Brunei is a tiny little country in northern Borneo which is mostly unheard of to the Western world. On the other hand, one will always hear remarks about Brunei from people who have been there, labeling the country as “boring” and “just a layover destination”.
As someone who has been to Brunei several times, I always argue that people should give Brunei a chance, because the people here are amazing, the food is great, and the kind of peace it brings to people is something you will never find anywhere else. Sure, traveling around without a car can be a pain (because Brunei is a car country and no efficient public transportation system exists), but there’s always a way to find beauty in everything, right? Moreover, options on where to stay, such as top hostels in Brunei, are on the rise along with the rise of tourism in the said country.
I have compiled here my other travel guides about Brunei which you can check out by clicking on each item below:
Are you planning a backpacking trip or perhaps you are a solo traveler to Brunei? I saw you just Googled “best hostels in Brunei”! Kidding! But I’m sure you are looking for a hostel to stay at this point in time. Well, the good news is, I did the research for you and picked the top hostels in Brunei that you could choose from! I extracted the basic and essential information for you, and I even compared them side by side! So are you ready to choose your hostel in Brunei? Let’s go!
Personally, whenever I would visit another city and look for hostels, I usually use the following criteria:
LOCATION AND DISTANCE FROM LANDMARKS: As a backpacker/solo traveler on a budget, I would choose a hostel that is in a good location because I want to explore the cities by foot as much as possible and have access to basic establishments, such as convenience stores, public transportation, and such.
DISTANCE FROM THE AIRPORT: Factors such as time of our flights are important to consider choosing a place to stay vis-a-vis their distance from the airport. Some of us are staying in hostels for a layover and some of us just want to make sure we do not miss our next flights. Also, if we fly in or out at wee hours, public transportation is possibly not available and taxi is our only option, which can be more expensive depending on the distance of out hostels.
WI-FI CONNECTON: Most of us need an internet connection to do research about places to go and eat and things to do, or update out social media accounts with details from our travels, or connect with our loved ones. Whatever our purposes are, having a wi-fi connection at our hostels is a big factor.
FREE BREAKFAST: I am a morning person and I need to have breakfast, so this factor personally matters to me. I believe other budget travelers also consider getting their tummies full with a complimentary hostel breakfast before going out to explore the city.
RESTAURANT/COFFEE SHOP/BAR INSIDE THE HOSTEL: Some of us just wants to have access to these facilities at the comfort of being inside the premises of our hostels (especially after a long day of exploring!).
FREE BOTTLED WATER: A hydro homie here! This may not be popular in hostels, but most hostels have water dispensers provided but you have to bring your own bottle.
TOILETRIES: This is a deciding factor to me since as much as possible I don’t want to experience the hassle of bringing in liquids inside my carry-on luggage (only to get confiscated at the airport! Ouch!), so if basic toiletries are available at the hostel, I might only bring what I really need.
WASHING MACHINE/LAUNDROMAT: Light packers usually bring enough set of clothes, but any type of packer might run out of clean clothes to wear. Hence, it is a big deal for me personally if the hostel has a laundromat or a washing machine.
ACTIVITIES: Hostels are also places for socialization with other travelers, right? I am an introvert, but if I ran out of things to do or if I feel like socializing or maybe do something inside the hostel, this criteria matters.
AIRPORT TRANSFERS: Some hostels offer free airport transfer and we all should maximize this! However if I indicated a ‘yes’ answer for the airport transfer criteria here, please check with the hostel first if it is free or not.
There you have it! I hope you were able to decide by now and book your corresponding chosen hostel in Brunei, based on the criteria I picked. Btw, if you think other criteria needs to be included in this list, or if you want me to add more hostels to compare, please let me know! 🙂 Happy travels to Brunei and please share me your experiences with your chosen hostel from this list!
For more hostel options in Brunei, click on the button below:
So, I see you are traveling in Brunei or planning to travel to Brunei or a Bruneian local just looking around where to eat. The first question will be: What to eat in Brunei?
The Bruneian Cuisine: A History
Bruneian cuisine is heavily influenced by the cuisines of its neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, and these neighboring countries got influences from countries such as China and India. Brunei is a predominantly Islamic country, hence there is almost no pork served everywhere and alcohol is prohibited (I heard from a Bruneian friend that in order for you to take in pork and/or alcohol in Brunei, you need to undergo a lot of bureaucratic process. Moreover, if anyone is looking for alcohol, the neighboring cities in Malaysia such as Miri is where people from Brunei would usually go.).
