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Brunei: The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures

“Brunei gave me this sense of peace and calmness.”

This was my answer when asked by a friend and journalist, Aziz from Borneo Bulletin, about my first impression of Brunei. This really comes from my heart, and if you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve always been honest with sharing my travel experiences.

The thing is I came from a country with a very crowded and stressful metropolis, so experiencing Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB, the capital city of Brunei, is new to me. Imagine, the center of business looks peaceful with lesser cars, and everybody seems to have enough space for everyone. That is even considering the fact that based on studies, Brunei has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world with one car per every 1.5 people in 2017. Meaning almost all Bruneians have cars.

To understand my amazement with Bandar Seri Begawan, you have to hear where I am coming from. I’ve been stressed commuting within Mega Manila for years when I was still working in my corporate job. As my blog grew, I never really intended to quit my job that early, it is the stressful traffic and inefficient public transportation that led me to finally quit, but I didn’t regret it.

So seeing Brunei in my own very eyes, makes me realize that hey this kind of city is actually possible. Can this be done also in the Philippines? I know as a country that we have a long way to go, but at least it is comforting to know that it is possible. No wonder Brunei Darussalam, actually means Abode of Peace.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

I traveled to Brunei as part of the Philippine representatives for the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam – Indonesia- Malaysia- Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) Tour. This is a cooperation initiative by these countries to increase trade, tourism, investment and overall economic development in the region.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Flying with Royal Brunei Airlines

We flew an afternoon flight via Royal Brunei Airlines– the flag carrier of Brunei. Honestly, it has been years since the last time I traveled overseas so I had to remind myself once more on the process and protocols at the airport. I remember the immigration in the Philippines constantly asked about my occupation. I just wrote their Travel Writer. He paused for a while and hell, I was ready to provide my blog details in case he asks for more. But since I have the complete hotel and flight tickets, and explaining to him that everything was shouldered by Brunei Tourism Board, he let me in.

I have been focused on traveling and exploring within the Philippines, so I am used to traveling domestic airlines. Let me just share with you how it is to fly via Royal Brunei. They have this screen in front of each passenger for viewing movies and listening to music. They have a quite good line up of movies and music. During the entire flight, I watched the movie, Aquaman.

They also gave out some free earphones for everyone, just in case you didn’t bring your own. When it comes to food, I loved it. I am usually happy with some cookies and coffee that is usually served on domestic flights in the Philippines. So, just imagine when they served some chicken pasta with bread and juice, that for me is already heaven. Thank you, Royal Brunei.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Food! 🙂

I had a good experience with Royal Brunei, but for your information, our very own Cebu Pacific also flies to BSB, Brunei. So you have an option for a budget-friendly airline, but in case you have the money and all, I recommend you fly with Royal Brunei.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Discover Brunei

We arrived at BSB Airport late afternoon and traveled for a few minutes going to our hotel. We stayed at Kiulap Plaza Hotel in the downtown area where the stores and restaurants are located. It’s quite a nice place. During our entire stay at the hotel, we were able to try some restaurants, a Korean coffee shop and we also bought our groceries at the nearby supermarket.

Just one important info for you, in case you buy something at the supermarket, please be reminded that Brunei has a total ban on plastic bags. When you buy something at the grocery store, the teller will just put a red sticker on your goods showing that it’s already paid, but you have to have your own eco-friendly bag to carry your goods. I learned my lesson the hard way, I bought some food at the grocery store maybe about 8 pieces, and then I had no eco-bag. Hahaha! So I had to carry all those groceries out of the supermarket. I had to make sure that everybody understands that I bought the goods and I was not a shoplifter. LOL! Good thing the grocery is just a walking distance from our hotel.

Kiulap Plaza Hotel was nice and comfortable. It has an old Asian inspired design but at least the most important things are met which is comfort and security. It’s nice to know that at the end of a hectic schedule with the tour and all, I had a nice room and bed waiting for me.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Two beds for me. 🙂

By 6:30 PM, the tour company assigned by the Brunei Tourism Office for us picked us up for our dinner at Amina Ariff Restaurant, one of the popular restaurants in Brunei serving some authentic Bruneian dishes.

