Golf and bowling are big in Brunei. Polo is popular in the Brunei royal family. Brunei hosted the Southeast Asian Games in 1999 and sent women to the Olympics for the first time in 2012. Prince Abdul Hakeem Jefri Bolkiah, nephew of the Sultan of Brunei, came in 45th out of 49 in the men’s skeeting shooting in the 2000 Olympics.

Traditional games in Brunei include congkak and pasang. Congkak is a game played on a wooden board with two rows of odd numbered holes (from five to nine). The Pasang board game is an 11-by-11 inch scale square board, where two players try to outwit each other using mental skills and strategic movements. “Congkak is known not only in Brunei, but also in other Malay countries. Pasang, on the other hand is a game that can only be found in Brunei. It has been declared as unique. There are many more traditional games that we have in Brunei, we need to reintroduce these games through workshops and competitions,” a government official named Hj Mahrin said. [Source: Brunei Times, March 2, 2014]

The pasang game was featured last year during a sporting event for sub-districts as one of the games in the sports event. Hj Mahrin said various skills can be gained by participating in the traditional games. “Some games require teamwork, this requires them to cooperate with each other in finishing the games. “Congkak and pasang, for example are strategic and calculative games. The games nurture their strategic thinking. Outdoor traditional games such as tug of war build their motor skills, through running and movement,” he added.


Silat is a Malay martial art, also regarded as an international sport and traditional dance form. Existing in the Malay Archipelago for centuries, it has mesmerising fluid movements that are used to dazzle opponents. It is believed that practising silat will increase one's spiritual strength in accordance with Islamic tenets. Accompanied by drums and gongs, this ancient art is popularly performed at Malay weddings and cultural festivals. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Silat is a style of ancient dance of self defense in which people try to throw each other while engaging in tai-chi-like movements. It is often accompanied to music to aderams (long drums), and serunai (an oboe-like instrument). The first person to throw the other to the ground wins.

Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen of the Finnish Theatre Academy wrote: “A genre of martial arts which is usually called pentjak silat has been practised all over the Malay world and the Indonesian archipelago. Its history is believed to be over one thousand years old. Its roots may lead to Sumatra, although it also clearly reflects Indian and Chinese influences. It includes forms in which various weapons are used, but it is often practised with bare hands, without weapons. [Source: Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen,Asian Traditional Theater and Dance website, Theatre Academy Helsinki |~|]

Its technique is characterised by an extreme open-leg position, which makes it possible to lower oneself and to move the weight of the body from side to side. The silat technique aims at extreme elasticity of the body and the limbs, especially the hands and fingers. Silat may also be performed as a form of dance, and in recent decades several dancers and choreographers have used it as material for their contemporary creations.

Polo in Brunei

According to Intrepid Tours: “One does not normally equate polo with Asia, nor with a tropical climate, but this is the nature of Brunei – it holds many delightful surprises! His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei is an enthusiastic and accomplished player, known for his precise skill on the field. The demands of State allow little time to play, but it is not uncommon for visiting clubs, foreign dignitaries or other members of the Royal Family to join him on one of the three magnificent fields in this park. All are maintained to the highest standard; featuring the best drainage technology to cope with natural tropical deluges, and flood lights to allow night play! [Source: Intrepid Tours,]

An extensive network of stables, accommodate a superb collection of horses, which would be the envy of any horse enthusiast! Up to a thousand horses can be catered for, ensuring a fresh supply of horses, required for a challenging game of polo can always be met. Each field has its own Grandstand, from which VIP’s, distinguished visitors and members of the Royal Family, can observe the game in air conditioned comfort, luxurious surroundings filled with beautiful artwork and personal memorabilia. A tour through these Grandstands is a must, to truly experience the lifestyle from the unique perspective of Bruneian Royalty and the closest the discerning tourist could come to this type of experience. Imagine seeing the inner sanctum of a place usually reserved for royalty!

