BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Bandar Seri Begawan is a small pleasant but expensive town that lies on the banks of the Brunei River. On one side of the river there are many monolithic government buildings spread out among forests and parks. On the other side of the river is Kampung Ayer, a traditional style river-front Malay town built on stilts. The downtown area has an attractive skyline with modern buildings and gold-domed mosques and palaces. Over 100,000 people live in Bandar Seri Begawan; about 300,000 live in the city’s mtro area.
The capital and main commerce center of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan is named after the current’s sultan’s father, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, who assumed the title “Seri Begawan” after he abdicated in favor of his son in 1967. Most locals refer to city simply as Bandar, the Malay word for a major seaport or city. It is sometimes abbreviated as BSB.
In many ways, Bandar Seri Begawan is the heart of Brunei’s cultural landscape, housing some of the nation’s most revered landmarks. The city’s breathtaking Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a stunning tribute to the nation’s deep-rooted faith, while the truly Bruneian Kampong Ayer water village offers a glimpse of the nation’s quaint Asian charm. Beneath Bandar Seri Begawan’s lavish adornments, gold towers, sparkling fountains and colourful mosaic tiles, lies a city steeped in quiet respect, grounded in Islamic tradition, and exuding a sense of peace that makes it one of Asia’s most distinctive capital cities.
As the world’s oldest reigning monarchy, Brunei is home to centuries of royal heritage, with the current Sultan’s family line dating back over 600 years. Walk through time and discover relics from an ancient shipwreck, take a stroll around the surroundings of a royal tomb, and experience history all over again through numerous exhibits and displays.
Tourist Information: Brunei has three tourist information centres to help you plan out your itinerary, catered to your needs. You can find one right in the Brunei International Airport’s arrival hall, near the main entrance. It’s open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9:00am to 6:00pm. You’re out of luck if you planes arrives outside those times. The second tourist information can be found at Dermaga Diraja (The Royal Wharf) in the capital. It’s open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9:00am to 4:00pm. The other tourist information centre is located at the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery, and is open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Please take note that all centres are closed on Friday, Sunday and public holiday
Entertainment and Restaurants in Bandar Seri Begawan :
Brunei does not exactly have a thriving entertainment scene. According to “Cities of the World, “Occasionally, the music society and other diplomatic missions sponsor concerts, but legitimate theater, opera, and ballet do not exist in Brunei. The one local movie theater is not a place for family diversion. There are no night-clubs. Art exhibits are held occasionally at the Brunei Museum and foreign missions.” One guy who lived in Bandar Seri Begawan in th early 2000s told one of the most forms of entertainment was racing expensive cars on empty roads at night.
Alcohol may only be consumed in a hotel room, residence, or other private venue. Brunei permits non-Muslim foreigners to import two liters of any alcoholic beverage and twelve cans of beer for personal consumption. There are no public commercial establishments that serve alcohol legally. Attempts to circumvent alcohol controls can result in arrest and criminal prosecution. In late 2018, a Dutch citizen was charged with possession of alcohol in excess of the allowable limit.
Dining out is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Brunei. Restaurants are plentiful but expensive. Cafes are popular places to hang out. An international hotel, the Raddison, has dining rooms, a bar currently not used to serve alcoholic beverages, and a coffee shop. Bruneian food (Malay food), Chinese food, Indian food, Western food, Japanese Food and other international cuisines are all available. Most restaurants are open until 9:00 or 10:00pm. There are lots of cafes where people like to hang out and socialize.
There are roadside food stalls throughout Brunei. Ask a taxi driver to take you to a good one. There are also food courts at the shopping malls. Hawker food such as satay, noodles, rice, roasted chicken, grilled fish and steamboats are popular. Hawker food can be found in all four distictss next to Jerudong Park, Padian Food Court ay Yayasan shopping area; the Wisma Setia Food Court at the Wisma Setia building in downtown Bandar
Gadong, one the main shopping areas of Bandar Seri Begawan, has an indoor hawker center on the ground floor of Jaya Hypermart. Eat delicious local food at the popular Gadong Night Market, located in the bustling district of Brunei-Muara. Open daily from 3:00pm to 12:00midnight, the market is a plethora of flavours, from the sweet, and sometimes spicy, local Malayan food to tantalizing localized Western cuisine. Leisurely stroll from stall to stall and sample different foods before you decide which ones to try.