At the restaurant, we met Azwan, a warm and nice dude, representing the Brunei Tourism Board, and two journalists from the local media – Aziz from Borneo Bulletin, Wardi from The Bruneian News and Azim, who works for a Digital Agency.

Bruneian dishes of vegetables and fish are somewhat similar to what we have in the Philippines, but one that truly stood out was Ambuyat – the national dish of Brunei.

It is a starchy bland substance in a bowl that is made from the interior trunk of the sago palm. Look.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Ambuyat is eaten using a chandas, bamboo fork, by rolling the starch around the prongs and then dip it into the sauce. Honestly, the taste is bland but the flavors will now come from the sauce. For us, we tried the fermented durian sauce called tempoyak, which is a little bit sweet.

Warning for those who don’t like durian, tempoyak is sweet and tasty but it still has a strong durian aroma. It’s weird but even after returning to our hotel and even the next morning, I could still smell it. I don’t know if it actually stayed in my senses or what. But I like durian, so I have no issue with it. LOL!

Ambuyat has a quite interesting history, shared with us by our new Bruneian friends. It started during World War 2 when the Japanese troops invaded Brunei, they seized all the rice of the locals. Thus, resulting in a shortage of the locals’ staple. In searching for an alternative, they were able to discover making Ambuyat from Ambulung or Sago.

It was also during our dinner that we learned a lot about Brunei from our new friends from the Brunei Tourism Board and local media. So if you are planning to travel to Brunei, here are some important things you need to know.

Important Things About Brunei

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Brunei’s Water Village

  1.  Bruneians speak English – Actually, Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the official language of Brunei. But just like the Philippines, they use English for education and business. English is widely spoken in the country, so language barrier would not be a problem if you are an English speaker.
  2. Brunei is a Muslim country, but they embrace other religions and cultures – The country is also proud of the diversity of its people. Visitors are welcome in the mosques, but proper attire is required. It is our way as non-Muslims to observe and respect Islam when we enter the mosques. Women are required to cover their heads, knees, and shoulders. Mosques are closed during Thursday, Friday and during prayer times.
  3. All citizens of Brunei receive free education and medical services from the government. Sana Oil. LOL!
  4. Currency is Brunei Dollar (BND) – the Singaporean dollar is also accepted in Brunei. ATMs from international and local banks are available. Also, major credit cards are accepted in most establishments.
  5. They observe the Friday prayers – All offices, banks, and businesses are closed from 12 noon to 2 PM to observe the Friday prayer time for Muslims.
    explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
  6. Electricity is 220-240 volts AC, 50 cycles, 3-pin British type plugs – It is important for you to know this! I had a hard time charging my phone at the hotel when I realized that they use 3-pin British type plugs. Luckily, I was assisted by the staff at the hotel.
    explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

    3-pin British type plug

  7. Smoking and drinking of alcohol are prohibited – This might be the reason why Brunei is tagged as a boring country. For me staying in Brunei for less than five days, I can stand not drinking and I am also a non-smoker, so it’s not a problem for me. But for those who are staying there for years, this can be a challenge. Most of the Filipinos I met in Brunei said, that they actually need to cross the border to Malaysia just to have a simple videoke session. LOL! All in all, people there, find their “ways.”
  8. Brunei International Airport is just a 15-minute drive to the city center and downtown area.
  9. Use DART (Ride Booking App) in exploring the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and nearby towns. This is the most efficient and affordable way of exploring the city. It is Brunei’s version of Grab and Uber. More details about why you should use Dart, below this article.
  10. Internet in Brunei – You can easily buy a local sim at the airport or at the malls in Brunei. The one that we’ve found is the unlimited plan of Progresif which BND 25 for seven days. Of course, feel free to look for other options or check the effectivity of the roaming services of your local provider in your own country.
  11. Visa Requirements to Brunei – More than 50 nationalities are visa-exempt in traveling to Brunei, depending on the length of stay as mandated by the government. Filipinos, Indonesians, Thais and other nationalities can stay in Brunei for 14 days without a visa.  Citizens of the USA, Norway, Switzerland and other European countries can stay up to 90 days. For more details about visa, please check Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

How to get to Brunei

Brunei’s flag carrier Royal Brunei has direct flights to Bandar Seri Begawan from Manila, Dubai, Tokyo, Jeddah, London and other major cities in Southeast Asia. I’ve already shared with you at the beginning of this post my personal experience flying with them. I’m truly satisfied with the service and I highly recommend that you try flying with them.

