NEAR BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Brunei-Muara (the district around Bandar Seri Begawan) covers 570 square kilometers and is the smallest but most populated of Brunei’s four districts. Though small in size, Brunei-Muara is of great importance to the nation. Outside the capital lie some of the nation’s most world-renowned attractions: namely Istana Nurul Iman, home of the Sultan of Brunei and Jerudong Park, the state-of-the-art amusement park that was once the playground of royalty.
The Empire Hotel and Country Club The most magnificent hotel in Brunei, this 6-star establishment features a Jack Nicklaus golf course, a theater and cinema complex, a selection of restaurants, a range of accommodation choices, a sports complex, water sports facilities and many other world class features.
Muara (25 kilometers northeast of Bandar Seri Begawan) is the home Brunei’s deep water port and the ferry terminal to Pulau Labuan, Sabah. It is a small oil center town north of the capital, has surprisingly nice beaches. Bukit Tempayan Pisang is a 500-meter-high hill in Muara. The summit gives a panoramic view of the coast and Muara town.
The Brooketon Coalmine which can be accessed from Bukit Tempayan Pisang dates back to 1888 when coal was mined in Brunei. In its heyday, 650,000 tonnes of coal were brought to the surface. The coalmine is of course now abandoned along with its railway, mineshafts and tunnels. People who like to explore dark places willl have a good time here.
Camels of Hussyn Rahman Enterprise (could be permanently closes): In 2001, Hj Hussin Bin Hj Rahman, an enterprising Bruneian, saw the potential of camels in Brunei and brought in 20 animals for the purpose of "akikah" - a Muslim rite required of every Muslim to offer an animal sacrifice once in his lifetime. With thoughts to expand the camel business further, he brought in another two camels in 2003, this time for the purpose of providing fun rides for the enjoyment of the public. Since their arrival, Silver and Blossom — the two trained riding camels — have been the 'stars' of numerous funfairs, Radio Televisyen Brunei and the Agricultural Expo. In between these events, Silver and Blossom offer rides to the public back at the farm. The farm is located at: Lot 161, Spg 502, Kampung Betumpu Tapak, Jalan Bengkurong Masin, Tel: 2681-417/2655-532 (Head Off) with rides available from 9:00am - 11:00am and 2:00pm - 4:00pm from Mondays to Saturdays and from 9:00am -11 am on Sundays and Public Holidays.
Beaches and Islands Near Bandar Seri Begawan
According to the Lonely Planet books Muara, a small oil center town north of the capital, has surprisingly nice beaches. Muara beach (27 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan) is known for its pristine coastline, with a long stretch of golden sand. It has picnic areas, changing rooms, toilets and playgrounds. Mergang Beack — sometimes called “Crocodile Beach — is nearby.
Serasa Beach (10 minuet drive Muara) is known for its water sports such as jet skiing, kayaking and wind surfing. Serasa Water sports Complex has facilities for international level competitive events such as sailing, water-skiing and others. The Serasa Water Sports Complex hosted the water sports events during the 20th SEA Games in Brunei Darussalam and has hosted international water skiing, sailing, windsurfing competitions.
Pulau Selirong (45 minutes from Muara by boat) is a little mangrove island located off Brunei Bay. Also called Mosquito Island, it is a 2,566-hectare island filled with mangrove swamps and wildlife. There is two kilometers of wooden walkways built to offer close-up views of the the life forms that thrive in this unique ecosystem. There is also an observation tower, toilet facilities and rest huts. Tours can be arranged from Maura.
Pantai Seri Kenangan (five minutes from Tutong town, 40 kilometers west of Bandar Seri Begawan) literally means “the unforgettable beach” or “'beach of beautiful memories'.” It is situated on a narrow spit of land with the South China Sea on one side and the Tutong River on the other. It is a popular haunt of weekend picnickers and swimmers. Nearby are large area of coconut palms.
Parks in Bandar Seri Begawan
Some of the rainforest parks have places where you can walk under the rain forest canopy. There are nature walks and river trips. Berakas Forest Recreational Park (about 10 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan on the Muara-Tutong Highway, Brunei-Muara) is a popular retreat for families, with meandering paths, a lookout point and picnic and barbecue spots in the midst of a forest. The forest reserve within the park covers 199 hectares and consists mainly of kerangas forest with several interesting kinds of tree, including rurang (casuarina) and selunsor (tristania). There is five-storey-high observation tower.