Gandong also has a variety of restaurants offering Chinese, Lebanese, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, seafood and Nyonya. Many are friendly family-run joints. Chinese food is especially popular in Brunei. Downtown Bandar has many kedai makan (local eateries). Good seafood can be found along Jalam Muara and in Muara towns. Tong, Seria and Kuala Belait also have a good and varied selection of restaurants. Damuan Park on Jalan Tutong is well-known for satay and steamboat dinners The major hotels generally offer a mix of Western and Asia food. Some have reasonable buffet deals. There are McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Huts and Jollibee (a Philippine fast food chain), Sugar Bun and Express Burger are local fast food places,
Shopping in Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei is especially rich in its own style of traditional crafts, ensuring that any of your buys at one of the nation’s many handicrafts centres and shops will be unique items to be treasured for years to come. Some examples include the resplendent gold or silver-threaded material known as Jong Sarat and collector textiles called Kain Tenunan, both of which can be purchased from the Arts and Handicraft Training Centre at Kota Batu and also at the Brunei International Airport. Handmade with an ancient method passed down for generations, Jong Sarat is often worn during weddings or other formal occasions. Aside from traditional cloths, other items that reflect the rich craftsmanship of Brunei are brassware and silverware, replica canons, the traditional dagger known as the kris, gongs, basketry and other unique items.
Gadong is one the main shopping areas of Bandar Ser Begawan The largest shopping mall in Bandar Seri Begawan is the majestic Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex on Jalan MacArthur. This is a breathtaking piece of architecture with ample parking for visitors and houses a wide array of upmarket boutiques and shops. New to the shopping scene is the elegant complex The Mall in Bandar Seri Begawan. It is easy to shop in the Sultanate because all major credit cards (American Express, VISA, Diner’s Club and MasterCard) are widely accepted.
One of the largest chain stores in Brunei, Hua Ho Department Store is a popular one-stop shop for locals. There is a wide selection of groceries and designer goods available. In addition, downtown Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait and Seria sport a variety of modern air-conditioned outlets and older shop houses. There are also a number of shops at Bandar Seri Begawan International Airport where visitors may purchase duty free items, CDs, sports equipment, chocolates, as well as books on Brunei and the region.
Handicrafts and Souvenirs Name Location Pelangi De' Mutiara Tourist Square Sdn Bhd Units 12 - 14, Ground Floor, Block C Latifuddin Complex, Pengkalan Gadong Jalan Tungku Link, Gadong BE2119 Negara Brunei Darussalam Tel: 673-2456141, 673-2456143 Fax: 673-2456142
Asnika Gadong Complex, Gadong
FSAA Enterprise Bumiputera Commercial Complex, Bandar Seri Begawan
Galleri Izyan Yayasan SHHB Complex Bandar Seri Begawan / Jalan Sultan Omar Ali, Seria
Handy Handicraft / Sunju Enterprise Centerpoint, Gadong / Yayasan SHHB Complex, Bandar Seri Begawan
Impression Gifts & Souvenir Bangunan Haji Abdul Rahman, Bandar Seri Begawan
Jerudong Park Playground Souvenir Shop Jerudong
Ridah Handicrafts Kiulap, Airport Lama, Kampong Tasek Meradun
Mustaqim Enterprise Bangunan Haji Hassanin 2, Gadong
Malya Associates Airport Departure Hall
Hitara Enterprise Jalan Kiarong
Mesa Gifts & Souvenirs Gadong Complex
Sahabaz (Brunei) Sdn Bhd Pusat Bunut, Jalan Tutong, Bandar Seri Begawan
The Arts and Handicraft Centre Jalan Residency, Bandar Seri Begawan
From market stalls or syarikats to multi-storey department stores, for souvenirs specific to Brunei or international favourites, a number of stores have been listed below.