If you’re from the Philippines, Cebu Pacific also has a direct flight from Manila to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Malaysia to Brunei by Land – Since Brunei is surrounded or enclosed by the Sarawak State of Malaysia, there are direct buses from the city of Miri to Brunei, which is about 3 hours travel time.

In case you are exploring Sabah, Malaysia, there is also a direct bus from Kota Kinabalu going to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Use DART in exploring BSB and nearby areas

Brunei Tourism Board was able to get us a free coupon code to use DART in exploring the city. This is to show how easy, convenient and cheap it is to use Dart than taxis and public transport in Brunei. Dart is Brunei’s answer to Grab and Uber.

We booked a ride from our hotel (Kiulap Plaza Hotel) going to The Box which is quite far from the city. The car fetched us after a few minutes of waiting and safely took us to The Box where we had our lunch. We paid about 6 Brunei Dollars.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Feeling endorser? LOL

Again, this is affordable comparing to taxis which costs about 25 Brunei Dollars.

Public Buses in Brunei have unstable schedules and its only operational until 6:30 PM, What? LOL! You have to understand that almost all people in Brunei have their own cars, so in a way, we can say that public buses are not an urgent necessity for them. LOL! (Again, sana oil) So, in case you want to explore the city, use Dart. It’s like using Grab in Southeast Asia and Uber in America or Europe. When you arrive in Brunei, you must download Dart, asap.

Brunei Tourist Spots and Attractions

Our call time was 6:30 AM for our first day of touring Brunei.

Just for you to know, Brunei is also called the Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures, and I agree. As a neighbor country of the Philippines, I already have some preconceived notions about Brunei like this is also a tropical country, so it is also rich in natural resources and forests, but after experiencing the Rainforest Discovery Trek at Sumbiling Eco Village in Temburong District, there were some surprising things that I learned about the country.

Sumbiling Eco Village – The Rainforest Discovery Trek

Mohammad, the tour guide, picked us up in our hotel early that morning. By the way, our driver is a Filipino. He is the Ilonggo, Kuya Ramon, and he has been working in Brunei for about 10 years already. One thing that you’d definitely enjoy while touring Brunei is that you’ll meet a lot of kababayan or fellow Filipinos.

In just a few minutes, we were already at the port, where our speedboat was waiting for us. We were about to explore the Sumbiling Eco Village and its forest in Temburong District.

Brunei is divided into 4 districts – Muara, Belait, Tutong and Temburong. Only Temburong is separated from the mainland Brunei. Just for you to know Brunei is a small country in the Borneo region that is surrounded and actually enclosed by the Malaysian State of Sarawak. Here’s a map of Brunei’s 4 districts.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

The 4 Districts of Brunei

So there, we were about to explore the Temburong District which is obviously separated from the rest of Brunei, based on that map. Locals who travel to Temburong can either do it via land travel or by speed boat. Those who are choosing to drive all the way to Temburong still need to pass through the Malaysian border, because there is a Malaysian territory which is in between, right?

Another one is via speedboat, it is a 45-minute travel that passes through rivers and open sea until reaching Temburong. We traveled to Temburong via a speedboat.

If the Philippines has motorboats with outrigger as our main transportation, Brunei has speedboats. It is enclosed, once inside the speedboat there are comfortable seats for you to rest and enjoy the view. It is my first time experiencing the speedboat of Brunei and it was really fast! I guess only professionals can drive these because it needs precision and expertise to manage the speed.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Boarding the speedboat

The rest of the local media and Brunei tourism were all asleep, but me, I was enjoying the view as well as the adrenaline of the new experience.

