Brunei Darussalam is one of three nations that make up the island of Borneo. Borneo is the third largest island in the world found amongst the sprawling equatorial Malaysian-Indonesian archipelago.
The southern two thirds of the island is the Indonesian region of Kalimantan, while the top third is made up of two Malaysian territories, Sarawak and Sabah. In the northwest is the tiny Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam.
Brunei is divided into 4 districts. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is situated in the Brunei Muara District.
The highlight of the capital is the water village, Kampong Ayer, estimated to be the home to 30,000 Bruneians. As the largest of its kind in the world, it is certainly worth a look see. As boatmen see you coming they will compete to hire their services to you and for a fee of about $20- $30 you can spend an hour whizzing amongst the villages which make up Kampong Ayer through to modern resettlement areas and a glimpse of the Sultans Palace.
While in the township of Bandar Seri Begawan, it is worthwhile going to the Royal Regalia Centre which houses an amazing array of Royal Regalia!
A short distance from the town centre you can find the Brunei Museum and the Malay Technology Museum, both worth a look and very different in what they display.
The mosques are magnificent, both the Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in the heart of town on the river and the JameAsr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque within a few minute taxi ride.
The local markets are always interesting to wander through in the morning there is the fish market opposite the water village and in short walking distance, there is the fruit and vegetable market where you may find some woven rice dishes.
The night market at Gadong, beside the main fish market, is also worth checking out. If you want to try the local cuisine, there are many stalls selling barbeque fish, chicken, beef etc. as well as local cakes and delicacies.
If you are interested in department store shopping or in buying some of the local fabrics then Yayasan is the big shopping complex just near the gold and white Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.
Moving out of town and heading toward Muara are the port and some lovely beaches . Along the coast road is Crocodile Beach, signposted, Pantai Meragang, and further along, the beach at Serasa.
In the opposite direction and moving down the coast toward the next district is the Empire Hotel. It is an amazingly opulent vision that is well worth a look and maybe even lunch or dinner. It is situated in an area known as Jerudong.
This kampong contains the famous Jerudong Park which is an amusement park. It opens Wednesday to Sunday evenings from about 8pm (but you need to check on this). While many of the rides no longer work, the Water Show is well worth a look. For $2 you see an amazing light and fountain display set to music.
The next area is Tutong. This district has a small township which is worth seeing and on Thursdays they have their local market day.
Tutong is noted for its lovely beaches and Kuala Tutong (mouth of the Tutong River) is a beautiful spot. The jungle in this district is delightful.
Also in Tutong district is Tasek Merimbun which is a lake. It has boardwalks that take you through from one small island to the next and while you cant swim there because of crocodiles, it is a lovely peaceful place with magnificent grasses that form windblown patterns in the water.
The white silica sands, the snow of Brunei can be seen along the roadside as you move along into the next district, Belait. This district is famous for being the Shell base for the oil fields of Brunei.
If you are interested in learning more about this, there is the excellent Oil and Gas Discovery Centre in the township of Seria.
Kuala Belait is the main town in this district and is the gateway to Miri in Sarawak.
The fourth district of Brunei, Temburong, is separated from the other 3 by a section of Sarawak. In order to get there you need to either drive in and out of Sarawak or take a boat.
You can board these in Bandar and the journey takes less than an hour. It takes you through twisting waterways, and, at one point out into the South China Sea and then into the township of Bangar in Temburong. From here you can journey up the river in a longboat to Belalong where you can swim, walk across a swing bridge and do the canopy walk above the forest. You need to organize this trip in Bandar before you head out.
Leaving Brunei you can drive or fly into the two Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.
Sarawak can be reached by traveling through Belait district in Brunei and driving through a border post. After a short ferry trip you drive for another 20 minutes or so into the township of Miri. In all, the journey from Brunei takes about 2-3 hours.
Miri is quite a pleasant relatively modern town with a good range of hotels and eateries.
Out of town about 30- 45 minutes is Lambir Hills National Park with waterfalls and an Iban longhouse.
Niah National Park is about 2 hours drive and a 45 minute walk to the caves. These are famous for their bat colonies and birds nests. They are quite remarkable in there sheer size. It is also Borneos prime archeological site.
Traveling further south you pass through the towns of Bintulu and Sibu. From Sibu you can take an express boat up the Ragang River which takes you into the interior to longhouses and rapids and historically important towns along the way.
Further south is Kuching, the cat city. This is an interesting place to fossick around in. It has many historical sites and museums.
A 30 minute drive takes you to Damai which is near the beach.
It has the wonderful Sarawak Cultural Village which is well set up to show tourist a little of the different cultural groups that make up the population of Sarawak.
Also within a short bus trip is Semenggoh Orang Utan Sanctuary where you may be lucky enough to see orang utan being fed.
A few minutes flight from Miri takes you to a very different set of caves in the Gunung Mulu National Park. These caves are limestone with amazing formations.
A short boat ride up the river takes you to a Penan settlement. The Penan are a nomadic tribe. You can see beautiful weaving and blow pipes which are used by these people.
Sabah's main city is Kota Kinabalu. This is a bustling town by the sea with a range of hotels and eateries. There is an interesting local market and Filipino market near the waters edge. A short boat ride can have you snorkeling off one of many small islands a short distance from the coast. K.K. is famous for Mt. Kinabalu which enthusiasts love to climb for a spectacular dawn view.
A short plane journey away is the town of Sandakan which holds great significance to veterans of WW2. There is a Memorial Park in the township.
From Sandakan you can take a bus out to Sepilok, famous for its Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
There is also Turtle Island where you may be lucky to see turtles lay or hatch. Sipidan further south offers an excellent dive spot.
From Brunei you can also take a ferry to Labuan Island which is tax free. There are a variety of hotels and eateries there and the hour ferry trip there can be quite pleasant if you take the larger ferries!
Of course there are many other adventures that you can take off the beaten track, these are just a few to open your eyes to the wonders that are readily accessible when you visit Brunei.
For information about Kalimantan look up web sites.
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