Any experienced international traveler knows each trip is heterogeneous in its activities and the stories it tells. While some getaways are made up of sun-soaked white sands, others are an opportunity to live locally and appreciate new, foreign perspective. Brunei, Borneo is the latter.
Located on the coast of the South China Sea, this small sovereign state on the north coast of Borneo offers the relatively few who visit an authentic Asian experience. Home to opulent jade-colored rainforests, adventure tourism, and ancient Islamic architecture, Brunei is an entirely new way to do eastern travel. Because the Brunei dollar is one of the strongest legal tenders in Southeast Asia, many foreign travelers overlook this little place for more popular tourist destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam. Most of the hot spots in the country consist of ecotourism or regal, debonair Islamic Mosques. Like any country with a strong emphasis on faith and religion, be advised of certain dress codes in the more conservative areas of Brunei, and wear proper attire when touring open mosques. While the majority of locals speak English, Malay is also commonly spoken, and carrying a means of translation is a good way to stay safe in the face of miscommunication. The country enforces some more conservative laws that some westerners may find archaic or confusing, but, when touring Brunei, seeing it with an open mind is imperative. Appreciating it for all it has to offer, rather than what it lacks, is the best way to approach your visit.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Largely considered one of the most intricate and elegant Islamic Mosques in the Asia Pacific, this capital city mosque is a crowning example of modern Islamic architecture. It was built less than 50 years ago and fuses Mughal and Malay styles of architecture. It’s most recognizable feature is a colossal dome constructed with solid gold.
Ulu Temburong National Park
Home to the “Green Jewel of Brunei,” this protected, unblemished jungle is one of the only places in the region to see rare flora and fauna such as Müller’s Bornean gibbon, pygmy squirrels, black spotted rock frog, and Wagler’s pit viper. It’s even part of the Heart of Borneo international conservation agreement, so visiting will benefit species long after you’ve left. If you’re a nature junkie, the Ulu Ulu Resort allows visitors to experience environmentally friendly accommodation complete with restaurants, gift shops and a games room.
Istana Nurul Iman
“The Light of Faith Palace,” as its English translation suggests, sits on the the banks of the lofty Brunei River. Considered the world’s largest private palace, it’s the official residence of Brunei’s Sultan. While the palace is typically closed off to public tours, visitors can enjoy courtyard views.
Jerudong is Southeast Asia’s largest and most expensive amusement park, built and maintained by the government of Brunei for both residents and tourists. Here you’ll find all the classic carnival activities to help you mitigate homesickness including mini golf, roller coasters, bumper cars and even skydiving.