Like the cuisines of its neighboring countries, Bruneian cuisine is mostly spicy. Rice and noodle meals are very common in Brunei food culture, like in most of Asia. Fish is also very common in Brunei food culture since it is a coastal country and fishing is one of the biggest industries here.
Hmmm now I’m curious. What to eat in Brunei? Am I eating mostly Malay-like dishes as Brunei food?
I bet most of you will assume that Bruneian cuisine is heavily Malay-like, but since several Brunei food were passed from generation to generation, there are still a lot of dishes that are authentically Brunei food.
The rise of several restaurants and food stalls serving local and international food is becoming more common in Brunei food culture, especially in Bandar Seri Begawan, but as a traveler, I suggest you give the local food a chance. There is a lot to learn about the culture and history of this tiny country through its food.
What to eat in Brunei?
So, without further ado, I compiled a list of Brunei food that you can try while traveling to Brunei, and I have suggested some restaurants and places on where you can try them. Enjoy!
Beef rendang is a slow-cooked beef in lemongrass and coconut sauce. I was able to taste one at Aminah Arif Restaurant and I instantly finished the whole thing. It was delicious! When it comes to what to eat in Brunei, this is number 1 on my list. But don’t worry, you can find beef rendang in many restaurants in Brunei.
Nasi Lemak is a usual Brunei food also present in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia that is made of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. On the side, it usually has chicken, egg, anchovies, sambal, and peanuts. Sometimes it is served wrapped with pandan leaf, but in Brunei and Malaysia, you will commonly see it wrapped with brown paper. It is very common in Brunei such as in food stalls and markets, but it is also served in fastfood restaurants, of course, in a little more upscale manner.
When asked what to eat in Brunei, I would not usually point anyone to fastfood chains, but I believe a nasi lemak twist by this Filipino fastfood chain is worth giving a shot.
Ambuyat is a flavorless sago starch that is usually dipped in a sour sauce called cacah and eaten using a bamboo stick called candas. it is considered as one of Brunei’s national dishes. During one of my first trips to Brunei, the first question I asked a friend was “What to eat in Brunei?” A Bruneian friend told me that the proper and the best way to eat ambuyat is to not chew it and just swallow it because this is how you will be able to fully taste the sour dip. I must say, do not leave Brunei without having tried one. You don’t have to like it, but you must try at least.
Nasi (rice) Katok (knock) is another must-try Brunei food (Rice in Kapampangan dialect is also nasi and knock in Tagalog language is also katok. Awesome!). It is sold all over for only BND1 and I personally think this is already a decent meal which is really affordable! (Meanwhile in other cities you won’t be able to get a decent meal for USD1. Sigh.)
One interesting trivia about nasi katok is how it got its name. A Bruneian friend told me that before, people would knock at the nasi seller’s door to place their orders. They just adopted the name nasi katok for the dish eventually. It is composed of rice, fried chicken, and sambal and is usually served wrapped in a brown paper. Careful, though. The sambal could be very spicy.
I think this also needs to be considered a national dish in Brunei. This is something I never miss to eat whenever I’m in Brunei. I am assuming if you ask any non-local who has been to Brunei the question “What to eat in Brunei?”, this might possibly their answer.
Where to get Nasi Katok in Brunei?
GADONG NIGHT MARKET Simpang 37, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan
Udang sambal derai bersantan are prawns cooked in chili and coconut milk which is usually served with rice and vegetables. If you are looking for a seafood-based Brunei food, this is something you have to look for. You can also find the same dish in Indonesian cuisine.
Serongeng padang is a fried chicken that is cooked with garlic and served in pandan leaves. This can also be found in Indonesian cuisine.
Tapai is a sweet-sour rice snack that is a popular Brunei food. It is usually made by mixing rice with laru/ragi and sugar. It is usually wrapped in nipah leaves for fermentation before consumption.
I believe we have a Filipino version of this and it’s called “suman”.
Ais Batu Campur (ABC)
This yummy dessert is also known as ABC, and is made of ice with sago pearls, red beans, noodles and grass jelly. It is also widely-popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. (I am intrigued about the noodles part though!)