SHOPPING CENTRES LOCATION
Abdul Wahab Complex Tutong
Cempaka Complex Tutong
First Emporium & Supermarket Kompleks Mohammad Yussof, Bandar Seri Begawan
Hua Ho Department Store Yayasan Complex / Sengkurong / Bangunan Halimutal Saadiah, Gadong / Kiulap / Jalan Muara / Tanjung Bunut / Tutong
Jaya Hypermart Gadong
Kota Mutiara Department Store Bangunan Darussalam, Bandar Seri Begawan
Utama Grand The Mall, Gadong
Milimewah Department Store Bangunan Darussalam, Bandar Seri Begawan / Seria / Kuala Belait / Muara
Pertama Store Jerudong / Lambak Kanan
Princess Inn Department Store Jalan Tutong, Bandar Seri Begawan
Seri Aman Complex Tutong
Seria Plaza Jalan Sultan Omar Ali, Seria
Sim Kim Huat Gadong / Jerudong / Tutong
Soon Lee Megamart Jalan Tutong, Bandar Seri Begawan / Kuala Belait
Supa Save Mabohai / Gadong / Seria
The Mall Gadong
Times Square Shopping Centre Jalan Berakas
Giant Kg Rimba / Kiulap / Times Square
Seri Q-Lap Mall Kiulap
Yayasan SHHB Complex Jalan MacArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan
Market and Handicrafts Center in Bandar Seri Begawan
Tamu Kianggeh (On the banks of the Kianggeh River in central Bandar Seri begawan) is also known to the locals as the Amah's Market. Everyday, before the crack of dawn, this community market situated on the banks of the Kianggeh River opposite the Chinese Temple, is filled with all sorts of local fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and handicraft - just the kind of things an amah would want to pick up for the kitchen. Local handicrafts include tudung dulang (decorative food covers), pemarang (machete-like knives) and local food like kueh concin and jala. It is opene very day from morning until late evening, Most of the produce sold here would be finished by early evening. Other tmau and night food stalls are located in Gadong opposite the Terrace Hotel.
Arts and Handicraft Training Centre (alongside the Brunei River on Jalan Residency, facing Kampong Air) sells stuff ans holds classes for those interested in a career making handicraft, displays brocades called 'jong sarat, hand-woven baskets, silverware, brassware, woodcarvings and snake-like daggers called 'keris'. Arts and Handicraft Training Centre offers a wide selection of locally made silverware, brasserie, and bronzeware crafted and inspired by the rich Malay cultural heritage. The silver, brass, and bronze are hammered and crafted by hand into a variety of articles, such as jugs, trays, gongs, boxes, napkin rings, spoons, threads, bracelets, etc. There are also an assortment of beautifully woven baskets and mats of bamboo and pandan. The Brunei Arts and Handicraft Training Centre is located at Jalan Residency, Bandar Seri Begawan, Tel: 2240676/391/399
The centre was established to preserve and revive the traditional arts and handicraft industry, and possesses some of the best examples of the nation’s handicrafts such as hand-tolled silver jewelry, ornamental cnnons and snake-like daggers known as “keris.” . Don’t miss the chance to view Brunei’s famous brocades, the ‘kain tenunan’, woven with golden and silver threads called “jong sarat” Garments made of these have been worb on ceremonial occasions for centuries. Open from 7:45am to 4:30pm with a lunch break from 12: 15 pm to 1:30 pm except Fridays and Sundays when it is ope from 8:30am to 2:00pm.
The Art Gallery, located next to the Arts and Handicraft Training Centre at Jalan Residency, Tel: 2223-205/2222741 provides the services of promoting and educating the public about art. Brunei's best artists periodically perform, sell or exhibit their work here. Visitors wishing to come to the Art Gallery by bus can take the Central Line Bus No: 11 and the Eastern Line Bus No: 2 or 39.
Accommodation in Bandar Seri Begawan
Bandar Seri Begawan’s main top-end hotels are the “7-star” Empire Hotel & Country Club ( www.theempirehotel.com firstname.lastname@example.org) and the business-oriented Radisson Hotel,. There is a choice of budget hotels, guesthouses, hostels and serviced apartments. The tourists office in Bandar Seri Begawan and at the airport can help you find a luxury or standard hotel. The Lonely Planet books have good lists of cheap guest houses.
