Brunei Places of Interest – Belait
The Belait District covers almost half of the whole of Brunei. When oil was first discovered at Seria in 1929, this part of Brunei was only mangroves, peat bogs and forest. The valley of the Belait River was the only spot inhabited by the Punans, the Dusuns and the Ibans who lived in longhouses in large communities of up to one hundred people. The Belait River is the longest river in Brunei.
Kuala Belait, which merges with the oil town of Seria, is 70km from Tutong, and about 120km from Bandar. A few kilometers beyond the town is the border with Sarawak. It is completely self-contained administratively, commercially and in what it offers in sports and leisure facilities.
The Belait District, and Seria town in particular, is the heart of the oil and gas industry in Brunei. It has a large expatriate community, including many Dutch people. This is due to the fact that Royal Dutch Shell has a major presence in the region.
There are two onshore oil and gas fields in the district – the large Seria Oil Field discovered in 1929, which is still producing hydrocarbons, even today, and the smaller Rasau Field close to the town of Kuala Belait. The Tali Field, which is an extension of the Seria Field is found in the coastal waters off Seria. Further offshore lies the South-West Ampa, Fairley, Fairley Baram and Egret fields.
A “nodding donkey” on the Seria Oilfield
The majestic Billionth Barrel Monument was constructed in 1991 and possesses its own significance, which is to commemorate the one-billionth barrel of crude oil production from the prolific Seria-1 field well. The monument was built close to Seria-1, which was the first commercially viable oil well to be drilled, in 1929. In fact, the whole country has not looked back since the drilling of Seria-1.
The Billionth Barrel Monument at Seria
The petroleum produced is processed onshore in and around Seria and the majority of it is exported. Some of the oil is refined at the refinery in Seria for local consumption. Natural Gas from the fields is sent to the Brunei Liquefied Natural Gas Plant (BLNG) in Lumut where it is cooled and liquefied. This is exported via tankers – mainly to Japan and Korea.
Lagoon in Sungai Liang Forest Park
Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park
Sungai Liang is about 70 km from Bandar Seri Begawan, and the drive takes about an hour along the coastal highway. The park is 450 metres from the main Sungai Liang junction along the road to Labi.
This is one of several parks which have been developed and maintained for public recreation. The park is one of the very few lowland forest areas in South-East Asia and has facilities for general recreational activities, including hiking. It also caters for the natural history devotees, with self-guided or organised group tours of the forest. The main pond, with its shelter platforms and open areas in the central complex, should satisfy visitors looking simply for fresh air and beautiful surroundings.
The more energetic may care to explore the network of well marked nature trails that wind their way around the park, including a high-level canopy walkway in the treetops. This wonderful facility will give you a totally different perspective on the rainforest.
Luagan Lalak Recreation Park
Lying about 25 km from Sungai Liang along the Labi Road, this park covers an area of roughly 270 hectares within the Labi Hills Forest Reserve.
A rare and interesting place, it features an alluvial freshwater swamp or empran. During rainy periods it fills up like a lake, and in drier spells the waters recede and the valley becomes covered with sedges – mainly of the species Lepironia.
There are shelters, footpaths and a 200 metre timber walkway which spans most of the lake.
Luagan Lalak Recreation Park
Wasai Wong Kadir
Wasai Wong Kadir is a 45 minute walk from the Labi Road. It is ideal for those who enjoy, or would like to try, jungle trekking up and down steep ridges. The wasai, or waterfall, is also a popular picnic spot.
The walk crosses several steep ridges en route to the waterfall, however, once you are there you can enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the jungle and the cool, pure water of the river. This is a reasonably long walk. It is advisable to take some drinking water and sun protection with you.
Further along the Labi Road, beyond Kampung Labi itself, there are several examples of a form of unique to Borneo – the Longhouse. A village under one roof, longhouses consist of a row of family houses – or doors – with a communal area which runs along the length of the building. This is the social centre of the village.
Rampayoh Longhouse has 16 doors and is the nearest to Labi. Others include Mendaram Besar, Mendaram Kecil, and at the end of the road, Teraja. They are populated by the Ibans – once feared as headhunters but now more given to agricultural activities. Visitors are always warmly welcomed. Etiquette requires that you take some small gifts. Ask permission before entering and remove footwear before doing so.
Several trails head off into the jungle along this stretch of road. They are clearly signposted and marked, and lead the walker to scenic waterfalls and hills in the virgin primary forest. They are relatively undemanding and guides are not necessary, but for for your own safety, you are advised to seek local advice before setting off.
Longhouse at Labi
Photographs courtesy of Jewelle Tan (Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park), Florian of Courbevoie (Luagan Lalak) and Tourism Brunei