Bukit Teraja Forest Reserve covers 27.11 square kilometers and contains 40 waterfalls, peat swamps, ridges, steams and is home to 36 species of frog and six species of plants only found in the area. There are also 233 species of butterfly
Tasek Lama Park (15 minute walk from the Lapau, Jalan Tasek Lama, Brunei-Muara) contains a pocket of rainforest with offers views of the water village, Kampong Ayer. A short walks leads to a natural waterfall and lack. There is also an eight-meter climbing wall.
Bukit Shahbandar Forest Recreation Park is a 70-hectare stretch of rolling verdant hills designated for hiking, cycling and fishing. An ideal getaway to work up a good sweat, this hilly area is usually crowded with fitness enthusiasts in the evenings. Entrance is free.
Jerudong Park (10 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan) 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.
Closeby 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, 6,165-meter 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 (in Jerudong Park) 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. It closed down for a while and reopened in March 2011, offering five new rides. At that time 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 Lonely Planet: “In its heyday, this B$1 billion amusement park, a Prince Jefri project, 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 20 kilometers northwest of BSB, so the only way to get here is by taxi (about B$35 from the centre) or private car.”
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.”
Visiting Jerudong Park Playground
Jerudong Park Playground in its current form has over 30 attractions. Visitors can roam freely through a beautifully landscaped and kid-friendly playground that the young ones would enjoy. Cool yourself down at the Waterpark with slides and a giant tipping bucket. For the thrill-seekers, there is the ‘Scary Drop’ where you plummet down a 50-meter tower! Make sure you’ve got comfortable footwear on as you may have to do a bit of walking to get to the attractions in the park. Outdoor stalls provide a wide variety of foods and drinks.
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 78-meter to offer a 360-degree panoramic view of Jerudong; 'Pusing Lagi' - a 5G force rollercoaster; 'Giant Drop'- a 48-meter 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 is closed from Monday to Wednesday, except on school holidays
Thursday: Playground: 4:00pm-11:00pm;Waterpark: 4:00pm-6:00pm 8:00pm-10.30pm; Water Fountain: Closed
Friday: Playground: 3:00pm-11.30pm; Waterpark: 4:00pm-6:00pm 8:00pm-10.30pm Water Fountain: Closed
Saturday: Playground: 10:00am-11.30pm; Waterpark: 10:00am-12:00pm 1:00pm-3:00pm 4:00pm-6:00pm 8:00pm-10.30pm; Water Fountain: 8.30pm-9.00pm
Sunday: Playground: 10:00am-11.30pm; Waterpark: 10:00am-12:00pm 1:00pm-3:00pm 4:00pm-6:00pm 8:00pm-10.30pm Closed
Ticket prices for non-residents
Adult (aged 12-59 years old): B$20 Child (aged 3-11 years old): B$10 Senior Citizen (aged 60+): B$5 Family Package (2 adults + 2 children): B$50 3 Simulator Movies: B$3
For more information on Jerudong Park and its individual facilities, call: 261 2044 for Jerudong Park Playground, call: 261 1353 for the Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club, call: 261 1582 for the Jerudong Park Polo Club, call: 261 2500.
Kampong Ayer (across the Brunei River and reached by water taxi from Bandar Seri Begawan) has been dubbed as the world’s largest self-contained water village. Extending from both banks of the Brunei River, this famed centuries-old village is home to 30,000 people and is almost entirely built on stilts, and even has schools, post offices and clinics on stilts. It can be reached by river taxi and explored by river cruise. One thing that sets this kampong apart from ones you'll find elsewhere in Borneo is that the rich Brunei government has seen to it that the houses are outfitted with all the latest conveniences.
At least 600 years old, Kampong Ayer stretches for several kilometers along the banks of the Brunei River. Comprised almost entirely of stilt houses and wooden walkways, it embraces a cluster of 42 villages. Some people refer to it as the 'Venice of the East'. Kampong Ayer retains many historical features of the 16th century when Ferdinand Magellan's chronicler described it. The traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants—fishermen, river traders (or padian as they are called in the Malay language) and artisans making and selling traditional handicrafts (silverware, brassware, woodcarving and cloth weaving) — has remained virtually unchanged since then.