The elegant clubhouse reflects its exclusive clientele through its luxurious décor, collection of equestrian art, personal photos and range of personalized facilities. The restaurant serves an array of culinary delights through an a la carte menu presenting international cuisine or through sumptuous themed buffets. The magnificent Banquet Hall is the "gem" of the clubhouse and not to be missed! This little seen Hall can be likened to the grand ballrooms found in Stately European homes. Its breath taking beauty delights with a pastel blue, lemon and white colour scheme; contrasted by solid Italian black marble pillars standing like two colonnades of silent sentries - each bearing a large black and gold sceptre lamp – facing each other along either side of the Hall. The scene is punctuated by bursts of gold and splashes of red. The focal point of the room is the exquisite Austrian crystal chandelier that appears to sparkle with reflected natural light and at night, glistens like a galaxy of floating diamonds suspended in mid air! Despite the "European" grandeur and ambience, on closer inspection, the intricate detail, delightfully incorporates a unique fusion of local cultural motifs, royal insignia and the equestrian theme!

Other features of the Polo Club include: a four lane AMF computerized bowling alley, a covered pool – featuring a sunken bar and a magnificent pavilion providing shelter from the tropical sun; a fully computerized gym where your workout can be tracked and given a personal analysis; two full size squash courts (where Jahangir Khan has played!); a full sized Riley billiard table in a parlour that would rival any championship venue; a "Chip n’Putt", 8 hole golf course; and a private beach!

Jerudong Park

Jerudong Park is the famous four-in-one state-of-the-art entertainment, golf, horse riding and exclusive club catering to the well-to-do in Brunei Darussalam. Comprising the Royal Brunei Golf & Country Club, Trijaya Jerudong Equestrian Park, Jerudong Park Polo Club and Jerudong Park Playground, the first three parks used to be exclusive only to members, but today, all four are open to visitors.

The Jerudong Park Polo Club is where His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei flexes his skill on the polo fields. When time allows him, it is not uncommon to see visiting clubs, foreign dignitaries or other members of the Royal Family join him in a game on one of the three magnificent fields in this park.

Close by lies the Clubhouse which hosts an exclusive clientele through its luxurious decor, collection of equestrian art, personal photographs and many special facilities such as the European-styled magnificent Banquet Hall, restaurant, a private four-lane computerised bowling alley, a covered pool featuring a sunken bar and a magnificent pavilion providing shelter from the tropical sun, a fully computerized gym where workouts can be tracked, two full-sized private squash courts (where Jahangir Khan once played), a full-sized Riley billiard table set in a parlour, a 'chip n putt' eight-hole golf course and a private beach.

Not far away is the Royal Brunei Golf & Country Club with a Par 72, 18-hole championship, 6,165m buggy only course. Designed by none other than Ronald Fream, it is considered a 'thinker's course' with its tight fairways and varying slopes. The golf course is consistently maintained to the high standards demanded by the USA PGA. For golfers who prefer night playing, powerful floodlights provide daytime visibility for a satisfying game.

Jerudong Park Playground

Jerudong Park Playground is the famous billion-dollar free amusement park and man-made garden built by the Sultan Brunei and originally open free to citizens of Brunei and tourists. Described as a "mini-Disneyland,” it cover 36 hectares. "The park opened with much fanfare in 1994. In 1999 it began charging a $1.25 entrance fee. In March 2011, the theme park was reopened, offering five new rides. At that the Brunei government reported: “about 5,000 visitors would turn up regularly, while in the weekends the figure shot up to about 7,000 people.”

According to the Brunei government: The Jerudong Park Playground is a beautiful, 57-hectare wonderland that took four years to complete. Filled with manicured lawns, a musical fountain and 39 hair raising rides such as the' Sky Tower'-a rotating platform that rises 78m to offer a 360-degree panoramic view of Jerudong; 'Pusing Lagi' - a 5G force rollercoaster; 'Giant Drop'- a 48m dead drop at 4G forces, ' Log Flume Ride'- a wet exhilarating ride with a reverse drop, 'Top Spin' - a two-tiered platform that flips in two different directions and many others, Jerudong Park is the place to be for a night of fun.