Business and Tourist Class: Accommodation
1) Radisson Hotel, , Tel: 2244272, www.radisson.com/brunei, email@example.com, Fax: 2221579
2) Rizqun International Hotel, Tel: 2423000, www.rizquninternational.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2428000
3)Centrepoint, Tel: 2430430, www.arhbrunei.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2430200
4) Orchid Garden Hotel, Tel: 2335544, www.orchidgardenbrunei.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2335444
5) Riverview Hotel, Tel: 2238238, www.mybruneihotels.com/riverview-hotel, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2237999
6 ) Brunei Hotel, Tel: 2242372, www.bruneihotel.com.bn, email@example.com, Fax: 2226196
7) Terrace Hotel, Tel: 2243554, www.terracebrunei.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2227302
8) Jubilee Hotel, Tel: 2228070, www.jubileehotelbrunei.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2228080
9) Grand City Hotel, Tel: 2452188, www.bruneibay.net/bruneihotels/grandcity.html, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2452100
10) Traders Inn, Tel: 2442828, www.mybruneihotels.com/traders-hotel, email@example.com, LR
11) Asma Hotel, Tel: 2612218, www.bruneibay.net/bruneihotels/asma.html, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2612117
12) Holiday Lodge, Tel: 2611618, www.theholidaylodge.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2611419
13) Goodview Hotel, Tel: 2612168, www.mybruneihotels.com/goodview-hotel, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2610168, Kiulap
14) Plaza Hotel, Tel: 2232252, www.kiulapplazahotel.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2232253
15) Palm Garden Hotel, Tel: 2233488, www.palmgarden-hotel.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2234448
16) Jeruton Hotel, Tel: 2612233, email@example.com, Fax: 2611892,
17) Apek Utama Hotel, Tel: 2220808, Fax: 2226166
18) Times Hotel, Tel: 2337878, www.timeshotelbrunei.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2337879
1) D'Anggerek Service Apartment, Tel: 2345222, www.danggerek.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2345333
2) Abd Razak Hotel Apartments, Tel: 2241536, www.arhbrunei.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2242301
3) Le Gallery Suites Hotel, Tel: 2221228, www.legallerysuiteshotel.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2221132
4) Dar, Takaful, IBB, 2, Service, Apartment, Tel: 2238900, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2238910
5) Komplex, Mohammad, Yussof, Service, Apartment, Tel: 2235532, email@example.com, Fax: 2235528
Guesthouses and Hostels:
1) Intrepid, Units, Central Bandar Seri,Begawan, Tel: 2221685, Hotel@bruneibay.net, Fax: 2221687
2) Nazira, Guesthouse, Tel: 2612053, www.marimari.com/hotel/brunei/nazira, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2612201
3) K.H, Soon, Services, And, Rest, House, Tel: 2222052, http: //khsoon-resthouse.tripod.com, email@example.com, Fax: 2337264
4) Seameo, Voctech, Intn'l, House, Tel: 2447992, www.voctech.org.bn/2004/vih.htm, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2445072
5) Pusat Belia (Youth Centre), Tel: 2223936, 2222900, www.bruneiyouth.org.bn, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 2229423
Bus Station in Bandar Seri Begawan
The main bus terminal where most local and long-distance buses leave from and arrive is at Jalan Cator in the city centre. It occupies the ground level of a multistory carpark. [Source: Wikivoyage]
To Seria: Regular buses leave for Seria (where you can change buses to Kuala Belait) that leave from the main bus terminal. They usually display the departure time on the windscreen. Journey time is about one hour and the fare is B$6 one way. Going the other way, there are buses from Kuala Belait to Seria (B$1) where you can change to another bus for Bandar Seri Begawan (B$6).
To Kuala Lurah: Local minibuses run from the bus terminal right up to the Kuala Lurah checkpoint throughout the day. Journey is about half hour and fare is B$1 one way. At Kuala Lurah, walk across the border and either catch a bus or taxi into Limbang.
To Miri: Buses leave twice a day at 8:15 and 3:45 from Miri bus terminal and arrive at the waterfront near the main bus terminal. RM50 or B$22; RM35 or B$17 for children 3–10 (2019).
To Kota Kinabalu: There is one bus per day, arriving and departing at the waterfront near the main bus terminal. The bus to KK leaves at 8AM, but get there at 7:30 to buy the ticket. It takes 6–8 hours and costs $45 (2019).
Sights in Bandar Seri Begawan
Churchill Monument is the biggest memorial in Brunei. It is dedicated to Winston Churchill, which is kind of odd because Churchill never set foot in the country. The Sultan apparently met him twice and admired him. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Aquarium is housed in the Churchill Memorial Building. It contains tropical fish that are found in Bruneian waters.
Royal Ceremonial Hall and the Dewan Majlis form a sprawling complex featuring a blend of traditional Malay and Western architecture. The Lapau (Royal Ceremonial Hall) contains the Patarana (Throne) and is where numerous solemn ceremonies are held. It is beautifully decorated in exquisite gold motifs. .Traditional royal ceremonies are often held here. In the Lapau on August 1, 1968, the Sultan was crowned the 29th Sultan of Brunei. Another splendid building is the Dewan Majlis or Parliament House which is adjoined to the Lapau.