Today Kampong Ayer is an almost self-sufficient community. It has modern facilities such as schools, shops, markets, mosques, clinics, police stations and fire stations. All are connected by a maze of stilted platforms and walkways over shallows of the Brunei River. Kampong Ayer is a national heritage and efforts are being made to preserve the lifestyle of the 'water' people of Brunei will be preserved not only as a tourist attraction, but also as a meaningful way of life for the future generations of Brunei.
Robert Wilson wrote in jadedragon.com: Kampong Ayer is “home to 30,000 people who refuse to leave. The government of Brunei would like to get the people to leave the villages and move into the city. It offers the villagers subsidized housing and cash allowances to leave the villages, but they just won't go. Even today it's often said that even urban Malays in places like Kuala Lumpur are still villagers in their soul. The ancestors of Kampung Ayer residents have been living over the lagoon for centuries. It was first dubbed the "Venice of the East" when Antonio Pigafetta, an officer on Magellan's great voyage, visited Kampung Ayer in 1521.” [Source: Robert Wilson, jadedragon.com]
Visiting Kampong Ayer
Kampong Ayer sprawls over a large area. Single women should always be accompanied. Water taxis negotiate the labyrinths of waterways and offer a convenient way to explore the Kampung Ayer. area. You can hail a water taxi at jetties situated along Brunei River. Water taxis there are a form of speed boat. Rides usually cost between B$4 – 10, but can be negotiated before setting off. Boats can also be hired to tour the waterways. It is probably best to have a local with you to help bargain the cost as well. In Kampung Ayer water taxis can be hailed from docking ports along the banks of the Brunei River. They ply the route between the water taxi jetty in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan and the water village itself.
Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery is unique gallery, which was opened in 2009, that provides a glimpse into the village’s past and focuses on the history, lifestyle and crafts of the Kampong Ayer people with the aim of reviving cottage industries and traditions by integrating them into the modern economy.
Robert Wilson wrote in jadedragon.com: A visit to the place makes it easy to understand why the residents want to stay. The many houses, shops, and villages of Kampung Ayer are all connected by a maze of boardwalks. As most of the people are Malay (and thus love color), many of the houses are painted in bright blues, greens, yellows, and other colors. Flowers grow in pots by many of the houses and vines of Bougainvilleas are seen along the way. As in the longhouses of Sarawak, the sense of community is everywhere. Children play along the boardwalks (and sometimes in the lagoon just below them) and neighbors sit outside and chat while older women sit by the spices they have out for sale. Everywhere you go you hear two soothing sounds: the waves hitting the stilts and the shore, and feet scampering along the boardwalks. It must be easy to sleep there at night. [Source: Robert Wilson, jadedragon.com]
“Getting lost in the boardwalk maze is easy and pleasant. I could always find a jetty and wait for a water taxi if (okay, when) I got hopelessly lost. The houses are very open and stealing a look inside is easy. On the inside the houses are like houses anywhere in the modern world. The community is prosperous, and the houses have many of the trappings of modern life. Despite being blessed by a sea breeze, many have air conditioners. (Even a sea breeze can't always compete against the equatorial heat.) All houses have electricity; most have TV antennas and some have satellite dishes.
“But those items aside, wandering down the boardwalks of Kampung Ayer I felt like I was seeing the same place Magellan's crew saw. The friendliness of the people of Brunei is one of its tourists' draws (though it's never really made it onto the tourist map) and the people of Kampung Ayer take it to an extreme. Everyone says "hello" as you pass; many chat for a few minutes and the children love to follow the tourists around. Everyone loves to be photographed. And of course, like Malay women everywhere, the women of Kampung Ayer go about in their bright colors. In addition to houses, there are mosques, restaurants, shops, and even a karaoke lounge on stilts over the water. I stayed longer than I meant to, right until sunset. As evening falls, Kampung Ayer passes from pleasant to idyllic. As the sun sets over the lagoon, illuminating the formerly white, now bright red mosque in the distance, it all became intoxicatingly peaceful. The quietly chatting people (Malays are a very soft-spoken people), the pitter-patter of feet on the boardwalk, the sea breeze, the sound of the waves and other simple pleasure of the water village all made me jealous of the residents. If I were a resident, I couldn't be pulled away by a herd of buffalo. I could have stayed all night but figured I should get a water taxi back into town.”
