We spent 24 hours exploring the tiny and extremely oil rich country of Brunei, on the North coast of Borneo. This country is small on square footage but big on fabulous wealth, as exemplified by the glittering domes, ornate mosques and gorgeous sculptures that can be seen everywhere. The capital of Bandar Seri Begawan is a fantastic city to walk around and we saw quite a few impressive sights during our short visit.
One of the biggest landmarks in the city is the amazing Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. I’m not really a religious person, but I am still incredibly impressed by some of the spectacular religious buildings that we have seen on our travels. This stunning mosque is topped by a 52 metre shimmering gold dome. When I first looked at the size of it, I couldn’t believe at first that it was covered in pure gold.
“There’s no way, it would be way too expensive!” I said.
“Kelly, He’s the Sultan of Brunei.” said Lee.
The incredibly opulent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is located right next to Kampong Ayer, which is the largest water village in the world. The village consists of ramshackle houses which stand on wooden planks up above the water. It’s quite amazing to see the contrast between the wealth and shimmering gold in the mosque and the slightly falling apart shacks on water directly next to it.
We hired a water-taxi and took a tour of the village so that we could get a closer look. (I don’t know how our guide was wearing a winter hat in 30 degree heat.)
Believe it or not, over 39,000 people live in the Kampong Ayer Floating Village. The people who live in the water village pretty much spend their most of their time on wooden planks above the water. They live on the water, have little shops and restaurants on the water and the kids even go to school on the water. They get to school by taking a school bus boat!
The residents of the floating village use boats to get from place to place and then even have a fire rescue boat and an ambulance boat. When these boats need refueling, they visit this petrol station which is right on the water. The attendant lowers down the fuel to you and a little tin on a string so that you can put your money in the tin and he can pull it back up.
We really enjoyed the floating village and if you are only in Brunei for a short time it is definitely something we recommend. You can hire a water-taxi right from the pier and it should only cost around 15 Brunei dollars for a 30 minute tour.
We also visited the Royal Regalia Museum. This museum is a very impressive showcase of ornate regalia, clothing and costumes and gifts given to Brunei by leaders, delegates and dignitaries from all over the world. It’s pretty interesting to walk through and see this collection of gifts, some of them certainly stranger than others. Unfortunately we don’t have any photos to show you as photography was not permitted within the museum.
Later we went for a wander and ended up heading up a steep hill and finding ourselves on a hiking trail. All of a sudden we were surrounded by wilderness, even though we were still very close to the city. It was a lovely trail and the shade was a refreshing break from the heat.
This photo demonstrates just how incredibly ungraceful I look when I am struggling to climb up a steep path!
After a full day of exploring the sights of Brunei, we were treated to this beautiful nighttime view of the mosque.
24 hours was just enough time to get a great taste of what beautiful Brunei has to offer. Have you been to Brunei before? Share your experience in the comments.