House of Twelve Roofs is a quaint piece of British architecture that once the home of the British Resident when the British Residential System was introduced in Brunei in1906. It has exhibits that examine the long relationship between Brunei and the United Kingdom since the 19th century. Between 1905 and 1906, an agreement was signed between the two countries for the establishment of a British Resident in Brunei, the stabilising factor in this country at a time when Brunei was vulnerable. In 1906, Malcolm McArthur became the first British Resident. Today, the building shows historical photographs of the lives of individuals and those involving the state politically, economically and socially. Regarded as one of the oldest surviving buildings in Brunei, The House of Twelve Roofs is situated on Jalan Residency, Tel: 2244-545/2244-181. '
Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium (5 kilometers from Bandar Seri Bagawan) was the venue of the 1999 Southeast Asia Games. It is a high-tech stadium with an advanced Sports Medicine and Research Centre. Next to the outdoor stadium are the 6,000-seat Indoor Stadium, the International Swimming Complex, the International Tennis Centre and the Practice Track & Field Complex. More sports complexes such as a squash centre, a hockey centre and a multi purpose hall are also nearby.
Istana Nurul Iman: Residence of the Sultan of Brunei
Istana Nurul Iman (three kilometers west of Bandar Seri Begawan's city center) is the lavish palace of the Sultan of Brunei and is the world's largest residential palace — larger than the Vatican. Competed in January 1984 at a cost $350 million, the palace covers two million square feet and has domes gilded with 22-karat gold, 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, gold-plated escalators, air-conditioned stables for the sultan’s Argentine polo ponies (he at one time had 200 of them), and an 800-car underground garage for the sultan's cars, including hundreds of Rolls Royces.
Situated on the banks of the Brunei River on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the palace is an enigmatic symbol of Brunei’s enduring monarchy and seat of the nation's government and a glittering example of Brunei’s majestic royal heritage and profligate waste. It also contains a banquet hall that can be expanded to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, a mosque accommodating 1,500 people and five swimming pools. The palace is closed to the public except during the Haro Raya, when the Royal family greets the public.
The best view of Istana Nurul Iman is from the Taman Persiaran Damuan, a leafy, scenic park along the river bank off Jalan Tutong. It has walkways, a well-equipped playground and features six outdoor sculptures by ASEAN artists, on the theme of Unity in Diversity. Persiaran Damuan is popular for jogging and has several food stalls in the evenings.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (central Bandar Seri Begawan) is the centerpiece of Bandar Seri Begawan. Completed in 1958 and bearing the name of the Sultan who built it, it is built in a classical Islam style and features a 45-meter-high (150-foot-high) dome that looks sort of like the U.S. capital dome with a golden knit cap placed over top of it. The building is decorated with gold-mosaic marble and stained glass. The highest of the minarets which sit at the corners of the building are 50 meters (165 feet) high. In front of the mosque in a lagoon is an elegant concrete boat which resembles a 16th century royal barge. The mosque is known to locals as SOAS mosque,
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a symbol of Brunei's adherence to Islam, is one of the most magnificent mosques in Asia, located on a two hectare site, with a capacity of about 3,000 people, it boasts gold mosaics, resplendent marble and granite floors, stained glass windows, marble column and chandeliers from all over the world. It features marble from Italy, granite from Shanghai, stained glass and chandeliers from England and handmade carpets from Belgium and Saudi Arabia. The chandeliers weigh four tons and two tons.
The main building is a two-story, structure that is 77 meters (225 feet) tall and 26 meters (86 feet) wide. It most prominent fetaure is a golden mosaic dome with a surface area of 520 square meters with 3.3 million pieces of Venetian mosaic glass.Rozan Yunos wrote in The Brunei Times: “Work started on building the mosque on 4th February 1954. One of the local elements incorporated into the design was the ‘kalat’ (very thick rope) shaped design which are plastered winding on all the outside columns. In the Brunei tradition of building ‘lapau’ (halls), the actual kalat rope is used to install the columns and it is usually dyed with many colours and gold. It has been said in the architectural world that the main dome is the mosque's most recognisable feature covered in gold. The main minaret incorporated an unusual mixed of Renaissance and Italian architectural style which is not seen in many mosques in the world. The mosque's interior itself was filled with elements of Islamic art especially the calligraphy, flowers, geometric and the likes. he mosque was officially opened by His Majesty on the 26th September 1958. [Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, May 2007]
Robert Wilson wrote in jadedragon.com: “Omar Ali Safiudeen Mosque is “a treasure of Malay architecture—a tall, shimmering white building with huge gold minarets and domes. The outside is amazing, but the inside is breath-taking. It's a shockingly pure white with golden Islamic/Malay motifs and Arabic calligraphy. I had to wonder what it took to keep the inside of the gigantic building such a divinely pure white color. The blue and red stain glass and the green prayer rugs covering most of the expansive white marble floor make it complete. Around the inside perimeter were exotic gold lanterns. Around the center were huge chandeliers with the bulbs that looked like white candles with Malay-style gold domes where the flame would be. The mosque doesn't have a courtyard like most Arabic mosques.” [Source: Robert Wilson, jadedragon.com]
Outside, the mosque is partly surrounded by the serene manmade Sungai lagoon with a concrete replica of a 16th century mahligai or royal barge, situated in the middle of it. The view of the mosque is especially captivating at night when the lights are on. The barge is a replica of a 16th century mahligai barge, which as used to stage important religious ceremonies such as Quran reading competitions during the 1960s and early 70s. There is a large open area beside the shallow lagoon. A gracefully arching stairway links the "boat" to the palace. Completed in 1967, the barge was built to commemorate the 1,400th anniversary of Nuzul Al-Quran (“coming down of the Al-Quran”).
