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marianne Bandar Seri Begawan - A travel report by Marianne
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Bandar Seri Begawan,  Brunei - flag Brunei
19596 readers

marianne's travel reports

A Tiny Sultanate and a Rich Sultan

  24 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
report of the month contest
Sep 2003

Bandar Seri Begawan travelogue picture
Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, is situated on the north west coast of Borneo, sandwiched in between the Malaysian province of Sarawak. Brunei Darussalaam is the country’s official name and means: ‘Abode of the Peace’.

This tiny sultanate is rich in oil and its inhabitants are wealthy. Sultan, Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam - to give his full name and title, or His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – to use the popular name is one of the richest men on earth. Brunei is a prosperous country, money seems to play no role.

The sultan looks well after his people: They pay no taxes, education and health care are free, everyone gets a pension and the minimum wage is the highest in south east Asia. Bruneians are well off moneywise but have not been allowed to vote since 1962.

Favourite spots:
Bandar Seri Begawan travelogue picture
The cool, air-condonditioned Yayasan Shopping Complex from where I could see the golden dome of the Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque glitter in the bright sun. On my left wooden houses. At first glance they looked like shanty houses but in reality it is a conglomeration of water villages built on stilts in the Brunei river: Kampung Ayer.

What's really great:
Bandar Seri Begawan travelogue picture
What surprised me most: No one walks in Brunei, no one seems to do any work.

When I stepped out of my hotel I found no one walking in the streets. I found no heavy traffic, no noise, no pollution, no motorbikes. Almost silently people move in their air-conditioned four-wheel-drive cars.

No one is walking in the streets. It seems as if the city is deserted. I ascribed this to the heat of the afternoon. But soon found out that night-life is non-existent and in the cool morning hours there is not much activity either.

The only people in the streets are tourists and immigrant workers who work in restaurants, in shops, tending the gardens round the mosque. Bruneians are invisible, hidden in their air-conditioned house and cars.

Bandar Seri Begawan travelogue picture
Kampung Ayer is a sprawling cluster of several Malay villages. It is built entirely over the Brunei River. Kampung means village and ayer means water.
Bruneians are proud of their Kampung Ayer, civil servants and professional workers still live there. The government has put in money into rescuing or replacing some of the older and decaying buildings, and has also built new facilities such as schools so that Bruneians can continue living there.

The houses are built on stilts. It is a funny sight to see, the river flows under the houses. They are nothing more than wooden shacks and seem to lack any comfort from the outside. However, they all have electricity, running water, sewer systems, televisions, and, quite often, internet access.

Every now and then they burn down. In that case, the house is not rebuilt. Instead the owner moves to a 'real' house on land.

The Brunei Hotel
95 Jalan Pemancha
Bandar Seri Begawan

Living standards in Brunei are high and therefore it is almost impossible to find budget accommodation. The nearest I could find was ‘the Brunei Hotel’. The cheapest room is euro 55, which is not really a budget price.
The hotel is right in the centre of Bandar. The architecture of the building is none too aspiring, when you are in the hotel you don’'t see it. The rooms are quite small but adequate and comfortable. Two single beds, good firm matrasses. Airconditioning. CNN and BBC World.
In the morning we got a newspaper (fortunately in English), pushed under our door. There were three types of breakfast: Asian (Fried rice), Chinese (noodle soup) or American (toast and jam). There is a free shuttle to and from the airport.

If you want to make a reservation it is best to contact them personally at:

Other recommendations:
The Sultan’s Palace
I would have loved to have seen the Sultan’s Palace.
The sultan owns four palaces: Istana Nurul Iman, Istana Nurul Izzah, Istana Darussalam, Istana Darul Hana. The largest palace is Istana Nurul Iman. It can only be visited at the end of Ramadan.
Here are some facts: Building cost: USD 400 million.
In this palace you can find:
1788 rooms
257 toilets
564 chandeliers
18 lifs
51,000 light bulbs
44 stairwells
mosque for 1500 people
banquet hall for 4000 guests

And also
5 swimming pools
air conditioned stables for his 200 polo ponies
a huge collections of motorcars: 165 Rolls Royces, aeroplanes and helicopters.

The Sultan is the owner of the Dorchester Hotel in London, the Holiday Inn in Singapore, and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

Published on Friday September 26th, 2003

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Wed, Nov 28 2007 - 11:33 AM rating by murrayskinner

A bit short Not enough practical information!

Mon, Feb 12 2007 - 12:57 PM rating by travler

After reading this report I can see why it was the report of the month.

Thu, Sep 28 2006 - 08:49 AM rating by mrscanada

Spectacular report.

Fri, Feb 27 2004 - 01:55 PM rating by beograd

This is fantastic! Both the place and your way of presenting it. Thank you for sharing :)

Tue, Sep 30 2003 - 11:30 AM rating by spaceout

There`s a lot of great information in this report. I may make a stop there in the future. It seems interesting without the rush of the usual urban areas. Perhaps there`s some kind of law that people can`t be seen, which would explain the deserted areas..
talk to you soon..

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