Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, formerly known as Brunei Town, is the capital and largest city of the Sultanate of Brunei.

History

Human settlement in Brunei can be traced back as far as the 6th and 7th centuries with the Malay trading center and fishing port located near the current site of this city. The first settlement on the banks of the Brunei River can be traced back to the 8th century where there had been settlements similar to those in Kampong Ayer, located near the present site of the Brunei Museum with the modern city on the opposite shore. During the Bruneian Empire period from 15th–17th century, the Sultanate ruled many parts of Borneo including the southern part of the Philippines and its capital of Manila, with the water settlement near the city area became the third... Read more

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

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Bandar Seri Begawan, formerly known as Brunei Town, is the capital and largest city of the Sultanate of Brunei.

History

Human settlement in Brunei can be traced back as far as the 6th and 7th centuries with the Malay trading center and fishing port located near the current site of this city. The first settlement on the banks of the Brunei River can be traced back to the 8th century where there had been settlements similar to those in Kampong Ayer, located near the present site of the Brunei Museum with the modern city on the opposite shore. During the Bruneian Empire period from 15th–17th century, the Sultanate ruled many parts of Borneo including the southern part of the Philippines and its capital of Manila, with the water settlement near the city area became the third center of the administration after been moved twice from Kota Batu and Kampong Ayer. When the Sultanate rule declined through the eighteenth century due to the arrival of western powers such as the Spanish, Dutch and the British, this settlement population was totally decreased from its peak of 20,000 inhabitants. From 1888 until its independence in 1984, Brunei was a British protectorate and land development began in 1906 when the British resident encouraged the Sultanate citizens to moved on reclaimed land on the western bank of the inlet. In 1899, the first oil well was drilled at Ayer Bekunchi near Kampung Kasat, Bandar Seri Begawan. Although the oil well was drilled as deep as 259 meters (850 feet), no oil was found in the well. Oil exploration in Brunei later shifted to Seria and Belait District in 1924. Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II established a new palace on the west bank in 1909 after being persuaded by the British, along with the arriving of Chinese traders to boost the economy. Mosque and government buildings were also built along the western shores in 1920. In the same year, the new settlement was declared as a new capital of Brunei and became a municipal area. Brunei Town under the Allied attack in 1945; the attack was intended to flush out the Japanese.

Brunei Town in 1950, with the starting of the redevelopment. However, the city prosperity was almost ended when the city was captured by the Japanese in 1941, before being recaptured by the Allied forces in 1945. During the war, most infrastructure was destroyed by the Japanese and Allied bombing. The British began reconstructing most of its possessions in Borneo at the end of 1945 with the restoration of the law and order and the reopening of schools. In 1950, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III, upon his ascension to the throne, negotiated with the British for an increase in corporate taxes, growing from 10% to 30% in 1953. A M$1.2 million (US$0.39 million) allotment to Brunei for war damages during the Japanese occupation increased from M$1 million in 1946 to M$100 million (US$32.6 million) in 1952. A five-year development plan with a total budget of M$100 million was also implemented in 1953, with infrastructure receiving the largest percentage (80%) and the rest going toward social programmers. Together with the expansion of the oil and gas industry, commercialization began to transform Brunei's capital and a large number of public buildings were constructed, along with the development of a central business district in the 1970s and 1980s. On 1 August 2007, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave consent for the expansion of the city from 12.87 km2 (4.97 sq mi) to 100.36 km2 (38.75 sq mi).

Climate

Brunei features an equatorial climate that is a tropical rainforest climate more subject to the Intertropical Convergence Zone than the trade winds and with no or rare cyclones. The climate is hot and wet. The city sees heavy precipitation throughout the course of the year with the Northeast Monsoon blows from December to March, while the Southeast Monsoon around June to October.

Visitor information

  • Tourist Information Centre (in the old customs building on the waterfront). Don't get your hopes up—they're friendly but not especially knowledgeable. They do have useful maps of the city, at least. 

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei: Port Information


The cruise terminal is about 15.5 miles from Bandar Seri Begawan. You can get to the city by taxi, ship or regular bus. One way trip on a bus takes about an hour.

Get around Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Walking

The downtown area (Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Kianggeh Market, Royal Regalia Museum,...) is best covered to walk on foot. It takes 30-60 minutes to get from there to Jame Asr' Hassanil Bolkia Mosque or Gadong night market. Sidewalks are not always present, so going by bus might be the better choice.

Water Taxi

You can hail a few water taxis at almost any dock but the most popular place to find one is at a stand behind the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah mall or at the canal market. They are great fun to ride in. 