I think we have the same food in the Philippines called “halo-halo” which is composed of ice and sooooo many other ingredients, which is surprisingly delicious.
Selurut is a steamed rice cake that usually comes in a cone-shaped form when being served because the coconut leaf where it is left to steam is rolled into a cone-shaped wrapper. Selurut is made of rice and sago with salted water and coconut milk.
Keropok udang is a staple snack in the areas of Borneo and Kalimantan, hence it also became part of Bruneian cuisine. They are yellowish-white prawn crackers. It starts as minced prawn and starch then it will be garnished with garlic, salt, and pepper. The exciting part? It will be baked under the sun before it gets fried in oil. Awesome!
Oh, we also have the same dish in the Philippines. It is locally called “kropek”.
You see, I have tasted some kuih in Singapore, but I never knew Brunei food culturehas its own version of kuih. During 2019 year-end holidays, I was able to visit a food fair in Bandar Seri Begawan and had a taste of some kuih. I heard the have kuih bahulu, a sponge cake they serve during Hari Raya and Chinese New Year celebrations. They also have kuih kosui/kaswi which is a rice cake served wth grated coconut.
What fascinated me about this dish is that it is also known as “kuih UFO” because it indeed looks like a UFO! This is another version of kuih wherein rice/corn flour is mixed with coconut milk and molded into a UFO-shaped mold before frying.
Daging Masak Lada Hitam
It is a beef recipe cooked in black pepper, hence the name.
Kelupis is rice wrapped in nyirik leaf and then steamed until cooked. I believe provinces in Central and Southern Philippines also have this kind of dish. I also would like to believe that it’s similar to “suman”, a Philippine delicacy.
Pulut panggang is similar to kelupis (made with rice with prawn or beef), but instead of steaming, it is grilled to be cooked. I heard this is very popular in Brunei food culture to the point that you have to place advance orders or wake up early to buy some.
Where to get pulut panggang in Brunei?
NENEK’S RECIPE @pulutpanggang.bn +673 8259910
Bamboo chicken is something you can only used to get in Temburong District in Brunei until other places in Brunei started to serve the said dish. This food is a native food to the Iban longhouse communities in Borneo (this is Henry Golding’s ancestry line, right?). As the name suggests, the chicken is stuffed and marinated inside a bamboo and the bamboo will then be placed in a flame.
I was born and raised in the Philippines but I honestly haven’t tried one when I heard this is also very common in my country of origin. However, I believe it is similar to Indonesia’s lontong, the rice cake usually eaten with satay. Ketupat is also a popular food in Brunei which is rice dumplings served in woven palm leaves. It is usually eaten with rendang, peanut sauce, and satay.
Is anyone up to tasting some marinated stir-fried beef lungs? You heard me! I’m talking about hati buyah!
Pizza itself is not obviously a Bruneian cuisine, but honey garlic chicken pizza is. It originated from Pizza Hut Brunei as it wants to reflect the Bruneian cuisine culture of combining sweet and savory flavors. Today, a lot of pizza restaurants in Brunei now offer this flavor. So if you’re craving for some pizza in Brunei, you should try this one.
Where to get Honey Garlic Chicken Pizza in Brunei?
Not your ordinary chicken meal! Ayam penyet is my go-to Indonesian dish, but it is also widely available in Brunei. Ayam penyet is fried chicken with spices and usually served with rice and sambal. I like my ayam penyet swimming in sambal sauce!
Chances are, you may have heard roti as part of the Indian cuisine. You are absolutely right. But since Brunei cuisine is partly influenced by Indian cuisine, here comes roti, or bread. You will find several breakfast restaurants serving different kinds of roti around Brunei. Depending on the type of roti, you can find variations such as roti canai (something I tried in Singapore and Manila!) and roti murtabak. It’s best dipped in a curry. Yum!
Acar buah is a spicy fruit chutney that is also popular in Malaysia. It also belongs to the categories of pickle and sweet sambal.
It might not look like a typical kind of food when served, but kembayau is an underutilized exotic food that is only found in Borneo, hence popular in Sarawak, Sabah, Kalimantan, and of course, Brunei. A lot of dishes can be made from it, including sup kembayau.
Sambal tahai is a smoked local small fish that you can eat in itself or use as a condiment. Aside from Brunei, it is also popular at Sarawak area.
