Brunei Darussalam is a country permeated with tradition, with one of the longest continuously ruling dynasties. Situated on the northern-western coast of the island of Borneo, it is made up by two unconnected pieces of land, separated by Malaysia. It is also one of the smallest non-island countries on earth, yet very significant if your looking for somewhere to go that is undiscovered, unusual and unexpected. Although not exactly unique, the rainforests in Brunei are the best preserved in the world and well worth the visit for a few days before exploring further the island of Borneo into Malaysia.
Brunei’s first boutique hotel
Following my two-week stay to the Sultanate, I also discovered Brunei’s first boutique hotel – The Brunei Hotel. Located in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, it recently underwent a huge transformation and repositioned itself into a modern and chic-stay environment. Most importantly, it is the only hotel where you can reach some the of the most bio diverse places on earth within walking distance. A very convenient thing as taxis are hard to find and parking even more so.
Have a read of top three nature and heritage places to visit a foot-step away from the Brunei Hotel.
Kampong Ayer – Water Village
Turning right out of the hotel, you will walk towards a small cornice, which looks out to the Brunei River. Right ahead, you will see from a distance a water village where over 20,000 Brunei locals live and of which has been in continuous occupation for at least 400 years. If you jump in one of the water taxis from the jetty (do not accept more than $20 Brunei Dollars for a one hour tour), the driver will take you on an amazing tour to see this village built entirely on multi-coloured stilt houses. Equipped with modern restaurants, schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, this ‘water world’ if you wish, gives you a really authentic perspective of the real daily life in Brunei.
Brunei River tour
After visiting Kampong Ayer, you can continue in the water taxi to explore the nature surrounding the Brunei River. With more than 70 per cent of the country under tropical rainforest cover, you will most likely run into some wildlife. I was fortunate to spot a family of Proboscis monkeys playing amongst the mangroves, and even a roaming crocodile.
Tasek Lama Recreational Park
Tasek Recreational Park is one of the oldest recreational parks within the city of Bandar Ser Begawan. If you fancy a leisurely stroll early in the morning before it starts to get too hot, you’ll be able to walk along the maintained walkways and relax by or even swim in the natural waterfall and lake. There is also an 8-metre climbing wall for those interested in the challenge. Monkey lovers will enjoy an abundance of Macaque sightings as well as being able to climb up to the higher ridges to get a bird’s eye view of the Kampong Ayer Village and Bandar city skyline.
Please do take note that the sale of consumption of alcohol is forbidden in hotels and restaurants. So if you need an alcoholic fix while in Brunei, you are allowed to bring in two bottles of wine or spirits, or 12 cans of beer (declared at customs) for your personal consumption in the privacy of your hotel room. A small sacrifice I think in return to experience some unexpected nature in a calm and non-touristic environment.
The Brunei Hotel 95 Jalan Pemancha, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8811 Negra, Brunei Darussalam Tel: +673 2244 828 Web: www.thebruneihotel.com