Tutong (half-hour drive west of Bandar Seri Begawan) is one of Brunei’s four districts. It is a sparsely populated and ethnically diverse district, presenting a different side of Brunei that what you see in Bandar Seri Begawan. It covers 1,166 square kilometers but is only home to around 35,000 people, including members of the Tutong, Kedayan, Murut and Dusun ethnic groups. Among is attractions are tasty snacks like rojak and pulut panggang, breathtaking hill-top views and deep blue lakes hidden away from busy roads. It is truly off the beaten path.
Tutong offers a glimpse of the diverse cultures and unique lifestyles of rural Brunei. It is abundant in natural beauty, from the white sands and rocky outcroppings of Pantai Seri Kenangan beach all the way inland to the scenic and somewhat mysterious feel of Tasek Merimbun, a serpentine lake surrounded by swamps and 15th century burial grounds. But the true draw of Tutong is its people. Local colour abounds at the Ruma Budaya cultural village, showcasing the five ethnic Bornean groups that make up the district’s diverse population.
Pantai Seri Kenangan (five minutes from Tutong town, 40 kilometers west of Bandar Seri Begawan) literally means “the unforgettable beach” or “'beach of beautiful memories'.” It is situated on a narrow spit of land with the South China Sea on one side and the Tutong River on the other. It is a popular haunt of weekend picnickers and swimmers. Nearby are large area of coconut palms.
Parks in Tutong District
Sungai Basong Recreational Park (five minutes from the Tutong town) is popular with picnickers and hikers. It features 'Rumah Budaya' (cultural village) which showcases the five ethnic groups in the district — the Tutong, Kedayan, Iban, Dusun and Chinese. The' Rumah Budaya' was constructed in 2001 at the cost of B$800,000 and is the only cultural house in the country. There is an observation tower and hiking and jogging trails at the park.
Silver Jubilee Park (along Jalan Maulana, about 1 kilometers from Kuala Belait) is a popular attraction in Jalan Maulana on the South China Sea. It featuring exhibition huts, shelters a playground, and a 'Pintu Gerbang' (official decorative entrance) that reflects the MIB (Malay Islamic Monarchy) concept of Brunei.
Silver Jubilee Park (Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah) and Recreation Area was built in 2002 in tribute to His Majesty the Sultan's 56th Birthday and the 25th anniversary of his rule. Covering six hectares, it is not far from Kampong Pusar Ulak, Mukim Kianggeh.
Tasek Merimbun: Brunei’s S-Shaped Black Water Lake
Tasek Merimbun (27 kilometers inland from Tutong) is an unusual S-shaped black water lake which has been earmarked as an Asean National Heritage Site. Actually a flooded segment of a tributary of the Tutong River, this 120-hectare site surrounded by swamps and sedges, has gravestones that date back to the 15th century. History has it that this was once the burial ground of early Borneo tribes, notably the Dusun people.
Tasek Merimbun (Lake Merimbun) is also the nature lover's delight offering views of bird, plant and insect life. Altogether, the lake covers 7,800 hectares of Lake Wetland, peat swamp forest, fresh water forest and a lowland mixed Dipterocarp forest. A tiny island in the centre features a pavilion that provides visitors a place to picnic or just admire the view. Belait District
Merimbun is Brunei’s largest black water lake. Some sources say the lake gets its colour from the waters of two rivers – Sungai Meluncur and Sungai Bang Oncom – as they flow through the forests and pour into the lake. Another explanation is based on a phenomenon caused by ‘tannin’ that comes from leaves falling into the water. Lily pads float atop the lake. A wooden bridge cross the lake, connecting the two parts of Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park. Artifacts unearthed in the area indicate it is one of the earliest settlement sights in Tutong District. A pavilion, fashioned from logs, is a delightful picnic place by the lake. Chalet facilities are also available for researchers who come to study the wild inhabitants of the park. Open Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9:00am-5:00pm; Friday 9:00am-11.30am and 2.30pm-5:00pm; Saturday 9.45am-5:00pm
Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park (In Mukim Rambai, Tutong, 24 kilometers from Tutong town, 1½ hours by car from Bandar Seru Begawan) is an ASEAN Heritage Park that covers 7,800 hectares and stretches over 2,500 hectares of wetlands with a beautiful freshwater lake — Tasek Merimbum) as its centrepiece
Belait District: Oil and Longhouses
Belait District (about an hour and half drive west of Bandar Seri Begawan) is the largest and most southerly of Brunei’s four districts and the production base of its oil and natural gas industries. A good way to check out some of Brunei’s rainforest is take a river safari up the Belait River. You can see wildlife as well as Penan and Dusun communities at Kampung Sukang, roughly 2½ hours by longboat from Labi Road. Another one to two hours by boat up the river brings visitors to an Iban longhouse at Kampung Melilas, the last longhouse on the river. Beyond it the river narrows and is virtually covered by trees with orchids, moss and ferns clinging to them. Waterfalls and hot springs are located further up the river,
Getting to Beliat from Bandar Seri Begawan takes more than an hour on the coastal road. Access to Miri in Malaysia is possible by following the road from Kampung Sungai Terban to the immigration post at Sungai Tujoh. Visitors to Belait District are greeted with the giant teacup, and the sight of iconic nodding donkeys, which pumps out the source of Brunei’s prosperous oil and gas economy. But oil is not the only thing Belait is rich in. With so many different cultures culminating in one district, visitors can also experience a variety of flavor palates as well as visit monumental marks of Brunei’s rich history and diverse people.