Soto is a popular local Bruneian noodle soup with beef (but sometimes served with chicken), is a must-try! I have tasted many soto ayams in Indonesia, but I have to say I liked soto Brunei better.
My first time eating soto was when a Bruneian friend took me to a Western-ish looking restaurant when I asked him to take me to a restaurant serving local food. He said the soto is good there that’s why. And yes, I eventually agreed with what he was claiming.
Also called wajik in Indonesia, wajid is a sweet sticky rice steamed with palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves.
Cendol is an iced sweet dessert that is similar to ais batu campur or ABC, except that it is not served with shaved ice, so don’t get confused! 🙂 It is common to most parts of Southeast Asia and comes in different names, but it is more commonly found in Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Pajeri nenas is a braised pineapple dish that has Indian roots. It can be made with any fruit of vegetable usually served with rice and curry.
There you have it! I hope this post was able to guide you to the best of local Bruneian cuisine. People usually advice us to try some local delicacies when we travel to other places, right? Now that I have told you where to eat in Brunei, it’s time to eat! Happy eating and traveling!
Southeast Asia is a very popular travel destination to travelers all over the world from all walks of life. Traveling around the region can be a little intimidating because of geographical challenges and language barriers. Moreover, despite being a popular travel destination, a lot of important information are still not available to travelers. I myself as a Southeast Asian citizen still find it hard to gather information about the places I’m going to as I plan my travels around Southeast Asia. Hence, a hardbound or electronic Southeast Asia travel book guide that you can buy online like at Amazon.com can serve as a big help because not all information are available over the internet.
SOUTHEAST ASIA TRAVEL BOOK GUIDES: THE LIST
For the benefit of my readers and followers (I know most of you are based or frequently traveling around Southeast Asian region), I’ve compiled these list of books on Southeast Asia travel guide that you can purchase in Amazon.com. I’ve provided the links below the books for your convenience, and I actually purchased some of these books that’s why I recommend them.
1. Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring (Travel Guide)
We know for a fact that Lonely Planet produce the best travel guides about a lot of places! With “Southeast Asia”, they meant ALL Southeast Asian countries. I personally own a copy of this book and the information they provide is very comprehensive.
A very popular Southeast Asian route is the mainland or Indochina sub-region. Lonely Planet came up with this guide specific to exploring this part of the region. This guide provides insider tips that you can never find anywhere else.
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3. Insight Guides Southeast Asia (Travel Guide)
Insight Guides provide us a lot of stunning photographs on their travel guides, so prepared to be inspired by a lot of stunning photographs all over Southeast Asian region with this guide. The cover photo which was taken in Bali, Indonesia is elegant!
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4. Southeast Asia: An Introductory History
Milton Osborne made a version of Southeast Asian history that can be appreciated even by non-history buffs. Given the good reviews I read about this book, I can’t help but also purchase a copy of it. No regrets, I also was able to use it in the University whenever I handle courses on Southeast Asia. Awesome!
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5. The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget (Travel Guide)
This particular Rough Guide was able to provide tips on how to explore more of Southeast Asia with the lowest budget possible. This is going to be helpful to anyone planning their trips to Southeast Asia.
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6. Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia
As a Lecturer of International Relations and Southeast Asian Studies, I find this book very interesting in terms of painting a picture on how Southeast Asian stats interact. Considering that we are a region with no Great Powers, we were able to thrive and make it as one of the best regions in the world and a primary economic hub. Even if you’re not into Southeast Asian history and politics, reading this book might make you appreciate why some Southeast Asian capital cities are progressive, or why some Southeast Asian countries remain to be the poorest ones internationally.
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7. Southeast Asia: A Very Short Introduction
If you do not have the luxury of time to learn everything there is about Southeast Asian history, or if you simply want to have an overview of the region’s history, James Rush has summarized everything for you.
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8. A Traveller’s History of Southeast Asia
This version of Southeast Asian history is specifically designed for travelers to the region coming from different backgrounds. While I am not sure why the authors did not include the Philippines and Myanmar, it’s still a fairly good Southeast Asia travel book guide.
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9. Southeast Asia – Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam: A Solo Girl’s Travel Guide
Alexa West is one of the female travel bloggers that I really look up to. While I am not (yet) prepared to ditch my University Lecturing job to travel the world, I just express my admiration to women like her and be inspired to do the same in the future. I also want to write my own travel guides like her Southeast Asia travel book guide!
