What will you do if you only have several hours to spend in your stopover country or destination? Sometimes, we are not lucky enough to explore places in our own convenient time. We even ask ourselves if should we go or just skip exploring a place. This happened to me in the small Southeast Asian country of Brunei in the island of Borneo where I only had several hours left to wander.
Brunei’s International Airport is the usual layover of flights around Asia and the Pacific. The country is also a regular port of call of many cruise lines around Asia. But what are the things to do in Brunei during a short stopover and in a limited time?
Capture the Majestic Beauty of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
This astounding mosque is the exclamation point in an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River. It is the most photographed and familiar landmark in Brunei due to its fascinating pure gold covered dome. Try to google ‘Brunei’ and you can see its photos right away. The mosque’s architectural style is mixed of Mughal, Renaissance and Italian making it one of the most impressive mosques in Southeast Asia.
Though its exterior is attractive and enticing enough to get you closer to it, the mosque is only meant for praying and non-Muslims are not allowed to enter inside.
Visit and Enter the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
This another spectacular architecture in Brunei is the largest mosque in the country. Built in 1992 to commemorate the 25th year of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s reign. The current Sultan is the 29th ruler in his dynasty, the mosque is also embellished with 29 domes covered with pure gold that look fiery at night.
This mosque is tourist friendly as it allows its visitor to actually enter inside. However, you must take off your footwear and be in proper attire. You can only enjoy the lavish interior with your eyes as taking photos is not allowed.
Know more about Brunei’s Monarchy in the Royal Regalia
If you want an introduction about the rich traditions of the six century-old Brunei Monarchy, then a visit to the Royal Regalia is essential. This large-domed building houses a massive collection of artifacts, treasures, weaponry and costumes used in Royal ceremonies.
You can also find galleries of ornate gifts from other states around the world. Photo taking is not allowed in the galleries but you can take picture around the entrance hall where you can find the Royal Chariot that was used for the parade of Sultan Bolkiah in 1992 for his silver jubilee celebration of his coronation and a second chariot that was used in 1968 during his coronation.
Take a tour in the Water Village (Kampung Ayer)
Tagged as “The Venice of the East” by an Italian explorer since 16th century, Kampung Ayer is one of the must see/visit attractions in Brunei. This ancient community was built over the Brunei River and it is known to be the largest water village in the world. Though Kampung Ayer preserves it cultural and historical heritage, the village is also equipped with modern facilities and services like fire brigades, school, police stations, mosques, clinics, shops and more.
Water taxi or locally known as ‘Perahu Tambang’ is used to get in and out of the village. You can hire a water taxi for about B$30 to B$50 (USD 20 to USD 35) to have an hour or 2 hours guided tour in Kampung Ayer.
Have a glance of the Istana Nurul Iman
The Royal Palace or ‘Palace of the Light of Faith’ is the official residence of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and it is known as the largest residential palace in the world with 1,788 rooms. Though it is only open to the public during Hari Raya celebration, you are allowed to stop-by outside to peep at the palace and take photos in front of the gate.
I have visited all these places in a day with a private car for free because of my job. But if you are a tourist coming from the airport or disembarking in a cruise terminal, you can book for a day tour or opt to hire a taxi/private car for a day. Day tour packages range from B$50 to B$100 per person while a private car/taxi for a day can go up from B$100 to B$150.
If you are visiting Brunei, do not miss to try their local food as well. If your time permits, take a side trip to Gadong Night Market to taste their lip-smacking delicacies and try some of the tropical fruits available.
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