Loading Map...

Negara Brunei Darussalam

Written on: Wednesday October 22nd, 2008

That's the official name of Brunei, a small, oil-rich country located on the north coast of Borneo.  Literally translated in English, the country's name is "State of Brunei: Abode of Peace".  And the people of this nation certainly reflect the name.

My flight from Kuala Lumpur was delayed a couple hours, which resulted in an arrival time into Brunei of 10:30pm.  This meant that the only youth hostel was closed, and the busses were no longer in operation, so I needed to grab a taxi to hotel option number two.  Unfortunately, when I tried the ATM at the airport, my attempt to get local currency was not allowed.  So now I found myself stuck eight kilometers out of town with no money.  Hmmm....what to do?  Hero #1 to the rescue: a smartly-dressed woman appeared and asked if I needed help.  After I explained my current dilema, she asked where the hotel was.  Showing her on the map, she said it was close to where she lived, and that she would be happy to drive me there.  She even had a companion phone the hotel to ensure that there would be somebody to receive me at such a late hour of the day.  We went outside and hopped in her Mercedes SLK-Class Roadster and hit the streets.  She took me right to the hotel and even came inside to ensure there were no communication problems with the propriator.  This was my first experience with Brunei people, and it really set the tone for my visit.

The room was spacious and the manager, hero number two, was unbelievably helpful.  He understood that I had no local currency to pay for the room, but didn't mind.  He even gave me $5 to buy some food and water, and hop a water-taxi to town the next morning, where, fortunately, my ATM card did work and I was able to get cash.

Exploring town, one is immediately drawn to the Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque.  It is a gorgeous structure that is visited day and night by both tourists and locals going to worship.  And as you walk through the streets, the first thing you notice is how different this city is from virtually every other city in south east Asia.  It is clean...very clean.  And it is quiet...very quiet.  The streets see little traffic and the sidewalks few pedestrians, with only a handful of tourists strolling about.  Alcohol is banned in the entire country, so there are no noisy bars or clubs.  In fact, the only sound that is regularly heard is the adhan, or the Muslim call to prayer, that echoes through town five times each day.

The capital city of Brunei is Bandar Seri Begawan.  It is a city surrounded by jungle.  It is tropical and steamy and offers excellent hiking right from town.  I ventured into a local park, and poked around a bit further.  Pretty soon I was deep in the jungle, following a path for two kilometers before it completely gave way to vegetation.  Proboscis monkeys were seen on the trail, and maquaces squawked aggressively when I ventured too close to their homes.  Soaked with sweat and out of water, I decided it would be best to turn around and backtrack rather than continue forward to the unknown.

Meals were simple: rice or noodles, with either chicken or prawns.  Evenings were quiet, as I stayed in my room and read a couple books. 

On my last day in the country I experienced two very cool things.  The first was the finding of the only, active geocache in the entire country!  And to make things better, I was FTF, or the first person to find the cache.  It is a unique feeling being the only person in the entire world to have found an active cache in a given country. 

The second nifty experience was walking and boating through Campung Ayer, which is a community of approximately 30,000 people that live in stilt houses above the water.  There are wooden pathways connecting all the houses and tunneled waterways that allow boat traffic to all the crevaces of town.  People literally fish from their front porches!  No wonder this part of town is known as the Venice of the East.

With my Brunei experience now complete, I am off to Malaysian Borneo, the provence of Sabah, where lots of adventure awaits!