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10. Southeast Asia Phrasebook and Dictionary
Whenever traveling around Southeast Asia, it does not hurt to learn a few words or phrases that can be useful when communicating to locals. Not every country in the region has English as their second language, and this Southeast Asia travel book language guide handpicked the most frequently used words in conversing with locals whenever traveling around the region.
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There you have it! 🙂 I am wishing all of you a smooth trip around Southeast Asia with the help of these Southeast Asia travel book recommendations from Amazon. If you want to suggest some ideas on what I could write as a travel guide around the region, you may always send me an email at email@example.com. Happy travels! 🙂
Aside from cultural immersion, a travel to Brunei can also be a good gastronomic experience, given the presence of several good restaurants that serve good food and provide awesome dining experiences to both locals and travelers alike.
Brunei has a vast selection of restaurants, from local restaurants and eateries, food fairs, coffee shops, local and international fast food chains, name it! Below are some Brunei restaurants that I highly recommend and all travelers should try out.
Soto Babu Nini and Nasi Katok
For me, Kota Batu is the most peaceful area in Bandar Seri Begawan. This unique restaurant is built by the water and they serve the best soto and nasi katok ever! 🙂 They have an infinite board walk which is perfect for photoshoots. And oh, their restaurant is very colorful, too!
Bandarku Ceria is the weekly Sunday ‘family day’ fair in Bandar Seri Begawan where kids and families gather around the Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien to play around, have picnic, and eat at the food stalls and shop for items around. Sometimes activities like fun runs are also held. For me, Bandarku Ceria is a happy activity, but I came to know that most Bruneians don’t really go there. I was able to try cheap food and drinks at my Bandarku Ceria experience.
Tamu Kianggeh was once a traditional market by the river, until the government decided to renovate it to become one of the cleanest and most organized market I’ve been too. Aside from dry and wet goods, they are also selling local food there, which is a good thing to try out.
Easy Way Tea and Cafe
To someone like me who craves for milk tea and drinks from time to time, places like EasyWay provide me good drinks and good ambiance. After all, Brunei weather could get really hot most of the time!
For a cheap but perfect local dinner, head to Gadong Local Market. They sell everything, from appetizers, main meal, dessert, and drinks! I love their nasi katok which they only sell for 1 BND. Of course, I would not miss drinking teh tarik and Milo here, and I also got kebab meals and local pancakes.
Simpang 37, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
MyTown Eating House
If you’re traveling to Brunei but been craving some food from outside the country, you could head to MyTown. They have a very sophisticated interior and they also serve different food from different cuisines. I was surprised when I saw some Filipino food in the menu! But of course, I went for some soto which is a local food in Brunei.
Jollibee is a Filipino fastfood chain which has presence in countries where there are Filipinos, including Brunei. I love their version of Nasi Lemak Chickenjoy and Jolly Cheesy Fries! I also know for a fact that Bruneians love Jollibee!
Ambuyat is a local Bruneian dish made of sago palm, which is cooked into a jelly-like food and dipped in a spicy sauce. It is also considered as the National Dish of Brunei and is also popular in the Malaysian territories in Borneo, like Sarawak, Sabah, and Labuan. I recommend Aminah Arif Restaurant to have a taste of Ambuyat.
My first order of business upon arriving in an new country? Try out their McDonald’s, if they have one! 🙂 Brunei has 3 McDonald’s branches, and the newest branch at Lambak is my favorite. Their Nasi Lemak McD is yummy! They also have many menu items that can’t be found elsewhere. I wish I could try them all!
This was highly-recommended to me by locals, and ther menu is composed of some local food, Malaysian food, and Chinese food. They have huge servings and they have friendly staff, most of them are Filipinos.
Have you tried the Hot Star Chicken in Taipei and other cities? Ayam Ku Chicken is Brunei’s version of it! But here, it’s served with rice and yummy achar, and this was one of my best meals ever in Brunei! I wish they will have a branch in Manila or something!
3, Soon Lee Megamart, Jalan Batu Bersurat, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei +673 245 0539
I AM A FAN OF AUDREY HEPBURN, AND THIS IS A HEAVENLY PLACE! The place is as classy as Audrey Hepburn, and I love their interior design so much! They also have friendly and accommodating Filipino staff. Plus, their servings are huge and yummy at the same time! It is a perfect place for dates because of its ambiance.