The main highway from the Malaysian border west of Kuala Belait to Muara Town passes south of Seria on the Seria Bypass. Tamu Sungai Mau is a famous and unique open air market because it offers fresh produce from the Labi jungle. Wild vegetables, deer meat, fish and all sorts of things not found elsewhere are all found here. However, this tamu is open only on Sunday mornings from 6:00am until 11:00am.
Seria (70 kilometers southwest of Bandar Seri Begawan) is a major oil center with about 25,000 residents, located on the South China seacoast. The birthplace of Brunei’s petroleum industry, where oil was discovered in 1929, it is the home of the headquarters of Brunei's only oil and gas corporation, Brunei Shell Petroleum. The oil produced in the region has supplied most of the funds used in the country's growth. The population of Seria is about 33,000. The combined population of Seria and neighboring Kuala Belit is 68,500. A number of expats, associated with the oil industry, live here.
Seria is located in the Belait District, in the mukim of the same name. The municipal town center is set in grid that is bounded by Jalan Tengah and the Seria Arena to the north, Jalan Lorong Satu Barat to the east, Jalan Bolkiah to the south, and Jalan Lorong Tiga Barat to the west. It has an area of about half a square kilometer. The suburbs of Panaga are located to the west of the town while Kampong Baru is located to the east of the town. The administrative capital of the Belait district, Kuala Belait is located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the west and is linked to Seria by both road. Mukim Labi, also in the Belait district is located to the east of Seria and the national capital of Bandar Seri Begawan is about 100 km to the north-east.
The taxi stand and bus depot is located at the south-east quarter of the intersection between Jalan Sultan Omar Ali and Jalan Bunga Pinang. Taxis fares start from B$3.00. Tourists are advised to negotiate the price for the trip before hiring the taxis. There is scheduled bus services from the bus station. 1) a regular shuttle towards Kuala Belait (B$1-one way) - thrice hourly except lunch and at night. 2) There are three routes, Laluan 1, Laluan 2 and Laluan Keliling Kuala Belait. hourly to Bandar Seri Begawan (B$6-one way) - the last bus departs at about 3:10pm an intermittent service to Sungai Liang.
History of Seria
Seria was originally known as Padang Berawa which is Wild Pigeon's Field in Malay. The name 'Seria' is an acronym for the South East Reserved Industrial Area that was given to it by the British authorities. The town’s present-day industrial area is located near the place where oil was first discovered in 1929. The first commercial oil well was places in Padang Berawa in 1929 on the west bank of the Seria river (Sungai Seria). Seria area was made in to a municipal area in 1936.