Other features include a Roller Blade Skating Rink, a Supa-Kart (Go Kart), a Video Arcade, a Shooting Gallery, Baby Dodgems and a French Carousel for the younger ones and of course the famous Jerudong Park Amphitheatre where Jacky Cheung, Siti Nurhaliza, Westlife, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and of late Academy Fantasia have performed. Jerudong Park Playground charges a modest fee for the use of its rides. The buggy for visitors to roam the park is also for

According to Lonely Planet: “In its heyday, this B$1 billion amusement park, a Prince Jefri project opened in 1994, was the pride of Brunei, and the only major modern amusement park in Southeast Asia. The concert hall hosted free shows by the likes of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, the latter to celebrate the sultan's 50th birthday, and the many rides included a giant roller coaster.

“That attraction, along with most of the others, was sold off to repay debts, and today Jerudong is mostly a depressing lesson in hubris and economics: don't build something people don't want. Ostensibly 10 rides, including a merry-go-round and junior bumper cars, still operate. In our experience, this is not a sound assumption to make, so ask the person in front if any rides work before you buy a ride ticket. The park seems pretty busy on weekends, which is probably the best time to visit. The rumour is some party out there wants to convert the park into a smaller children's play area with basic rides and attractions, which sounds like a lovely idea. There is no bus service to the park, which is near the coast about 20km northwest of BSB, so the only way to get here is by taxi (about B$35 from the centre) or private car. [Source: Trip Advisor]

One person posted on Trip Advisor in February 2013: This theme park hardly feels open. You can count the number of visitors in the park. There were a few rides, primarily the carousel and bumper car but that's about it. The only item we enjoyed was the musical water fountain. It's a pity. This theme park has so much potential. [Source: Trip Advisor]

Revamped Jerudong Park Playground

In May 2014, the revamped Jerudong Park Playground opened with a grand relaunching ceremony. Sally Piri and Joana Tan wrote in the Brunei Times: “Officiating at the ceremony was His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel who was accompanied by his sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah.... HRH Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel commenced the opening by pushing a button that turned on all the colourful lights at the park. This was met with spectacular fireworks lighting up the night and bursts of glittering confetti over the fountain area much to the delight of the invited guests who were cheering and clapping at the sight. Most were seen capturing the memorable moment with their cameras and smartphones. [Source:Sally Piri and Joana Tan, Brunei Times, May 18, 2014 <*>

“About 3,000 people comprising students, parents and teachers as well as representatives of government agencies came to witness the event. After receiving the pesambah, Their Royal Highness and the entourage then toured the amusement park which has been given a new lease of life in the form of new rides and attractions such as Double Decker Carousel, Junior Coaster, Ferris Wheel, JP Town, Mini Golf and Pedal Boats. On the sidelines of event, General Manager of Jerudong Park Country Club Sdn Bhd Asmad Hj Abd Rahim ensured the safety of each of the rides as they would be checked daily. “We do the maintenance work under the supervision of the supplier companies,” Asmad told The Brunei Times. <*>

“Though the theme park does not provide extreme rides, he hopes that more people will come and spend their leisure at the Jerudong Park Playground, which is a family-oriented theme park. He explained that one of the new attractions featured in the park is the Mini Golf putting green, which was designed by Craig Bartlett, a world class mini golf designer from Australia. The park also offers other facilities such as the food kiosks, a merchandise shop, and other conveniences to cater for the visitors’ need.” <*>

Pets in Brunei

According to “the Government (The Sultan) have certain restrictions and do not allow anyone and their dog into Brunei. Dogs – They are considered “unclean” in Brunei and there are no care facilities at all. I suggest that you do NOT bring a dog with you, even if you can. Malay landlords will not allow dogs under any circumstances. Under Malay culture, no contact with a dog is allowed, especially the wet nose. If you bring dogs with you, you will also severely limit your housing options. Chinese landlords do not mind dogs, but their housing standards are below that of Malay landlords. [Source: ^+^]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Fortune magazine, Vanity Fair magazine, Brunei Tourism, Prime Minister's Office, Brunei Darussalam, Government of Brunei Darussalam, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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