Since I regularly eat Yellow Cab Pizza in Manila, I was able to compare it with the Yellow Cab Pizza here in Brunei. I appreciated how better-tasting halal food is, which made me prefer it more than any other kind of food most of the time. They have rice meals which do not exist in Manila, and a Milo for a drink as well. Yum!
Alter Ego is my favorite restaurant in Brunei. I love restaurants like this with good interior, and they get orders from an app in their iPads. I must say that their menu was a little intimidating, but just order anything you feel like you’re gonna like, and you’re gonna like it for sure. 🙂
After a full dinner in any of the restaurants you dined in at the Setia Kenangan Complex, you can head to Yugo Dessert Cafe for a snow dessert! 🙂 They offer a vast selection of flavors, and chocolate will always be my favorite.
Patisserie Cakeshop has a very big menu! I ordered some makis and pesto and this is where I was able to taste my first bandung drink, a rose syrup with condensed milk, a must-try drink in this part of the world.
I was not able to snap photos during our stay here, but I love the ambiance of this place. They have a lot of games to choose from, which are perfect for couples, groups of friends, or family. Their drinks are yummy also, and I love how other diners/players can keep their noise down so that everyone can enjoy their experiences.
If you were able to try out any of these restaurants in Brunei, do share your experiences at the comments section or maybe at email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy eating and enjoy Brunei!
To those who were following me on Instagram (instagram.com/wheressherlyn), I think you guys want to come into a conclusion that Brunei Darussalam is one of my favorite countries to travel to (so far) since I’ve been visiting so many Instagrammable spots in Brunei. Some of you might be asking why (because let’s face it, everybody thinks Brunei is a boring place to visit). True enough, you can explore the whole country if you will plan a one-week trip there (compared to my home country, Philippines, which is composed of 81 provinces of 7641 islands), but there will always be reasons to go back. In my case, it’s the food and the so many Instagrammable spots in Brunei!
Brunei Darussalam travel experience is a little different from other tourist destinations to travel to in Southeast Asia because it’s literally so quiet in there, there are almost no public transportation, and it is an alcohol-free country (and therefore no typical city nightlife). To someone like me who is used to city life (Hello, Manila!), an occasional travel to Brunei Darussalam is always a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, and it’s never gonna be boring.
I am not a Tourism Ambassador for Brunei or something, but I want to break the notion of most people that Brunei is a boring place to visit. In fact, it can be a very interesting place for all kinds of travelers: foodies, photographers, culture/heritage buffs, and even families. Tip though: I highly encourage you to rent a private car if you want to go around Brunei because public transportation is so limited. To give you a little glimpse about this beautiful country, let me share 23 Instagrammable spots in Brunei that you can visit:
Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas (Golden Jubilee Crown Park)
This beautiful park was a part and a result of the Bandar Seri Begawan Development Master Plan. This is how urban planning should be, guys!
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Pedestrian Bridge
This bridge is beautiful enough, and the presence of this crescent moon makes it more magnificent. Oh, this moon? Looks spectacular at night!
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
One of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Its main dome? Made of pure gold!
Tamu Kianggeh (Kianggeh Open-air Market)
Locals say that the ‘marketness’ of this place was lost because it went a major rehabilitation as part of the government’s city plan for Bandar Seri Begawan. It is now roofed and more organized, compared to a scene with rainbow parasols and everyone busy shopping.
Teng Yun Temple
Teng Yun Temple is the first and oldest Chinese Temple in Brunei.
This is the shortest river in Brunei and it is a must for everyone to try the water taxi.
Perpuspaan Main Gate 1968
This is the monument that commemorates the coronation of the present Sultan of Brunei in 1968.
Mausoleum of Sultan Bolkiah
There is so much cultural heritage vibe in this place. I really love how Bruneians pay so much respect to their former Sultans. This is the quietest part of Brunei that I have been to. So solemn.
Mercu Dirgahayu 60
The Mercu Dirgahayu 60 is a birthday gift presented by the people of Brunei to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on his 60th birthday.
Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex
The biggest shopping complex in Bandar Seri Begawan.
The Clock Tower
This clock marks the Zero Mile in Bandar Seri Begawan and is also a monument built to commemorate the visit of the first King of Malaysia in 1959 (and therefore symbolizes the friendship of Malaysia and Brunei).
Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien
A beautiful place where the traditional Bandarku Ceria happens every Sunday. I love the Family Vibe there.
Royal Regalia Museum
You will learn so much about the Sultan and the royalty upon visiting this museum. I am a fan of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej but after seeing this I got to appreciate the Sultan of Brunei as well. With the collection of gifts Brunei received from other countries, you can tell a lot about Brunei’s international relations. Ha!
Kota Batu Old Graveyard
This is the largest archaeological remains found in Brunei and was also believed to be a burial site.
Empire Hotel and Country Club
This 7-star hotel? So majestic! And the sunset view is priceless.
The largest mosque in Brunei and one of the two national mosques (Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is the other one). It is also known as the Blue Mosque.
Also known as the “Venice of the East”, Kampong Ayer literally means ‘water village’ and is the world’s largest settlement on stilts.
Tasek Lama Recreational Park
A nice spot for hiking and relaxing by the waterfalls.
Soto Babu Nini
This is the place where you can get a typical Bruneian comfort food with a nice view and very colorful architecture.
Rimba Garden Central
If you want to be one with nature, this is the place to be. It also has a nice outdoor garden which serves as a wedding venue.
Bukit Shahbandar Forest Recreational Park
Another popular hiking destination in Brunei. (And lookie! I got featured at the Brunei Tourism Board Instagram account!)
Tanjung Batu Beach
This is the most tranquil beach I ever went to. As in.
Instagrammable Spots in Brunei: More recommendations are welcome!
So, does Brunei still look boring to you at this point? Hit me up for questions about this beautiful country at email address email@example.com or at Instagram account instagram.com/wheressherlyn. Book your flights to Brunei now!
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I have been on a solo female trip to Brunei more than once for several reasons (for projects, leisure, and personal reasons), but what I will share in this article are mostly coming from the story of my first trip to Brunei.
My first encounter of basic information about Brunei was in high school when I was selected to compete in an ASEAN Quiz Bee as part of the celebration of the ASEAN Foundation Day which is August 8. My high school days was a era of dial-up internet connection and PHP10 per page printing services.
In order for me to collect the information about ASEAN and Southeast Asian countries that I have to review for the quiz bee, I have to save them in a 3 1/2 floppy diskette and bring it to school so that my Quiz Coach could print them on a printer at the Principal’s Office. Yes, guys, that wasn’t really a long time ago, but those were the days.
My blurry memory of my high school knowledge about Brunei was its history as a former British colony when James Brooke led Sarawak, that “Darussalam” means “Abode of Peace”, that His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was their leader, and that there are so many rainforests in Brunei albeit being a small country. Ten years after, I was able to see the place that I could only see in photos from the internet.
Tip # 1: If you’re coming from Manila, flights to Brunei are one of the cheapest, consistently.
One morning, when I was still in my crappy government office job not-so-long ago, I was stuck in traffic (as usual!) on a standing capacity with my elbow pushed towards the headrest of one of the passenger seats of the bus I was in. Thinking I have some spare money to travel, I randomly checked a budget airline website and scanned over the available destinations. “Hmmm which among these places I could go to for the sake of going which will not require me a visa and some tedious preparation?”
I remembered recently talking to a Bruneian friend who told me he’s about to celebrate his birthday, and, lightbulb! I mock-booked a flight to Bandar Seri Begawan and the round trip flight did not even reach USD120 so I booked it instantly.
Tip # 2: Be prepared to be asked, “Brunei? Where’s that?”
Since I have been meeting other travelers from different countries whenever I go to places, I managed to keep in touch with them so that if our current destinations happen to match, we could meet again to catch up. However, I have this mindset that “people come and go” that’s why I don’t really stick with people. *black heart emoji* let’s discuss this part some other time.
Anyway, on my flight, I sent a selfie on the plane to one of my American friends with the note “Flying to Brunei tonight!” Guess what’s his reply: “Brunei? Where’s that?” Aside from him, I met a lot of Westerners being intrigued about Brunei, “Oh, that small country somewhere in Malaysia, right?” (Singapore could also be described exactly that way, am I right?)
Tip # 3: Brunei is a Muslim country. Do your research on the basic Muslim etiquette.
Like most people, I made sure I brought the most conservative clothes I have, in which case I went for my usual long sleeve pullovers + colorful maxi skirts I always wear when traveling. I picked up this habit because I have been traveling to places with temples and churches in the recent past. I even brought a black hijab just in case.