By bus

Going by a public bus is the cheapest way to travel in the city even though the buses do not operate at frequent intervals (usually 20-minute intervals) and end service quite early (at about 6 pm). All of them begin and end service at the bus terminal at Jalan Cator. The buses are actually in the form of purple-colored large vans which can seat about 20 people at the most, and are generally clean and comfortable to ride. Main bus routes include bus service 01 (Circle Line) and 20 (Business Centres Line). The detailed routes of the bus services are written on a board placed on the front window of the buses and are also can be found on the information board at the Jalan Cator terminal.

By tour van

Try asking the counter tickets for a tour van to drive you around Brunei and bring you to the places. Discuss the price first before you agree to board the van.

By Taxi

There are not many taxis in Brunei because almost all locals own a car. The only official taxi stand is located at the bus terminal in the city center. Generally, a local taxi is quite expensive. However, it's worth to note that taxis are either using a meter, or you have to agree on the fare beforehand.

What to see in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Don't expect to find much tasteful and stunning architecture like you would normally find in Southeast Asia. Here, most of the buildings are just plain and box-shaped. However, an interesting twist to the billboards around here is that the "Jawi" (Arabicized Malay writing) are prevalent among them. Sometimes, foreign names are translated literally, e.g. "Pizza Hut" to "Pondok Pizza".
  • Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is located in Bandar Seri Begawan and is known as one of the most peaceful and calm mosques in the world. Before stepping into the mosque you may sense the beautiful ray of the sun and the smell of the unique odor of fish because of the river near the mosque. The mosques' gold dome gleams under the sunlight during the day, the white walls of the exterior complementing the gold. Even during the night, the dome seems to shine brightly as light illuminates it. The mosque is surrounded by a peaceful setting of swishing trees and colorful floral gardens.
The green marble floor, as well as other parts of the mosque, feels hot against your feet as you pass through the men's ablution area. White marble columns surround the area, where little blue and gold tiles line the perimeter of the walls. As you step into the peaceful and quiet atmosphere of the prayer hall in the mosque, you can feel the soft, plush carpet. It is a little too comfortable because of the cool air. Aside from that, the bland taste of water would also refresh you. You will smell the alluring odor of the Arabic perfumes used by the worshipers as you peer at the beautiful chandelier, stained glass windows and marble domes imported from foreign countries such as Italy, England, and Saudi Arabia. Quranic verses are carved on the semi-domes and arches.