The first landing of the Japanese invasion of Borneo during World War II was at Seria where the a Japanese invasion force came ashore on December 16, 1941, nine days after Pearl Harbor. When they arrived they were greeted by the destruction of the oilfields from to "Operation Denial" carried out by employees of the British Malayan Petroleum Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum) and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, and British Army Royal Engineers. The invasion force continued oil drilling units and restoration of the oilfields began immediately. Over the next three years, the Japanese restored production to nearly pre-war levels, Seria was an important source of oil for the Japanese as other sources were closed off. In the last six months of the war, most of Japan’s oil came from Seria. [Source: Wikipedia]
At the end of the war when the Allies invaded Borneo they were greeted by bunring oil wells. When Australian liberation forces landed at Muara on June 10, 1945, as part of Operation "Ha-Go 2", fires could be seen 100 kilometers out to sea. When the Australian 9th Division as part of Operation Oboe Six entered Seria on June 29, 1945, Seria was a mess, A total of 38 oil wells were on fire; buildings and instillation had been blown up. When American fire fighting teams arribed in mid August 12 fires were still burning. The other 26 were put out by oilfield staff assisted by a detachment of the Australian Royal Engineers. By November, production was restored, albeit stored in temporary tanks, and oil export recommenced in December 1945.
Seria was also one of the centres of a small rebellion against the monarchy on 8 December 1962, which was suppressed by the British Army. This event became known as the Brunei Revolt. Under the rule of His Majesty the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, the town blossomed as commercial buildings such as the current shophouses along Jalan Sultan Omar Ali.
Places of Interest in Brunei
Jalan Utara is home to a large number of expatriates due to a large concentration of Brunei Shell housing and facilities located in the area. The head offices of Brunei Shell Petroleum is found in this area as well as the well-known clubs Panaga Club and BSRC. The Brunei military area is to the west of the town area. North and West of Seria contains a number of British Army and Brunei Shell facilities and housing for both the British Army and Brunei Shell employees.Kampung Baru is located to the east of Seria on the left banks of Sungai Bera. This is a mainly Chinese and Iban area. The old wooden railway, built by the Japanese to Badas, runs through Kampung Baru. Pekan Seria Mosque is the first mosque in Brunei to have a dome in its architectural design. The Sungei Seria estuary is one of the finest areas in Brunei for observing migrating birds. The Panaga area has a resident population of Hornbills
The main commercial street in the municipality is Jalan Sultan Omar Ali and shops and other commercial buildings can also be found in the vicinity. The Seria Market is a famous community market situated between Jalan Bolkiah and Jalan Nakhoda Manis Seria, just 15 minutes from the middle of town. A focal point for most of the inhabitants of Seria as this is where they can pick up fresh foodstuffs, household goods, fish and poultry; opening hours are only on Saturdays between 6:00am and 11:00am. Around the are many 'nodding donkeys' (machines that pump up oil).
Billionth Barrel Monument (5 minute drive from Seria town center) commemorates the billionth barrel of oil produced by the Seria Oil Field. Designed by a local architect for Brunei Shell Petroleum and built in 1991, around the billionth barrel was produced, the monument is situated near the seawell at the S1 site, where the first well that was dug in 1929. Each element of the structure actually holds a significant meaning that pays homage to the historic achievement. The arch symbolizes the flow of crude oil from beneath the earth to the surface. The six curved pillars represent the period of oil exploration and production that lead to the achievement of the billionth barrel. And finally, the national emblem that sits atop the whole monument represents the prosperity of the nation and its people.
Kuala Belait (west of Seria) is a river port situated near the South China Sea. The city is a district capital surrounded by oil fields and plays an important role in exporting Brunei’s oil. It has population of approximately 38,000 people. Kuala Belait is a sister city to Seria and home of many facilities for Brunei’s oil industry. Istana Mengalela is His Majesty's residence when he visits Kuala Belait. The beautiful palace can be seen along the old coastal road to Seria.
Oil & Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC)
Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (in Seria) symbolizes the long-term commitment of Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP) towards sustainable development of Brunei Darussalam and its people. A family-oriented facility serves both educational and recreational purposes, the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) introduces visitors to the fascinating world of science and engineering as it applies to the petroleum industry. It is a fun place where visitors of all ages can expand their knowledge while exploring the seven galleries that showcase over 100 interactive exhibits covering the multi-faceted science behind the oil and gas industry in Brunei.
OGDC is housed in an imposing exhibition centre and opened in September 2002. It features 150 exhibits covering the multi facets of science such as the development of hydrocarbons, the industrial aspects and technologies of hydrocarbon industries and the basic theories of science that surround our lifestyle. However, OGDC does not confine itself only to the science of oil and gas, it also has an outdoor setting for the physically active such as a giant chessboard, a skateboarding ring, jogging track and a walkway that leads to the Billionth Barrel Monument - another landmark in the oil town of Seria.