The Mosque is open Sunday to Wednesday 8:00am to 12:00pm, and 2:00 or 3:00pm to 5:00 or 6:00pm. It is closed to non-Muslims on Thursday and Friday. It is open on Saturdays provided there is no scheduled event, Visitors are expected to be respectful and to dress conservatively when entering the building and taking off their shoes at the entrance.
History of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Mosques in Bandar Seri Begawan
Rozan Yunos wrote in The Brunei Times: “Mosques have long dominated the skyline in Brunei. In 1578 during the reign of Sultan Saiful Rizal, a Spanish traveler, Alonso Beltran described the main mosque as one made up of five layers. The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the Southeast Asian region. It symbolised the country’s official religion of Islam. However not many people realised that prior to its completion in 1958, there was no proper mosque in the capital city, then known as Pekan Brunei. [Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, May 2007]
:Before the Second World War, even though there were a number of other mosques built in the countryside, the only mosque that was built in the capital city was called Masjid Marbut Pak Tunggal (also known as Masjid Pekan Brunei) which was built during the era of Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam II, the 26th Sultan. This mosque was located by the river approximately nearby where the current Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is. The mosque was made out of timber with an asbestos roofing and a small rocket like minaret attached to it. The building was raised about a foot off the ground with concrete base. This mosque was clearly visible in some of the aerial photographs taken during the Second World War (try to spot the mosque in the photo). Unfortunately during the Japanese occupation, the mosque was destroyed.
“A temporary mosque catering to about 500 worshippers was built immediately after the war. This was sited where the TAIB Building is currently located. It was more like a temporary prayer hall rather than a proper mosque for Brunei Muslims to congregate for their prayers. The building structure was made out of timber with the roof made out of thatched palm leaves and the walls out of thatched nipah leaves. Built on top of the roof was a small tower. Everything about the mosque signifies that it was temporary. It was never given a proper name but was always known as Masjid Kajang (named after the type of roof material used). Despite that it was widely used until 1958 when the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque was completed.
“However Masjid Kajang was relatively small and for bigger congregation, the prayers would be held out in the open at the Padang (now known as Taman Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien) in the town centre. His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien himself prayed together with his subjects out in the open air. By 1949, a committee had been formed to look into the possibility of building a national mosque. The first site proposed by the committee chaired by YTM Seri Paduka Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Anak Haji Muhammad Yasin in December 1952 for the location of the new mosque was the Padang itself. However His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien preferred the site to be where it is situated currently which is on the riverside and at that time considered as the town centre.
“According to Pengiran Adnan, a Senior Architect at the Public Works Department (PWD), the architect employed to design the mosque was an Italian named Cavalieri R. Nolli based upon an early design prepared by His Majesty himself and drawn with the assistance of Awang Besar Sagap, a PWD draughtsman. The detailed architectural plan was prepared by Booty and Edwards Chartered Architects and the construction work was done by Sino-Malayan Engineer. The construction costs were very modest estimated to be around $7.7 million to $9.2 million. The design was heavily influenced by Mughal architecture in India. The Mughal Emperors who ruled India for about 350 years from the early 16th Century, built many of India’s beautiful historical mosques and buildings including the Taj Mahal.”
