WHY TO VISIT BRUNEI
Brunei doesn’t necessarily justify a whole long holiday to itself but it is definitely worth including as part of a trip to Malaysia or Singapore, for example. The Capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, a lake city, is very charming with its wooden houses on stilts between which circulate motor boats. Its mosque with a golden dome enables you to enjoy a magnificent view over the whole city. The Sultan’s Palace is one of the most dazzling buildings in the world and the Hassanal Balkiah Aquarium is worth a visit for the variety and fabulous display of local underwater life.
The National Park of Belalong, in the district of Tempurong to the East, is a great way to discover the rare species of wild life and plant life in this area. Take the canopy walkway, a metallic raised bridge that takes you among the trees. You could also explore the jungle or visit the Medaram Falls and there are lovely white sand beaches close to the Capital that are worth a visit. All in all there is plenty to fill your days with a short stay in Brunei.
WHEN TO GO TO BRUNEI
Best period to visit Brunei is from February to May.
One of the richest countries in the world and covered in equatorial forests, this small sultanate experiences a tropical climate; humid and hot all year round. Temperatures generally range between 22 and 32°C. The rainy season continues from September to January which is followed by the dry season from February to April. Mist is often present at daybreak due to the lakes.
The best season to visit Brunei is during the dry season but going at the end of Ramadan (between November and December) has its advantages as it is at this time that the Sultan opens his Palace to visitors, both local and foreign.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Brunei.
- Hari Raya Aidilfitri: Hari Raya is a time for celebration after the fasting month of Ramadhan. Prayers are held in the early morning of the first day at every mosque in the country. This day is usually an occasion for. The second day normally means open house; an invitation for all to visit. Special festive dishes are made, including ketupat (rice cakes), satay (beef and chicken kebabs), rendang (spicy marinated beef) and many others. His Majesty the Sultan also throws his doors open to the people at the Istana Nurul Iman. This gives the people and visitors a chance to meet His Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, in order to wish them Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This is defintely an offer which should not be missed. When visiting you should dress conservatively.
- Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day: The formation of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces is commemorated every year on the 31st of May, and the event usually takes place at the Taman Haji Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien in the heart of the city. It consists of a military parade and displays, such as a parachuting show or battle demonstration. In other districts, units of the armed forces organise local parades and displays for the public.
- Hari Raya Aidiladha: This is also known as Hari Raya Koran. It marks the time when Muslims embark on the Haj, or holy pilgrimage to Mecca. The usual practice - for those who can afford it - is to sacrifice goats and cows. The meat is then distributed to relatives, friends and those who are less fortunate.
- His Majesty the Sultan's Birthday 15th of July: This joyous occasion is one of the most important events in the national calendar, with events and festivities taking place across the whole country. It usually starts when the people gather at the Taman Haj i Sir Muda OmarAli Saifuddien, in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan. His Majesty meets his subjects there and delivers a titah, or speech, to mark the occasion. Afterwards there is an investiture at the Istana Nurul Iman and, for the next two weeks or so, a series of processions, parades and celebrations. Fireworks displays take place and night markets - pasar malam - open up to sell food and drinks to the crowds.
- Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad: This occasion is better known in Brunei as Mauludun Nabi SAW. Muslims gather at the Taman Haji Sir Oman Ali Saifuddien to honour the occasion. There are readings from the Holy Koran and an address on Islam from the Ministry of reliroys Affairs to open the function. His Majesty the Sultan also gives a speech and then, along with other members of the Royal Family, leads a procession on foot through the main streets of Bandar Seri Begawan. The Prophet's birthday is also celebrated at the same time in other parts of the country, with lectures, religous functions and other activities.
- Chinese New Year: This festival is celebrated by the Chinese community and lasts two full weeks. It begins with a reunion dinner on the eve of the celebration which, traditionally, all members of the family attend. Open house is declared and everyone is invited to feast on sumptuous spreads of food and drink. Unmarried youngsters are given 'ang pow' - gifts of money in little red packets.
- Christmas Day: Although not celebrated on a wide scale, Christmas Day is nevertheless a joyous and colourful occasion, well received by the nation. It is centred on Bandar Seri Begawan and the Belait District, where the greatest concentrations of Christmas expatriates live. They also hold "open house" to entertain their friends and colleagues.
- Made in Brunei Product Festival (June): The town of Tutong showcases the best crafts and products made in Brunei. It’s a great chance to see what things this tiny nation produces.
- Borneo Ethnic Culture Festival (August): Temburong hosts this impressive festival showcasing the many indigenous tribes of this part of Borneo. Brunei is home to several native tribes, and this is the best chance to learn more about their obscure cultures.
- FOBISSEA Music Festival (November): Students from Brunei and other Southeast Asian countries come to the capital to perform their own unique musical talents. There are some great concerts, as well as workshops to learn about different musical styles.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH BRUNEI
You can get to Brunei by plane directly from London or by passing through Singapore, Hong Kong or Bali. Once there, you will find a bus station in the centre of Bangar Seri Begawan: Several bus lines serve different areas of the city. Taxis are numerous and are reasonably priced.
by plane, main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON BRUNEI
country entry requirements: passport (visa required only if you stay more than 14 days) (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: Brunei Dollar
local time zone: GMT+8
electricity: type G (240 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN BRUNEI
typical food in Brunei
- Daging masak lada hitam: spicy beef with potato beans
- Udang sambal serai bersantan: prawns with chilli and coconut milk
- Serondeng padang: chicken fried with garlic wrapped in pandan leaves
- Ambuyat: goo made from ground sago tree pith, dipped in sauce
- Kelupis: sticky rice steamed in a leaf
- Ayam Penyet: fried chicken, marinated with peppers and herbs. Usually served spicy, alongside a salad with cucumber, lettuce, tomato and lemon
- Ketupat or Kupat: boiled wooven palm leafs stuffed with rice
- Roti: baked flatbread made from wholemeal flour
- Mee Goreng: fried noodles
- Nasi Goreng: frided rice
- Kueh Seri Muka: steamed glutinous rice and topped with a layer of coconut milk and eggs with sweet pandan leaves as the natural colouring
- Kuih Kosui: pandan flavoured rice cakes
souvenirs in Brunei
- silver and brass jewellery
- cerimonial sword
- kris, the traditional asymmetrical dagger
- carved wooden boxes
Goodbye: Selamat tinggal
How are you?: Apa khabar?
Thank you: Terima kasih
What is your name?: Apa nama awak?
How much is it?: Berapa banyaknya?