawan 

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

2) Muara

Pantai Muara (Muara Beach)

3) Tutong

Tutong River

4) Seria

The Billionth Barrel Monument

5) Kuala Belait

Clock Tower

Bon Voyage - My 5 days short & memorable stay in Brunei - Goodbye ! Selamat Jalan ! Jumpa Lagi !

Bandar Seri Begawan,Brunei - Iconic Landmarks (2016)

Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei with a population of 30,000 people - majority of them are Malays and Chinese is a significant minority group. However, there are a large number of foreign workers who hailed from India, Philippines, Indonesia & Malaysia, employing under short & medium term contracts, mainly in the oil & gas industries. 

Majority of the international visitors (around 200,000) to Brunei are from the Far East (Japan, China & Australia) & Asean countries. Malaysia is currently the top international visitor arrival in Brunei. 

The Water Village, Istana Palace, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Jame Asr Hassail Bokiah Mosque, Ulu Temburong National Park are the top tourist attractions in Brunei. 

As most of the top tourist attractions are located within a 5km radius from the city centre, tourists can easily do a walking tour of the places in Bandar Seri Begawan or using mini bus to take you to places in the suburban areas. 

Iconic Landmarks in Bandar Seri Begawan

1) Kampong Ayer Cultural & Tourism Gallery - a major tourist attraction, water taxis is B$1 from the waterfront, gallery has a showroom with a small exhibit of Brunei history & cultural items, good experience to witness the daily lives of the locals living in the water village

2) Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque - an iconic landmark in the city centre, magnificent building, opened to non-Muslims for general viewing inside but no photography, night scene is beautiful

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque by Night - awesome !

3) Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque - located 3-4km from the city centre towards the Gadong area, a grand building, interior d├ęcor is imressive

4) Istana Nurul Iman - largest residential palace in the world, tourists come here to take pictures of the palace's gate, further up is Persiaran Damuan located between Jalan Tutong & Brunei River

5) Royal Regalia Building - located in Jalan Sultan, this museum is devoted to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, an impressive display of coronation & silver jubilee chariots, gold & silver ceremony armory & traditional jewelry items

My favorite food in Bandar Seri Begawan - B$1 for a packet of Nasi Katok for a quick lunch or dinner !

Public transport, mini bus - B$1 per ride to any destinations in Bandar Seri Begawan & Muara; main bus terminal is located in Jalan Cator

Airbnb homestay accommodation in Bandar Seri Begawan - my host, Eilene & James, Apartment Unit B1, No 6, Simpang 49, Jalan Kebangsan (Mabohai), Brunei - Muara BA1111, Brunei - cosy, clean, warmth & friendly host, free breakfast, 2km walking to city centre, bus No 36 to airport & city centre - so sleep well & enjoy your stay in Brunei !