In case you haven’t been diligently following my Twitter feed (shame on you!), I am going back to Southeast Asia this January. This time flying to Brunei. You may be asking yourself “Why?” or more likely “Where is that?” Why– because I figure I may never have the opportunity to go again.
If you’re not sure where Brunei is, you’re definitely not alone. It’s basically part of Malaysia. It’s a tiny country about the size of Delaware. And very Muslim. If you’re interested in the country itself, read my earlier post.
But right now I am interested in figuring out what the heck to do while I am there. According to Dennis from Pangcouver.com, there’s nothing to do but eat. And it is very difficult to get around without a car. (Grumbles.) Moreover, apparently for Dennis, staying in Brunei for three days was far too long. With this in mind, perhaps I’ll keep my time in Brunei shorter than I had anticipated.
After perusing the Wiki Travel page for Brunei, it looks like there are very few taxis in the country. Oftentimes business men will book them ahead of time. Fortunately there is a bus system. Again, that mostly foreign businessmen use (because most Bruneians have their own car). This bus system really only goes around the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Which I suppose is fine– I don’t plan on venturing to any obscure corners of the country.
My main concern is finding a way to make it to my hotel. Some of the more upscale hotels have a complimentary pickup at the airport. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll end up having to splurge on a higher-end hotel in Brunei…
Where to stay
Speaking of hotels, Brunei has a reputation for expensive accommodation. Looks like I have another reason to keep my stay short . Allegedly there is only one youth hostel in the whole country. Just from browsing TripAdvisor and Kayak, it seems like I may have to dish out about $70 USD per night.
In the US this price is quite normal. Actually– it’s cheap. Especially for a capital city. On the other hand, for Southeast Asia this is really pricey for a three star establishment.
After preliminary research, it looks as though Bandar Seri Begawan is the place to stay. English is spoken at a pretty high proficiency, there are restaurants and it is the most dense area. I doubt I’ll venture too far.
What to do
The list of what to do in Brunei is quite sparse. The Bandar Seri Begawan Wiki Travel page straight up says that the architecture of the city is nothing to look at. The go-to attraction seems to be the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (as pictured above).
Brunei has lots of Islam-rooted attractions such as the the Sultan’s residence and the Brunei Museum containing Islamic art.
Outside the main capital, Brunei is supposedly lovely for scuba diving. However, you won’t catch me submerging into deep waters anytime soon. (I have an irrational fear of dark, deep ocean water.)
Moreover, you won’t catch me partying, either. That is because Brunei is a dry country. Evidently a person holding a non-Muslim passport can obtain an alcohol permit when going through customs. Meaning I could theoretically bring a bottle of wine or two into Brunei.
There are also some restaurants/bars that serve alcohol; but this is technically illegal. Think of a speakeasy during Prohibition. But there’s no way I’m going to risk any sort of legal repercussions while traveling this winter — no thank you!
So, in the end, I guess the answer to my question is that (unsurprisingly) there is actually not all that much to do in Brunei. As a country with a lesser population than Boston, what could I really expect?
However… If anyone has any suggestions as to what a young, Western female could possibly enjoy in Brunei — please do tell!
Image – Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei via Flicker.
Map – Wikimedia Commons.