Near Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex (Adjacent to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque) is both a foundation and shopping complex initiated by His Majesty the Sultan to generate revenue for the welfare of the Bruneian people and an upmarket shopping centre. Inside, Hua Ho Department Store is the anchor tenant surrounded by innumerable shiny stores offering branded and non branded goods of all kinds, restaurants and cyber cafés.
Opened in July 1996 and embracing modern and traditional Malay architecture, Yayasan (as it is called in short) sports traditional Malay and modern architecture and is a prominent landmark in the heart of the capital. The paved open-air foyer decked with landscaping offers a splendid view of the magnificent Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at one end and Kampung Ayer at the other end. Framed by blue skies or the brilliance of the evening sun, this is where most people come to enjoy the view and a breath of fresh air.
Taman Mahkota Jubilee Emas (Near Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque) is Brunei’s 12-hectare riverfront park. With perfectly trimmed gardens, brilliant flora and grand monuments that light up the night, visitors can take a breather at the park with the backdrop of magnificent Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque and serene Kampong Ayer. Enjoy some local snacks from friendly stall owners and maybe rent a 2, 4 or 6 rider bicycle for a delightful ride around the park.
Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (In Kampong Kiarong, a few kilometers from central Bandar Seri Bagawan) is the largest mosque in Brunei. This mosque features colorful mosaic tails and eight-pointed stars, no less grand than the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque! It was built to commemorate the present monarch’s Silver Jubilee (25th anniversary on the throne) , and is surrounded by finely manicured gardens and fountains. It is beautifully lit up at night.
Jame' Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (Malay: Masjid Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah) is one of the two national mosques, the other being Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Building The mosque can accommodate 5,000 worshipers at a time and has 29 golden domes and four minarets with height of 58 meters (190 feet). Grand and opulent, with shimmering golden domes and intricately ornamental minarets set in a landscape of gardens and fountains, this mosque is also known as the Kiarong Mosque because of its location.
Jame' 'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah is a waqf of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th and current Sultan of Brunei. The construction began in 1988 on a 20-acre site in Kiarong. The mosque was inaugurated on 14 July 1994 with the Sultan attending the Maghrib and Isha prayers in conjunction with His Majesty's 48th birthday celebration.
Museums in Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Museum (6.5 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan, on the banks of the Brunei River) has a large collection of bronzeware, brassware, ceramics and Chinese porcelain. historical records, and artifacts that bring to life the cultural heritage of Brunei. Established in 1965, the museum also contains displays of antique cannons and intricate daggers, a large private collection of gilded Holy Korans, archaeological artefacts, natural history subjects, Brunei Malay culture exhibits, Borneo ethnographic displays, Islamic artefacts, exhibits on the development and discovery of oil. and treasures unearthed from shipwrecks off Brunei’s coasts. Located up the hill of Kota Batu is the Brunei Museum building is an interesting piece of architecture. Check out centuries-old Chinese porcelain, ceramics and jade discovered during the course of an offshore pipeline survey). Location: Jalan Kota Batu, Tel: 2244-545/6. Open Tuesday to Sundays from 9:00am to to 5:00pm. Friday there is a lunch and prayer break from 11:30 am to 3:30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Malay Technology Museum (near the Brunei Museum) is more of an ethnicity museum than a science and technology museum. Itoffers an in-depth look at the traditional lifestyle of Brunei’s ethnic groups and their traditions. The exhibits showcase, among other things, model houses of the Murut, Kedayan, Dusun and Penan people, as well as ancestral weaponry, hunting tools, and crafts still practised in Kampong Ayer. Displays include three-dimensional mock-ups of boat making, house-building, metalworking and gold smiting. Address: at Jalan Kota Batu, Tel: 2244-545, Open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily except Tuesday from 9:00am to 11:30am and Friday from 2:30pm to 5:00pam.
Brunei History Centre (beside the Royal Regalia Museum) contains genealogical records detailing the origins of the Royal Family and other historical documents significant to the nation. Dedicated to the research, collection, publication and exhibition of Brunei’s history, the centre offers a fascinating look into the nation’s past, including elaborate displays of antique cannons and intricate daggers. There’s also a gallery showcasing treasures unearthed from shipwrecks off Brunei’s coast! Established in 1982, the centre holds documents of Brunei's historical events and the full genealogy and origins of the Sultans of Brunei and the Royal Family. Open Monday to Thursday as well as Saturday from 7:45am to 12: 00pm and from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. Closed on Fridays and Sundays.
Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum houses a shipwreck found off the coast of Brunei In 1997 and artifacts found in and around it. Over 13,000 valuable artifacts were found, giving a peek into the nation’s maritime history and role as a leading trading power. The skeleton of the vessel is displayed along with an exhibit on the history of the country’s ancient capital.