In addition to that, there is an artificial lagoon situated at the back of the mosque. Made out of concrete, it is designed with multi-colored tiles and arches which are adorned with intricate designs. A long winding bridge leads from the mosque to the lagoon. There, you could see a spectacular view of the water village and bustling Yayasan Complex; the sight leaving a tranquil feeling inside.
  • Jame' Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is another mosque, that resembles Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Whereas Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is built to commemorate Sultan Omar, this mosque is to commemorate the current reigning Sultan.
  • Kampong Ayer (the water village). Best visited by taxi boat. It's a beautiful sight to see hundreds of houses seemingly floating on water. The water village people are very friendly and many open up their homes to visitors year-round. Water taxis can be found by walking along the Brunei River or the main market in Bandar Seri Begawan and waving one down. Try to negotiate the price down. Even though the water taxis are not wheelchair-friendly, their drivers are very willing to lend a hand and even team up and carry a person in a wheelchair on board; ask for a larger boat though. If you'd rather not pay for a water-taxi tour, consider wandering around the villages yourself. You can start from behind the Sultan's Mosque or from the other side in towns like Batu Satu. There is a small, free, water village museum across the river from the town center.
  • Royal Regalia Museum (Bangunan Alat Kebesaran Diraja) near the city center displays the royal accessories utilized during the coronation, and gifts received by the Sultan from all dignitaries around the world, and civilians alike. The smell of the classic and old heritage stuff allows one to taste the infinite royal accessories. Royal regalia is a very interesting place that should be visited by foreigners and also the locals that really want to know about the history and the heritage of the Bruneian royal family. Definitely worth checking out. If you don't have time to visit both, and need to choose between this museum or "Brunei Museum" at Kota Batu, choose this one. The entrance is on Jalan Sultan, next to the Brunei History Centre, between Jalan Stoney and Jalan James Pearce. Hours: Sun-Thurs, 09:00-17:00; Fri, 09:00-11:30, 14:30-17:00; Sat, 09:45-17:00.
  • Istana Nurul Iman is the residential palace of the Sultan. The palace is only open on the first 3 days of Hari Raya, immediately after Ramadan, when you will be treated to a banquet and a fleeting audience with the Sultan. Otherwise, it is closed, yet the huge size of the palace attracts tourists to snap a picture in front of the gate. The palace is, however, hidden behind the landscapes, so a better picture can be seen in flyers or souvenirs that feature it.
  • Brunei Museum on the Kota Batu road has an excellent display in the Islamic Art Gallery. It is highly recommended. Accessible from the city by Bus 39.
  • After visiting the Brunei Museum, walk along the road toward BSB to visit two tombs: the first is the Tomb of Sharif Ali, the third sultan of Brunei. The green sign by the road is written entirely in Arabic lettering. Further down the road is the Tomb of Sultan Bolkiah, the fifth sultan of Brunei. Both tombs are in easy walking distance from the Museum.
  • Malay Technology Museum, (Walk a short distance down from the Brunei museum). This place has many exhibits featuring the different styles of houses and lifestyle of those who live on the water village. 
  • Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum walking distance from Brunei Museum. Displays the thousands of 4-5 centuries-old artifacts (mostly Chinese ceramics) rescued in the 90s from a shipwreck.
  • Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium - Trying to find a place to jog and have a peace of mind? Or would you like to improve your time in a race or in a marathon? Then the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium might be the place for you to visit. Located in Berakas, near the Orchid Garden Hotel, the stadium has a capacity of around 28,000 for fans to watch DPMMFC Football matches. Be careful because the hot blazing tracks can heat up your shoes in the middle of the day, but it is still a great place to burn off your calories. Alongside the stadium you can see smoke rising up into the atmosphere, the smells of different types of foods either being fried, steamed or grilled will make your saliva drop to your toes. If the Ramadhan season is near, Many stalls become reserved for sellers to sell their own food for Muslim People to break their fast at the end of the day.
  • Muara Beach - To find a place to have fun and relax at the same time is not easy. However, the beach is a place that perfectly meets these needs. In Brunei, there are many delightful beaches, and Muara Beach is one of them.
Muara Beach is located in Muara Town, along the South China Sea. The beach is about a mile long and is very wide. It is usually alluring as it has very large amenity spaces including a well-equipped picnic area, usable toilet facilities, a colorful children's playground as well as small and numerous weekend food and drink stalls. Most people go to Muara Beach during the Bruneian weekend which is Friday and Sunday. The sound from the huge, non-stop waves here is very soothing, smells refreshing and reduces stress. It is also relaxing to watch the delightful endless view of the sea with its glossy surface and feel the wind hitting your whole body. Playing with the fine sand is also a favorite pastime. After having fun with the white fine sand, instead of rubbing it off from their clothes, people usually run straight to the salty, but fresh, sea to play with the splashing water while cleaning off their bodies. Many competitions are also held here due to its clean environment and large space. Some of the food sold at the small stalls is rare and can only be found at these specific stalls, The smell from the food stalls and the sea makes a great combination which attracts many people. The food and drinks are visually pleasing and they make your mouth water.
  • Agro Technology Park - Located in the south-east of Brunei Darussalam, is one of the most visited parks in the country. First entering the park visitors will immediately capture the enticing view of the whole park, the radiant green and translucent grass flattened in waves with each gust of wind. The field is trimmed daily making it soft and comfortable for laying down and having picnics. Further inside is a miniature zoo that contains various local and foreign animals that can be seen sauntering inside their field. Animals such as the Peacock with its elongated and iridescent feathers, and also the ostrich strolling around with its long legs and a long neck that protrudes its round body. Twitters of all different kinds of birds and the bleats of the deer and fawns can be heard as you stroll down the zoo. After visiting the zoo visitors can amble down the path crossing the creaking wooden bridge to the alluring flower garden. The most prepossessing part of the park. All sorts of plants each with its elegant colors and unique shapes. The petals glow and changes in color as the sunshine through it and with the sweet and fragrant smell of all the plants in the garden makes the garden a truly magical place. Lastly, after walking through the flower garden, visitors that are hungry may buy food and drinks from the stalls right outside the park. The flavor of the saute chicken in the smoke can be smelled a distance away luring in customers. The refreshing drinks with each gulp of sweetness and satisfaction, perfect for an end to a park visit.

What to do in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Meet the sultan

Every year, for three days at the end of Ramadan, the sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, opens his palace (Istana Nurul Iman) to the public. This event is primarily intended for the citizens of Brunei to meet their sultan, but foreigners are welcome too. Prepare to queue up for hours; even the queue for security alone takes over an hour. In the palace, free meals are distributed amongst all visitors; there is a wide choice. You can then queue up again in order to meet the sultan himself. You won't have the opportunity to exchange more than a handshake and a few words with him, but it's still a unique opportunity to meet a head of state.

Unfortunately, the sultan only meets men. Fortunately, though, women can meet his wife, Queen Saleha, in similar arrangements on the same three days.