Our tour guide for that day was Leslie Chiang, the Managing Director of Borneo Guide. He showed us the Temburong bridge that the Brunei government has built to connect Temburong and the rest of Brunei. A 30-kilometer infrastructure that started in 2014 and expected to open to the public by the end of 2019. The project was handled by Korean and Chinese construction firms, but Leslie stressed that it was paid full by the Brunei government.

So after 45 minutes of travel, we finally arrived at the Temburong District. Again, I felt the relaxed and laid-back vibe of Brunei in this region. We first made a stop at the local weekend market and then traveled by another 25 minutes by land to the Sumbiling Eco Village. We tried the famous Bruneian food called Wajid Jawa which similar to our Bico.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

That’s Azwan from Brunei Tourism Board and my fellow travel blogger, Glen

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Wajid Jawa

Sumbiling Eco Village is a community-based and sustainable tourism focused property in the middle of the jungles of Temburong. Locals in the community are the ones working and maintaining the place. It welcomes visitors from all over the world to experience the culture, food, and traditions of the locals who are mainly the Iban tribe while appreciating and protecting the environment.

They served us some delicious local cuisines which are actually similar to the meriendas that we have in the Philippines. I particularly enjoyed my cup of coffee while eating and chatting with fellow travelers. I was with Glen from EscapeManila, we are the two travel bloggers from the Philippines who were invited to participate in this tour organized by BIMP-EAGA. Along with us are the members of the local media of Brunei and some foreigners from the Netherlands and South Korea.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Coffee Time

To let us feel the authentic food preparation, the staff of the eco-village prepared a demo on how to cook chicken using bamboo. This is the old way of cooking of the locals, using only what nature could offer. I then realized the similarities between Brunei and Philippines’ old traditions because we also have this in the Philippines. Our indigenous people in Luzon also uses bamboo to cook chicken and even rice.

Later that afternoon, we ate the chicken cooked in bamboo for our lunch.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Demo

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Cooking chicken inside the bamboo

So, our rainforest discovery trek started by riding a longboat to cross the river, then on the other side, that’s where we start our trekking.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Rainforest Discovery Trek

The group was joined by Apai, the leader of the Iban community in the area. He was a warm and happy old man, eagerly showing us around the forest. The trek lasted for three hours, LOL and that was something that I didn’t expect. But hey, I used to hike mountains, so the experience was exciting for me, even though I was wearing a polo shirt with my usual rubber shoes. Well, my fellow blogger, Glen, was just wearing slippers. LOL! So if you would like to explore Sumbiling Eco Village and the Rainforest Trek, you might as well wear at least a sturdy trekking shoes.

Apai taught us so many things, just in case you get lost in the forest. I mean if ever you’d stay in the forest for a while, he shared us some survival tips from showing us the many uses of plants for food and medicine, to even set up the bait, to capture wild boars. Apai said that this is their way of life in the past. Many years ago, they just rely on what the environment provides, and they survived. So even though with the advent of technology, they instill to the new generation the value of taking care of the environment.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

I am serious. LOL

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Awesome Team! Photo Credit: Aziz Idris of Borneo Bulletin

Speaking of protection of the environment, one that really struck me was the fact that 70% of Brunei is made up of rainforest. That only shows how serious they are in environment protection. This is the takeaway for me, and bring back to my country.

After the rainforest trek, we then experienced the river-tubing. It was indeed a nice and relaxing way to end our trek. Exploring the rainforest can be tiring, but it was all taken away by the relaxing river tubing while experiencing the serenity of the forest that surrounds the river.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

So happy and relaxed.

What a better way to cap off our day than by feasting on delicious local dishes served to us by the accommodating people from Sumbiling Eco Village. The chicken cooked from the bamboo was delicious. The meat was tender and just the right amount of flavor. We also had some fresh vegetables paired with what we call in the Philippines, the itlog na maalat, or salted egg.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Our lunch after the Rainforest Discovery Trek

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

I told you, we’re gonna eat the chicken cooked inside the bamboo. It’s delicious!

