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The Sultanate of Brunei (Negara Brunei Darussalam) officialy Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a small but - thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources - very rich country located in Southeast Asia. It's surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically located on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs.
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with hundreds of large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified "halal", (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open. However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate. In 2014, new law had been passed by the government where non-fasting people only allowed to take-out foods from all restaurants and eat privately. This due to the respect of the Holy Month in Islam.
Geography and climate
The climate of Brunei is tropical equatorial. The average annual temperature is 26.1°C (79.0°F), with the April–May average of 24.7°C (76.5°F) and the October–December average of 23.8°C (74.8°F).
Brunei's topology is of a flat coastal plain rises to mountains in the east, the highest point being Bukit Pagan at 1,850m, with some hilly lowlands in the west.
There are no typhoons, earthquakes, severe flooding and other forms of natural disasters to contend with, and the biggest environmental issues is the seasonal haze resulting from forest fires (that is caused by illegal clearing of land) in nearby Indonesia.
Brunei has four districts (Malay: daerah)
Brunei regions map.png
Brunei and Muara
Heart of the country where the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located.
Lies under the coverage of the virgin forest, scattered small scale plantations.
Western-most district, also the centre of the country's petroleum industry. Seria town is a small oil town.
Isolated eastern district, separated from the rest of country by the Sarawak district of Limbang.
Brunei's sole airport of significance is Brunei International Airport (BWN), the hub of national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines. The airport itself is small but clean and functional.
After over-expansion and huge losses in the 1990s, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) has cut down on its services considerably but still offers a reasonably comprehensive network, with daily flights to London via Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Kota Kinabalu. There are also frequent flights to Jakarta, Surabaya, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila, Melbourne and Shanghai. The best prices are usually found on RBAs website. Stopovers in Brunei are available and are good value, though you'll need to book by phone or through a travel agent. RBA is a dry airline; if you wish to drink you must bring your own.
In addition, Singapore Airlines flies 5 times a week from Singapore, and Malaysia Airlines flies from Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. In July 2006, discount, no-frills carrier AirAsia started flights from Kuala Lumpur, bringing some much-needed competition. AirAsia is the cheapest carrier to serve Brunei from an international Hub, with fares as low as US$35 one-way from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia flies from 35 destinations in Asia to Kuala Lumpur, where connections to Brunei are available. Cebu Pacfiic fly red-eye flights to Manila.
Getting there/away: A taxi to Bandar Seri Begawan takes 20 minutes. A covered walk down to the end of the car park further away from the Terminal (turn right from Arrivals) leads to a bus stop for Purple buses to the city centre (B$1) along with other busses for tours & hotel shuttles. The reason for the long walk is extensive construction of airport upgrades.
You can drive into Brunei from Sarawak, Malaysia. There are two entry points for the main part of Brunei, one from Miri at Sungai Tujuh and one from Limbang at Kuala Lurah (Tedungan on the Malaysian side). Both these crossings have drive-through immigration checkpoints at the border but queues can be horribly long, especially during weekends.
Note that the border checkpoint opens at 06:00 and closes at 00:00(midnight) daily.
It is also possible to drive from the Sarawak towns of Limbang and Lawas to the Temburong district of Brunei. The drive from Limbang requires a ferry ride across the Pandaruan River (RM8 or B$4) which forms the border between Malaysia and Brunei. You can now conduct immigration formalities at Pandaruan (no longer at Limbang Wharf) with the opening of the Malaysian checkpoint in June 2007. Brunei immigration formalities are conducted at Puni, about 600m away from the ferry landing. From Lawas (which is connected by road to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia), a ferry ride across the Trusan River (RM10) is required before you can proceed to the actual border at Labu. Malaysian immigration formalities are done in Trusan (the immigration office, officially known as the Mengkalap immigration checkpoint, is in a shoplot just east of the ferry crossing) about 8km away, and no longer in Lawas. Those for Brunei can be done at the Labu checkpoint at the border.
There is one "motorway", from Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital) along the coast. It devolves into dual and then single carriageway but is suitable for all vehicles, right through to Kuala Belait and the toll bridge to Malaysia/Sarawak in the west)
There is also a side road off this, which runs into the jungle towards the settlement of Labi and beyond. Excellent scenery, and a 4-wheel drive may be useful, but the road is now sealed up to the longhouses some distance beyond Labi. Stock up on water at the convenient shop at the junction.
