A Brief Introduction to Brunei for the Traveller
The Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam is located in the North-West corner of the island of Borneo, bounded by the waters of the South China Sea. Brunei has a total land area of 5765 square kilometres, and is divided into four districts:
Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital, is located in in the Brunei-Muara district. Nearly 70% of the land area is covered by unspoiled rainforest, which is home to many varieties of flora and fauna found only on the island of Borneo. A large proportion of the the country’s dense rainforest is situated in and around the Temburong district. The population of Brunei is largely composed of Malays, with a mixture of Chinese and Indian communities. Expatriates and a few indigenous groups comprise a minority of the population. The official language is Bahasa Melayu, however, English is widely spoken and understood by a large proportion of the population. The country is ruled according to established Islamic values and traditions by the current Monarch, His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah. Brunei’s form of government, a Malay Islamic Monarchy, is one of the oldest in the region with over 600 years of recorded history. Brunei is today actively involved in international, regional and sub-regional core groups such as the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), ASEAN and BIMP-EAGA rapidly emerging as an active player in the region’s affairs. The strong and stable support of the government contributes to the growing interest in Brunei, both as a developing economy and a haven of eco-tourism. Brunei Darussalam is an interesting place for a two, three or four night stopover, either while travelling between Sabah and Sarawak, or as an entry point to Borneo. The airport at Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the country, is close to the city. The Sultan of Brunei could be considered the country’s best known attraction. His monuments form the major part of the existing attractions for the tourist. After a visit to Brunei, you will be left wondering whether there is any marble left in Italy! The country of Brunei is not much larger than Luxembourg, and is bounded by the South China Sea, Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan. Its population is in the order of 280 000, and its wealth has been derived from natural gas and oil production. The Sultan has also recently constructed a large marble shopping complex near the waterfront called the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex; and also built a massive amusement park where entry and the cost of the rides is free.
The Istana Nural Iman is the Sultan’s royal palace for his first wife, and is also the largest residential palace in the world. The Royal Regalia Building has an amazing array of chariots, weapons, crowns, thrones and other paraphernalia. The Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque with its domes and minarets plated with 24 carat gold, and surrounding gardens, was built to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the king’s reign. A tour of the city will visit the spectacular Omar Saifuddien Mosque, markets, the Kampung Ayer water village, which is said to be the largest water village in the world, and the Brunei Museum, as well as the sights mentioned above. Beyond the Kampong Ayer water village, it is possible to see proboscis monkeys and other wildlife around dusk.