The friend aka the birthday celebrant promised to pick me up at the airport but had an emergency so he sent his cousin to pick me up instead. Having met his cousin for the first time, I introduced myself by offering a handshake, just like how I normally do it when meeting new people casually. I saw the uncomfortable hesitation on his face to return the handshake, but he did it anyway. I was paranoid and asked some Filipino Muslim friends about it.
In Islam, it is not customary to shake the hands of the opposite sex unless they are a close member of the family. During my inquiry with my Muslim friends back home, I was also able to learn basic Islamic greetings, such as “Assalamualaikum”.
Tip # 4: There is no nightlife in Brunei. If you are looking for alcohol, this is not the place for you.
I rented out a room in a nice apartment owned by expats working in Brunei. And as I waved them goodbye to have dinner with some local friends, I saw that they had another foreign visitor and I was sure that I saw a can of beer on the dining table. It left me very, very confused since it is widely known that the sale of alcohol is totally banned in Brunei. However, there is apparently an exemption.
Non-Muslim visitors over 17 years old are allowed to bring alcohol to Brunei for personal consumption (and I heard there’s a lot of customs paperwork along with it). The rules allow them two liters of alcohol and 12 cans of beer.More information HERE.
I noticed that as late as 9PM there are still open establishments and my exaggerated assumption has told me that shops close as early as 6PM. Yes, there are some of them, but there will be shops (mostly restaurants) which will remain open later than 6PM. I randomly asked one of my local friends how come I don’t see people of our age out in the night market or the restaurants late at night. “We are all home by then, probably browsing our social media sites or playing online games”.
So I confirmed when I checked some data that Bruneians are one of the most active social media users in Southeast Asia.
Tip # 5: Bruneians can be the most open-minded and most cosmopolitan people you will ever meet.
As I was eating my spicy nasi katok at Gadong Night Market with some local friends, some local rap-like music has been blasting on a big speaker on one corner (for Filipinos, it’s like those OPM songs like the ones by rapper Ex-Batallion). I asked my friends about the song and they told me it’s an Indonesian song.
I was amazed how Bruneians are well-exposed to Malay and Indonesian culture (which is a little expected because they share a lot of history and language), but since the Philippines has no similar colonial history with Spain in the ‘immediate neighborhood’, it was kind of hard to connect with the rest of Southeast Asia.
When the controversial implementation of sharia law in Brunei made noise to the international community, a local friend who is a law student made efforts through social media to provide FAQs about it to point out that it’s not what the world thinks it is. You go, girl!
Since Brunei is a small state, some locals would most likely go out of the country to travel. The closest destination they have is of course Kuala Lumpur and other places in Malaysia. Then probably parts of Indonesia, Singapore, or even the Philippines. There are also a lot of foreign workers in Brunei (including lots of Filipinos), so they are constantly exposed to people from different nationalities and religions.
Bruneians know a lot about the world albeit being faithful to their Muslim faith. They are more open-minded than we think they are, especially the youth.
Tip # 6: There are a lot of Filipinos in Brunei, and Bruneians love Jollibee, a lot!
One of the people whom I reached out to before coming to Brunei for the first time was my high school classmate who used to work in a marketing firm in Brunei. Aside from the long list of local foods to try she provided me, she told me that His Majesty is very people-centered and would always interact with Bruneians (even taking selfies with them). In fact, he could be found participating in sports activities on Bandarku Ceria, if not horseback riding at the Palace.
As someone who studied a lot about Brunei from high school to graduate school, I would like to experience meeting His Majesty. Since I was still in Brunei when the next Sunday fell, I dragged a local friend to wake up at 6AM to go to Bandarku Ceria. He told me it’s not every Bandarku Ceria that His Majesty will be around. I insisted.
We went to Bandarku Ceria, no His Majesty in sight. Instead, I bumped into a lot of Filipinos who are mostly manning the bazaars at Bandarku Ceria. How did I know they’re Filipinos? They were all talking to me in Tagalog (because, girl, they clearly recognized your ethnicity instantly!)! I also met a lot of restaurant staff who are Filipinos.
On one of my succeeding trips to Brunei, I remember dining in a restaurant alone with Filipino staff hours before the New Year’s Eve and we are all kinda being emotional abou