There are only ± 40 taxis in whole Brunei (2009), because the car ownership and usage are high. Since there are around 10 waiting at the airport and 8 in the Belait District there is a little chance of finding a free taxi along the road, especially during morning and afternoon peak hours when they are hired by business men. Needing a taxi might require a phone call. The main taxi stand is direct north of the bus station in the capital with only a few taxis waiting.
None of the taxis has a taxi meter since there is no taxi company nor regulation requiring to have one. Drivers have fixed prices for most trips, although the tariffs may vary between different drivers, or they will give a price for an irregular trip.
By tour vans
Another alternative is hiring a tour van to drive you around Brunei, for example, for a whole day, or several hours. Try asking them from the ferry counters in Muara. Discuss the price first before agreeing to board the van.
The official language of Brunei is Malay, but due to its British colonial past, English is widely spoken and understood in urban areas. A little Malay will come in handy in rural areas, as English proficiency is limited there. While all Bruneians are able to speak standard Malay, the local dialect of Malay is almost incomprehensible to other Malay speakers. Solely among the Malay-speaking states, Brunei also officially uses the Arabic script for Malay known as Jawi, although most signs are written both in Jawi and Roman letters. Nevertheless, the Roman alphabet is still the more commonly used script when writing Malay in Brunei.
The ethnic Chinese community in Brunei continues to speak a variety of Chinese languages, including Hokkien, Teochew and several others.
What to see
The Istana Nurul Iman is the world’s largest residential palace in occupation. The 300-acre palace sits on a man made hill with a clear view of Kampong Ayer. Istana Nurul Iman is the residence of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the palace is quoted to have an estimated value at USD600 million.
For things to do in and in the near vicinity of Bandar Seri Begawan, see Bandar Seri Begawan.
There are many eco-tours which typically go to the Temburong district by boat then to a native "longhouse". It is then followed by a powered boat (by the natives) up the river to the Belalong National Park, a reserve in the Borneo rainforest. There is a canopy walk and research centre at the park headquarters. Visitors can book to stay overnight at the Ulu Ulu Resort.
For nature lovers, a new activity to try in Brunei is the Tutong River cruise tour, about 40 minutes away from [Bandar Seri Begawan]. The cruise provided by Sunshine Borneo Tours & Travel emphasizes on mangrove ecology and conservation education. The beautiful and calm mangrove-fringed Tutong River is home to the endemic Proboscis monkeys, eagles, crocodiles, macaques, kingfishers and other wildlife.
Jerudong Park was once a decent theme park with a multitude of rides. Sadly, a downward cycle of neglect, declining admission and unaffordable maintenance costs led to the closure and sale of most of the big-ticket rides, including the three rollercoasters. This has given the park a sad "circus left town last week" air about it. Though in recent years there have been attempts to revive the park, including some new rides (mainly for children) as well as clown shows. The original bumper cars, go-karts, paddle-boats & merry-go-round are still operational. As is the fountain & light show.
Most people who visit only go at night to avoid the heat during the day. Outside the park, but very close, is a small complex of restaurants which is open at night, though only around half of the stalls are still operational.
Brunei offers some great diving. In addition to coral and fish, Brunei is home to several shipwrecks and many species of nudibranch - one of the best places in S.E. Asia for macro photography. Water temperature is generally around 86 degrees (30 Celsius) and visibility is usually in the 10-30m range, although this can be changeable during the monsoon season. As diving here is not overly developed, it means that the sites, and especially the coral reefs, are unspoiled and in pristine condition.
Popular dive sites include the Blue Water Wreck, a 80m trawler that gets her nickname from the blue water around her and is still completely intact. Cement Wreck, a 2,687 ton Japanese freighter that hit a sandbank in 1980 while carrying cement. She has a length of 92m and a 15m beam. Easy to penetrate, the freighter lies upright on the bottom at 30m. Australian Wreck, In 1949 while on a voyage to Manila it struck a mine off Brunei and sank. The wreck lies in 33m of water and is roughly 85m . Experienced divers will enjoy exploring the interior of the wreck. Rig Reef, a decommissioned oil rig. There are 9 structures to be explored, each seeming to be home to one dominant group of fish.
Diving is very reasonable, averaging out to BN$35-45 per dive depending on how many dives you do and whether you bring your own gear. There are a number of organisations you can do trips with such as; Poni Divers, Oceanic Quest, The Brunei Sub Aqua Dive Club in Brunei-Muara & Panaga Divers based in seria