Working seasonally on cruise ships sometimes means receiving last minute contract-offers. When I first opened an email with another cruise contract offer, I was wicked excited to see that it was in Asia! I instantly looked up the itinerary naming all of the countries I’d be headed to.
Thailand — Sweet!
Cambodia — YAS!
South Korea — Oh wow.
Brunei — ……………..Where the FRICK is THAT?!
Between Google and then visiting the country itself, here is what I learned about Brunei : It’s located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia and is the 5th wealthiest country in the world — mostly due to its crude oil and natural gas production. As a devout Muslim country, over 67% of it’s population is Islamic. The Sultan of Brunei is ruler of the country and is currently the 2nd richest man on Earth.
Generally generous and well-liked, he has recently come under fire for introducing Islamic sharia law into the legal system in 2014. Islamic sharia law allows actions such as stoning adulterers or homosexuals and amputation of thieves. This, along with the country being very strict (especially with alcohol), makes a lot of travelers nervous to visit. However, though stoning and such is allowed, it’s rarely ever put into practice by the locals.
If you do decide to visit Brunei (and you should absolutely give it a chance), just keep in mind that this is a culture that is likely completely different than your own. I 100% do not agree with a lot of the views in this country and the allowings of Islamic sharia law, but I still think it is highly important to show respect to one another no matter where you go. You should also know that it’s incredibly difficult to find a taxi in town, making getting around a little tricky, unless you have a hotel which will schedule one for you. This tiny country has a lot of royal history and plenty of unique attractions to discover! Here are the top 5 things to do in Brunei!
There are 2 beautiful mosques worth visiting in Brunei. The first, and the largest in the country, is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque (pictured above). The second is the Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque (articles featured image). These mosques are open to public viewing, but only during certain days and times. You may not enter during prayer times, which are typically noted on a sign outside the mosques. Being a religious building, visitors are expected to cover up — though they do have robes available at the entryways if you’re not properly dressed. Remember to remove your shoes outside and don’t get caught taking photos inside!
2. Kampong Ayer Stilt Village
Grab a water taxi from the waterfront in the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, and ride over to the main entrance of Kampong Ayer — the world’s largest stilt village. Around 40,000 people live in this community on the river. Homes, schools, restaurants, shops, and even a hospital are all built on stilts and connected by wooden walkways and foot-bridges. Looking out at the village from the mainland, it appears to be a slum. However, there are plenty of modern amenities enjoyed here such as satellite TV and WiFi! Walk around the village and you just might be invited in for tea and treats by the locals!
3. Royal Regalia Museum
The Royal Regalia Museum is free to enter and is entirely dedicated to glorifying the Sultan and his many possessions. Inside is a vast collection of luxurious gifts that have been given to the him by both local and international hosts. Royal memorabilia is also showcased, along with a timeline of the Sultan’s life and achievements. (Similar to the mosques, photos are not allowed inside the museum. Therefore, the corresponding photo is actually one of the mosque entryways and not of the museum. Just to be fully transparent with you all!)
4. Gadong Night Market
This market in Bandar Seri Begawan is an open-air night market located near the mall. Covered stalls line up next to each other and offer up cheap local food. Sample delicious BBQ, fresh fish, various fruits and vegetables, and local treats and drinks such as rose and sugar cane juice. There was also a day market along the river called the Kianggeh Open Air Market, but its recently been noted to be permanently closed.
5. Ulu Temburong National Park
Located in Eastern Brunei is the Ulu Temburong National Park, a pristine jungle encompassing a huge array of unique flora and fauna. There are around 400 butterfly species here — some incredibly rare. Hornbills and other beautiful birds reside here as well, along with a plethora of snakes, frogs, lizards, insects, orchids, and mammals. The two most popular animals to view in the park are the Müller’s Bornean gibbons and the Proboscis monkeys — both endemic to the island. The most common way of getting to Ulu Temburong is by taking a day trip tour from the capital city.
Have you ever heard of this tiny country before? And despite the strict rules, would you still go and visit?
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