I have to be straightforward. The word on the street is true. There is very little to do in the minuscule nation of Brunei. And of the few attractions, they are quite spread out geographically– especially the more outdoorsy activities.
But right in the central area of Bandar Seri Begawan–the capital– is the Royal Regalia Museum. The museum is situated within a few blocks from the iconic Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. And almost directly across the road from the Radisson Hotel.
I made way to the Royal Regalia Museum on a Saturday afternoon. It was practically empty. While walking through, I only stumbled across two other patrons. This was not exactly a surprise, considering the sparse amount of tourists in Brunei overall.
Warning: before entering the building, you must take off your shoes. So I recommend wearing/bringing socks. There is no admission fee. All one has to do (at least in my case) is sign your name and nationality in the guest book. Then place all belongings inside a locker. Don’t worry, they give you the key. There are even larger sized lockers for people with bigger bags.
Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the actual museum exhibits– which is a shame because it is filled with luxurious gifts and opulent national treasures. Only in the front area picture taking is permitted.
The actual museum exhibits ended up being much larger than I imagined. Truthfully when I first stepped in I thought there were only a few rooms.
To sum up the contents of the Royal Regalia Museum: gold plated swords, chariot-like structures, throne-like chairs, gifts from heads of state to the Sultan, pictures of the Sultan and his family, more extravagant gifts and a reenactment of the ceremony when he was crowned.
The reenactment scene was one of the last exhibits in the museum. And probably my favorite room. It was just so over-the-top. In a massive room mannequin soldiers were lined up, carrying the king in this house-like structure. On the outskirts of the room were life-size photographs of onlookers. Probably people who were actually in the crowd that day. It was just so, larger than life. Words really can’t do this scene justice.
I also enjoyed the signed APAC plaque from the time Brunei held the conference (November 15–16, 2000.) The plaque contains signatures of the APAC members leaders– including William Clinton’s.
Some of my other favorite things in the Royal Regalia Museum were the elaborate gifts given to the Sultan from Arab nations like Jordan and Syria. You know, gold plated national landmarks. Diamond encrusted vases. Things like that.
Overall, out of everything I saw in Brunei, the Royal Regalia was by far one of my favorite tourist attractions. It offers a picture of the country’s history and the absolute monarchy that rules it. Even though taking actual pictures is prohibited.
Royal Regalia Hours:
Sunday – Thursday → 9AM – 5PM
Friday → 9 – 11:30AM and 2:30 – 5PM
Saturday → 9:45AM – 5PM
Sunday → CLOSED
Last entry 4:30PM.
— Royal Regalia Street View, own image
— Inside the Royal Regalia, own image
— Royal Regalia Roof, photo via Flickr