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Brunei is 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.
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with hundreds of large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, 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.
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.
In addition, Singapore Airlines flies 5 times a week from Singapore, and Malaysia Airlines flies from Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
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 leads to a bus stop for Purple buses to the city centre 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.
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.
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.
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.
For nature lovers, a new activity to try in Brunei is the Tutong River cruise tour. 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.
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.