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Brunei country- Brunei River
Sailing into Brunei- Borneo, Malaysia


Early one bright tropical morning in the South China Sea, I cruised into the tiny Islamic nation of Brunei. I wondered what to expect. Would people be friendly and welcoming to a pierced, tattooed, fuschia-haired young American lass, like I’d found most Thais, Malays, Singaporeans and Indonesians to be? Would they be enthusiastic about mini skirts and slim t-shirts, as I’d found the trendy youth of other SE Asian countries to be? Or would I render some conservative Brunei citizens bug-eyed and mouth-gaping, like I’d inadvertently left rural villagers in parts of northern Vietnam and Laos? In other words, was I entering a conservative Muslim country or a liberal one? I was about to find out. To be on the safe side, I’d worn a longer skirt for my arrival. (Immigration, after all)


Captain of the ship

I’d arrived on a refreshing two-hour cruise from neighboring Sabah, Malaysia, where I’d spent a month adventuring through Sabah’s abundant tropical paradises: snorkeling, camping, mountain climbing, visiting orangutans, jungle trekking, and scuba diving. On board the ship I’d made some new friends: a well-mannered Filipino family with their four dapper, strapping pre-teen sons who were vacationing from Manila. The father worked for WWF, helping conserve coral reefs at one of the Philippine’s most pristine reef areas. As a newly-licensed diving instructor, I was very excited to meet such a venerable man.

mosque in central Brunei City
We arrived at Brunei’s port and filed through the simple immigration procedures for both countries. Then we were set loose into Brunei city. I promptly marched through town to the outskirts of the city, searching for the small hotel I’d booked a few days earlier. People I met along the way were friendly, smiling, and inviting. Whew, Brunei seemed like a fine place. My hotel staff were equally welcoming and I quickly settled into my fresh, sunny upstairs room.

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Borneo Island, center of map


Tiny Brunei is little known to the western world. That’s not surprising. Besides Brunei being so very small, it’s situated on Borneo island, which is a confusion itself. Borneo doesn’t entirely belonging to any one nation, but is divided between three countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Borneo straddles the equator, nestled between Philippines to the north, Indonesia to the east and south, and Malaysia and Singapore to the west. Borneo’s southern 65% is occupied by the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, a wild, densely jungled and undeveloped region. Borneo’s northern third is inhabited by the two Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Brunei is wedged between Sabah and Sarawak, hugging Borneo’s north coast.


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Brunei is situated between the two Malaysian states of Sabah (northeast) and Sarawak (southwest)


I was visiting Brunei en route to Sarawak, where I planned to spend another month frolicking up jungle rivers, along beaches, caves, National parks and the charming capital town of Kucing (‘cat’ in Malay). But first I set about exploring little Brunei.


dense jungle-lined river

Being so tiny, there’s not much to see or do in Brunei. Most of the country actually lies upriver in dense, unspoilt jungle. Various jungle tours are available, and I would have loved to join one, but they were way beyond my budget. So I settled for the usual brief tourist visit of Brunei City, ‘Bandar Seri Begawan’, for three days.


stunning Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in central Brunei City


The most important and interesting sights are the stunning Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the Sultan’s Royal Regalia Museum,and Kampong Ayer ‘floating city’, a wooden town built entirely on platforms on the river, just opposite the city. Several elegant and glamorous Muslim temples dot the city. There’s a large upscale shopping mall and a few small museums. I spent a fascinating day exploring the extensive Sultan’s Royal Regalia  Museum. I have to confess that I worn long skirts during my entire stay in Brunei, since it was so obviously a respectable Islamic country. Everyone was open and welcoming, even at the mosques and museums.
Kampong Ayer- floating city

Another day I wandered around the meandering wooden planks of the floating city, mingling with Brunei’s poorer inhabitants, who were just as friendly as their wealthier countrymen. Finally, I wandered around the city, visited the Mosques, and peeked inside the shopping mall. After that, I ran out of things to do.


houses on stilts built over the water
I boarded a bus to the Malaysian border at Sarawak. We careened down flat, dead-straight paved highways through never-ending jungle all the way to the border, a three-hour drive. I passed through immigration again and there I was in Sarawak, ready to slip back into mini skirts and enjoy some night life in the predominantly Chinese Malaysian city of Miri before venturing up Sarawak’s mysterious jungle rivers.


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2 pings

  1. Nur Syasya

    Did you enjoy your stay here? I hope you did ^^ There are lots of interesting places to go in Brunei, but they are all limited in the Brunei-Muara district (the one you spent three days in). There’s also a newly renovated amusement park in the Tutong district, and lots of jungle and nature activities are located in the Temburong district. Most of our locals when they see or meet a foreigner, they will be like “Oh! Foreigner!” and smile and greet the person, because well, we barely get visitors from countries other than our Southeast Asian friends, so you could say we’re excited whenever we see foreigners. I really hope you enjoyed visiting our country :)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Nur,

      Welcome! Great to have a Brunei visitor on my site! :))

      Thank you, I did enjoy my stay in your country. I wish I could have taken a jungle cruise up the river, but it was too expensive for me then. :(

      Thanks again for stopping by and for letting us know some other things to do in Brunei.

      cheers, Lash

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