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Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan

Brunei. 2008.

sunny

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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

In 2008 we realised it was high time we went off to explore some of Borneo. So we decided we would fly to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) on Royal Brunei Air, spend a couple of nights there, take a ferry to Labuan Island, spend the night there, take the ferry to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, then fly back to Bandar Seri Begawan, bring in the New Year at the luxurious Empire Hotel, then fly back to Hong Kong.

Good things about Bandar Seri Begawan were: most people were very friendly; it is a wealthy country and ­ most people, not just the privileged few seem to have benefited from oil money. One bad things about Bandar Seri Begawan is it has a distinct lack of beer!!!

Christmas in Bandar Seri Begawan

On our first visit to Bandar Seri Begawan we stayed in the Terrace Hotel. This as centrally located and had a lovely swimming-pool. The staff were friendly. The food in the restaurant was very good.

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Me next to the pool in the Terrace Hotel.

The first surprise we got when we arrived in Bandar Seri Begawan in the evening of Christmas Day, was that there were quite a few indications of Christmas around and when we went for a stroll through the dark city streets, people we passed wished us a Happy Christmas. Some car drivers even called this to us from the windows of their cars. It seemed a pretty friendly place. I think this would now be very different as I read somewhere that the Sultan of Brunei has forbidden the celebration of Christmas nowadays.

Sights of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The most famous sight of Bandar Seri Begawan is the spectacular Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, but there is also the water village, Kampung Ayer, with its houses on stilts. There is the Royal Regalia Museum , which displays gifts presented to the sultan by a variety of different countries; the lovely wooden church of St Andrews; twelve roofs house ­ - the former home of the British High Commissioner, a Chinese temple, a busy market and some lovely nature reserves.

Probably the most beautiful building in Bandar Seri Begawan is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. This stunning building is beautiful by day and is wonderfully illuminated by night, too. This mosque was built by and named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei. It was finished in 1958. With a 44m minaret, this is the tallest building in Bandar Seri Begawan. It is located close to the Water Village which we explored after visiting the mosque.

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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

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Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

Some of the Kampong Ayer ­Water Village is connected to the mainland by wooden walkways starting from near the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. In total there are about 28 water villages which house around 30,000 people. From a tall bridge we waved down a water taxi and negotiated a tour of the water villages for around B$10. It was a bumpy ride, very sore on the bottom. We passed villages, fire stations, schools and even stopped for petrol. The petrol was lowered down to us in a bucket and we sent the payment for the petrol back up in a bucket. Our driver talked about how cheap petrol was in oil rich Brunei and was floored by the price we said people would pay for it in the UK.This was a very fun and enjoyable trip, though maybe not for the easily seasick.

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Kampong Ayer ­Water Village.

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Kampong Ayer ­Water Village.

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Kampong Ayer ­Water Village.

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Kampong Ayer ­Water Village.

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Bumbungan Dua Belas ­ means Twelve Roofs House. I loved visiting this beautiful old house which was once the home of the British High Commisioner to Brunei. The building is open from 9am to ­4.30pm Monday to ­Thursday and on Saturdays from 9am ­to 11.30, and 2.30 to ­4.30 on Fridays. Admission is ­free.

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Twelve Roofs House.

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Twelve Roofs House.

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Twelve Roofs House.

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Twelve Roofs House.

Inside the oddly shaped building there are many old black and white photographs documenting the British in Brunei. These included some pictures of a very young looking Queen Elizabeth the second and of Prince Charles.It's a building in which to let your imagination run riot. You can almost hear the rattle of cutlery at some posh dinner party. The garden is glorious with broken swings that would once have been a child's favourite place and a swimming pool now empty, cracked and overgrown with plants. I loved it.

The Taman Peranginan Tasek Nature Reserve was a fairly short work to the north of central Bandar Seri Begawan. This park is quiet, green and peaceful. There was a waterfall, lots of flowers and a small stream. This is a very pleasant spot for a picnic. We visited in a bit of a hurry as we were heading off to Labuan on the day of our visit.

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The Taman Peranginan Tasek Nature Reserve.

Right at the end of our stay, when we returned from Kota Kinabalu, we stayed in the Empire Hotel outside Bandar Seri Begawan. We brought the New Year in here together with the rest of Brunei. The hotel is often referred to as a six star hotel. It was built by the current Sultan of Brunei's notorious brother Prince Jefri, who fled Brunei under a cloud of scandal after some serious financial overspending. He certainly spent a lot on this place. Everything is lined with gold. The main hotel building is stunning. You wander around with your mouth hanging open looking at it. It's also a superb place for swimming. There are beaches on the sea and a whole wealth of swimming pools. We tried them all. The whole complex cost around $US1.1 billion to build. There are seven restaurants, a golf course, a cinema and a bowling alley.

Our accommodation was wonderful, but for a constantly dripping tap. All that money and still not perfect!!! The only down side of this place is it is far from everything else and you must travel by expensive taxi unless you have your own car. This was not a problem for us, because when we saw the accommodation and pools and setting, we did not want to leave. Address: Muara Tutong Highway, Kampong Jerudong, Bandar Seri Begawan, BG3122, Brunei Darussalam.

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The Empire Hotel.

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The Empire Hotel.

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The Empire Hotel.

Posted by irenevt 20:03 Archived in Brunei Comments (3)

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