Brunei gets a bad rap sometimes for being boring. Or worse still, it is often overlooked completely or not even known about by travellers to South East Asia. But there are some rather compelling reasons to visit this little-known sultanate. As a resident of almost one year, here are a few of mine.
1 – How many other times in your life have you been to a country that no one else has heard of? Or better still, the typical response you get is, that’s near Dubai isn’t it? Just to give everyone in your inner circle an impromptu geography lesson, book your flights, and then watch them struggle to find it on an atlas when they eventually get concerned enough to want to know exactly where you are going.
2 – Ulu Temburong National Park – covering almost 40 % of the Temburong district of Brunei, it is undisputedly one of the best preserved tropical rainforest parks in Borneo. Only accessibly by ‘flying coffin’ boats from Bandar Seri Begawan, followed by a short bus ride and then a traditional longboat to the rainforest canopy walkway, the journey itself makes for a wonderful day out as well.
3 – Kampong Ayer. A collection of several water villages straddling the Brunei river, it is at the heart of Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan and has a history going back fourteen centuries.
4 – Visit the Jerudong area and see some of what Prince Jefri’s reported spending sprees managed to buy and build. Have you ever wondered what a US$800 million hotel looks like? Look no further than the Empire hotel and Country club, with its neighbouring world class golf courses, polo ground and medical facilities.
5 – Go beyond the grounds of the Empire see the rest of the Jerudong area. Go almost any night of the week and be guaranteed to have the Amusement park all to yourself, (and your travelling companions, of course, otherwise it might be a bit boring.) Ride those few remaining rides that haven’t been sold off all night long with no queues!
6 – Take a river safari down the Brunei river to, (hopefully,) spot some Proboscis monkeys and other wildlife native to Brunei such as monitor lizards and all manner of birdlife.
Brunei is reported to have the world’s largest population of Proboscis monkeys so the odds seem pretty good of spotting one and getting some pretty amazing holiday snapshots to show your jealous friends back home.
7 – Fantastic, year-round warm temperatures, (it never drops below a balmy 22 degrees C, even at night,) and quiet beaches make it an ideal destination for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts at any time of year.
8 – If for no other reasons that to revel in the rather strange feeling, as an adult, to enjoy a lovely meal, in a sophisticated, western restaurant, accompanied by an iced Milo, rather than a cold beer or glass of Merlot. Such is the fate if those dining in a dry country.
9 – Have you ever been to a country that boasts the oldest reigning monarchy or the only remaining Malay Islamic monarchy before?
10 – It can be a much-needed relief from the hustle and bustle of the rest of South East Asia – what else would you expect from a country called ‘the abode of peace?