OGDC is open six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday. The opening hours for Tuesday to Thursday are from 9:00am to 5:00pm. For Friday, the opening hours are from 10:00am to 12:00pm and from 2:00pm to 6:00pm while on Sunday, OGDC welcomes visitors from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Every weekend, there will be three video shows at the Theatre at 11:00 am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm. Admission fees are from B$1.00 for children below 12 years of age, B$2.00 for teens up to 17 years old and B$5.00 for adults. There are special prices for senior citizens and family packages. Visitors can call Tel: 3377-200 or Fax: 3377220.
Parks in Belait District
Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park (70 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan) is an area of virgin rain forest that has been turned into a park with well marked nature trails. There are cool lakes where swimming is allowed. A canopy walkway in the treetops allows for a different perspective of this largely mixed Dipterocarp jungle. The mammals found here include the plantain squirrel, pigtailed macaque, the Borneo gibbon, round leaf horseshoe bats and the flying lemur. Getting There: From Bandar Seri Begawan, Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park is about an hour on the coastal highway, 450 meters from the main Sungai Liang junction along the road to Labi.
Anduki Recreational Park (80 kilometers from Bandar Seri Begawan) is a recreational site in Belait that was opened by His Majesty the Sultan in 1992. Originally an abandoned sandpit, Brunei Shell Petroleum converted the place into a landscaped park complete with landscaped flowers and shrubs, a boating and fishing lake, picturesque blue water lagoon, playgrounds, and a 3.8 kilometers jogging track. It is a popular spot with families.
Sungai Mau Recreation Park is a lovely recreational spot situated along Sungai Liang and Labi Road. Wasai Wong Kadir (45 minute walk from Labi Road) is the home of the Wong Kadir Waterfall (Wasai) which can reached at the end of a rather arduous uphill jungle trek. But reward is worth the work out.
Luagan Lalak Recreational Park (25 kilometers from Sungai Liang along the Labi Road) is a 270-hectare site of lush, green hills. An alluvial freshwater swamp fills up during the rainy season but dries up to become a valley of swishing sedges in the dry season. The effect is striking and most people admire the scene by strolling along the 200 meters walkway that meanders along the lake.
Longhouse in the Labi Area
Labi (south of Seria, about 50 kilometers by road) is area in the interior of Belait District made up of several kampongs (Malay for "village"). Only a few thousand people live there. In the Labi area you can visit Iban longhouses. Kuala Bellat is the last town before Sarawak. Further upriver is the Kuala Balai in Sarawak, Malaysia.
On the Belait River, you can see wildlife as well as Penan and Dusun communities at Kampung Sukang, roughly 2½ hours by longboat from Labi Road. Another one to two hours by boat up the river brings visitors to an Iban longhouse at Kampung Melilas, the last longhouse on the river. Beyond it the river narrows and is virtually covered by trees with orchids, moss and ferns clinging to them. Waterfalls and hot springs are located further up the river,
Labi Longhouses (On Labi Road past Kampong Labi) are a several longhouses (they may be gone) . Rampoyah Longhouse, the nearest one near Labi, has 16 doors. Others include Mendaram Besar, Mendaram Kecil and, at the end of the road, Teraja. They are occupied by Ibans, a tribe native to Borneo. Visitors are welcome but are expected to bring gifts, Ask for permission before entering and remove you shoes. Some well-marked trails start at the road. They lead to waterfalls and virgin primary forest.
According to Lonely Planet: “Labi is a small Iban settlement about 40 kilometers south of the coastal road with four longhouses: Rampayoh, Mendaram Besar, Mendaram Kecil and, at the end of the track, Teraja. How much of a longhouse you are able to see if you go without a guide will depend on whether there's an English speaker there to show you around. The cost of such a tour might be B$3 per person. To visit Teraja longhouse, register at the police station nearby. These longhouses are a mix of the modern and the traditional: you will see women weaving baskets, though nowadays they may be plastic rather than rattan, and the longhouses have 24-hour electricity. Outside, among the fruit trees and clucking chickens, there is a rustic shelter for a row of gleaming cars. Borneo Guide runs day trips from BSB, with a local lunch arranged. Contact it, or talk to longhouse inhabitants directly, about overnight stays and jungle treks.”
Longhouses can also be seen in Temburong District. Up river through mangrove swamps is Bangar from where longhouses can be visited. The closest is only 13 kilometers away. The further up river you go the less touristy they are.
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