The Belait District Museum (outside Bandar Seri Begawan) is the only museum outside of the Brunei-Muara District. It was once the residence of a Deputy British Resident. Built in the 1930s, it still has nearly all of its original structures, which is a combination of Malay and colonial architecture elements. The museum has displays related to the history, ethnicity, and wildlife found in the district.
Royal Regalia Museum
Royal Regalia Museum (in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan) is where visitors can glimpse the Sultan’s full royal regalia, including his jewel-encrusted crowns used in coronations, gold and silver ceremonial armoury and royal chariot, along with a vast collection of opulent treasures and a replica of the throne sued by the sultan on state occasions. There is also a an exhibit which fully documents the history of the Brunei constitution. .
This royal museums highlighting the nation’s 600-year old monarchy and century-spanning history. There exhibits commemorating the Silver and Golden Jubilee celebrations of the present monarch’s reign. Visitors are greeted with the very same golden chariot used to bring the Sultan through the city streets during the Silver Jubilee celebration in 1992.
Built to commemorate the 1992 Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's ascension to the throne, The Royal Regalia Museum is housed in an ornate building with a distinctively gilded dome. The museum is located at Jalan Sultan, Tel: 2238-358/360. Open 8:30am to 5:00pm daily except Friday from 9:00am to 11:30am and 2:30pm to 5:00pm. Remove you shoes before entering the building
Mausoleums in Bandar Seri Begawan
Mausoleum of Sultan Bolkiah (on the banks of the Brunei River off Jalan Kota Batu, near the Brunei Museum) is the tomb of the fifth Sultan of Brunei who ruled Brunei when it was at the height of its power in the 15th century. A small golden domed pavilion surrounds the tomb. It is located a peaceful area in a quiet alcove of greenery and exudes the deep respect of the Bruneian people for their rich heritage.
Sultan Bolkiah was widely regarded as the monarch whose reign brought upon Brunei’s ‘Golden Age’ of power and influence, as much of Borneo, the Southern Philippines and Manila were under his rule. Sultan Bolkiah is also known as Nakhoda Ragam which means 'captain of great manner and activity'. His tomb lies within a mausoleum.
Sultan Sharif Ali Mausoleum (not too far from the Sultan Bolkiah Mausoleum is the resting place of Brunei’s third Sultan, Sultan Sharif Ali, who added the phrase ‘Darussalam’ to the country’s name. A sense of historical importance is palpable here, and for good reason: this area was the ancient capital of Brunei’s maritime empire.
Batu Tersilah (near the Royal Mausoleums) is a four-foot tall stone is an important historical marker. Constructed due to the request of Brunei’s 14th and 16th Sultans, Sultan Muhyiddin and Sultan Husin Kamaluddin, the names of the country’s rulers, from the first, Sultan Muhammad Shah to the nineteenth monarch, Sultan Tajuddin are carved on the stone. Batu Tersilah can be found outside the Royal Mausoleum and a replica of it can also be found in the Brunei History Centre.
Parks in Bandar Seri Begawan
Taman Persiaran Damuan (along the river bank off Jalan Tutong) is a leafy, scenic park and the best view of Istana Nurul Iman is from the . It has walkways, a well-equipped playground and features six outdoor sculptures by ASEAN artists, on the theme of Unity in Diversity. Persiaran Damuan is popular for jogging and has several food stalls in the evenings.
Tasek Recreation Park (In Bandar Seri Begawan) A forest reserve and recreational park in the middle of the city. Only in Brunei would an urbanite be able to commune with nature with just a 15-minute walk from the heart of the capital. Taman Tasek has a natural waterfall in the middle of a lush forest. Brunei Shell, as part of their community work, has also installed an eight-meter high wall for those interested in climbing.
Kendal Waterfall (in Mukim Kilanas about 1.5 kilometers off Jalan Tutong) is called Wasai Kendal in Malay. It is located in is a pleasant area known for its wide trails, cool crystal waters, picturesque pools and beautiful blooms.
Taman Mini Perayaan Kampong Parit (26 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan) is leafy park with miniature model houses of rural Brunei and Kampong Ayer, complete with stilts standing over a small river. There are also miniature nodding donkets at items related to the petroleum industry as well a a playground and possibly some food stall.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Brunei Darussalam tourism websites, Brunei Darussalam government websites, Wikitravel, Wiki Voyage, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020