Parks and trails

The Waterfront
This latest addition to Bandar Seri Begawan is strategically overlooking the historical Kg. Ayer. The approximately 1.8-hectare (4.4-acre) site took almost three years to be completed and was officially opened to the public on 28 May 2011. The Waterfront is accessible to everyone as it is open 24 hours where public can enjoy sightseeing and take a break at the outdoor cafes offering varieties of drinks and dishes.

Persiaran Damuan
This narrow strip of the landscaped park between Jalan Tutong and the Sungei Brunei was created in 1986 as a "Square". It has a permanent display of the work of a sculptor from each of the original ASEAN countries. The 1 km (0.62 mi)-long park has pleasant walkways bordered by shrubs and the mangrove fringed Pulau Ranggu where two species of monkeys live, including the notable proboscis monkey only found in Borneo. The park also offers some of the best views of the Istana Nurul Iman.

Jalan Tasek Lama
Located just a few minutes walk from the city center, this is a popular trekking trail for the local residents of Bandar Seri Begawan. There are well-made walkaways through the small park which has benches and picnic spots as well as a waterfall and ponds with water lilies.

Bukit Subok Recreational Park
The park offers a great view of the Kampong Ayer and downtown Bandar Seri Begawan. There is a well maintained wooden walkaway with viewing huts along the way. These huts provide good vantage points of Kampong Ayer and its surroundings.

What to eat and drink in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Eat

  • Kianggeh Market. A covered market in downtown. 
  • Aminah Arif Restaurant. One of a few local restaurants that features the Bruneian delicacy ambuyat and a pretty good range of other food too. edit
  • RMS Portview, opposite the Yayasan Shopping Centre. The terrace offers a great view overlooking Kampong Ayer, great for cooling down after sightseeing.
  • Gerai Makan, on the waterfront in the southeastern corner of the city, just across a bridge. Here there are a number of outdoor restaurants serving cheap and tasty fare. It's a great place to relax and soak in the local atmosphere. Great views of stilt villages and water taxis speeding back and forth.
  • PGS Cafe, near the Palm Garden at Kiulap.
There are plenty of small local Kedai Kopi (coffee shops) in town that sell simple, cheap and tasty food and are frequented by locals.

Drink

Brunei is a "dry" country, meaning that it is illegal to sell alcohol. However, non-Muslims over the age of 17 are allowed to bring in duty-free of 2 bottles of liquors and 12 cans of beers. Declaration forms are available at the airport and from duty-free shops at land borders.
The locals like to hang out at the numerous cafes found in town.
  • Gloria Jean's Coffee, Jalan Kianggeh, Bandar Seri Begawan, ☎ 2241477. 0700-0000. An Australian retail coffeehouse chain company. 
  • The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Mayapuri Building, Lot 36 & 37, Jalan Sultan, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8611, ☎ 2220589. 0900-0000. An American coffee chain 
  • Another Cafe, Wisma Jaya, G8, Jln Pemancha, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8811, ☎ 222 3012. 0730-1930. Locally owned cafe serving good gourmet coffee

Shopping in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Several currency exchange places can be found downtown.
  • Night Market, Simpang 37, Gadong (possible to walk to, but kind of a pain because of the inconsistent sidewalks and lack of crosswalks). A lively market in an open-air building. Half of it is full of vendors selling fruit (lots of durian), clothes, and miscellaneous goods. The other half has cheap street food, including sweet drinks and a lot of fried stuff.
  • The Mall (Across the river from the night market.). A good place to shop for supplies, or to check out some local department stores. Surprisingly few multi-national brands. Located in Gadong, it is combined with the Rizqun Hotel. It also has a good souvenir shop.
  • Yayasan. Built by the sultan to support the welfare of the people. Located in central Bandar.
  • Brunei Products & Souvenir Centre (on the second floor, across from the tourist information center, immediately west of the bus terminal. Look for the signs in the window). Souvenir shop downtown near the waterfront. 

Safety in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Crime is very uncommon in this tightly controlled small country.
LGBT travelers should avoid visiting Brunei.

Language spoken in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Malay is the official language. English is widely spoken.

LOCAL TIME

1:45 am
November 21, 2019
Asia/Brunei

CURRENT WEATHER

28.9 °C / 84.02 °F
moderate rain
Fri

28.94 °C/84 °F
moderate rain
Sat

28.72 °C/84 °F
moderate rain
Sun

28.75 °C/84 °F
moderate rain
Mon

29.12 °C/84 °F
moderate rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

BND

1 USD = 0 BND
1 EUR = 0 BND
1 GBP = 0 BND
1 AUD = 0 BND
1 CAD = 0 BND

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