My tummy, as well as my heart, was full for the day of exploring the rainforest of the Temburong District. This is really a must experience if you want to know what Brunei can offer when it comes to ecotourism. In Temburong, you can also explore the Ulu Temburing National Park, a popular nature park in the region.

Kampong Ayer

If you’re in Brunei, you have to explore and experience Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s water village in Bandar Seri Begawan.

We also have water villages in the Philippines, but Kampong Ayer is way different, because it is like a mini-city complete with Police Station and Fire station. The water village is an important part of Brunei’s history because this is where the first civilization happened, so the government is also giving so much value to preserve the traditions of the water village.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

It was 4:00 PM when we took a speedboat going to Kampong Ayer. It is just amazing to see houses and pathways interconnected within the entire village. One noticeable also are the houses, it’s mostly huge made of concrete and complete with air-conditioning. (sosyal! LOL).

After touring the village through a speedboat, we made a stop to one house to experience what it is like to stay in a water village. It’s a huge house. We first entered the kitchen area then followed by a series of rooms in the middle. Then following the path is the main room or sala in the Philippines, where they accept guests.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Brunei’s version of merienda hehe

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

They served us a nice tea with some local Bruneian bread and dishes. If you want to experience the authentic Brunei history and culture, go for a tour at Kampong Ayer.

ATV Adventure at Katimahar Agripark

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Say Hi to our DOT Assistant Secretary, Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar. She’s clearly enjoying the ATV Ride. 🙂

We, the travel bloggers and the local media, have a different schedule and tour than the delegates of BIMP-EAGA. On our first day, while they were having an important conference, we explored the Temburong District.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Ready?

But on the second day, we got the chance to be with all the delegates when we experienced the ATV Adventure at Katimahar Agripark.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

DOT Asec Myra with the delegates

It is a 7 kilometer ATV ride, the longest ATV ride that I’ve experienced so far. With all the bumps and slopes that we all have endured, it was definitely fun and exciting adventure.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

BIMP-EAGA Delegates

We then had our lunch at the Katimahar Agripark as a quick stop-over than continued with the ATV ride.

You have to try this! You may contact them directly at their Facebook Account MPK Katimahar Agri Park or contact +673 872 0750 for reservations.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

No wonder, this is the most beautiful mosque in Brunei, and probably even in Southeast Asia. I was actually stunned the first time I saw this mosque, it’s grand and adorned with gold, located in a serene lagoon.

This mosque was named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, who’s the late father of the current sultan. It has a lavish interior with floors and walls which are made from the finest Italian marble, and luxurious chandeliers from United Kingdom.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Stunning

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

I’m here na. LOL

Omas Ali Saifuddien Mosque has a 52-m minaret which is the tallest structure in Bandar Seri Begawan. The sultan is prohibiting any structure to be built that is taller than this mosque.

Mohammad said that the government just want to make sure that people could easily see the mosque if they look for it, and it would be easy if it remains the tallest building in the city. He even shared a story about the building of Islamic Bank of Brunei once exceeded the height limit, so by order of the Sultan, the top storey had to be removed.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Minsan lang to. Hahaha

I believe this is also the reason why the capital city of Brunei emanates a sense of peace, because there’s no skyscrapers here unlike the major cities of the world.

Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

It was early morning when we arrived at Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah, a mosque built in 1992 to celebrate the 25th year of the current sultan’s reign.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

This is Brunei’s largest mosque. We were able to explore the first floor of the mosque as Mohammad, showed us the Ablution area which is the space where Muslims prepare and cleanse before the prayer.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

On higher floors, cameras are not allowed. Mohammad showed us the large prayer room which can house hundreds of Muslims. Just like any Mosques in Brunei, it also has a lavish interior. This mosque also has 29 golden domes, which are lit up at night.

Istana Nurul Iman

This is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei – Hassanal Bolkiah. We visited the place while having the city tour in Bandar Seri Begawan. Although we weren’t able to enter, it is just important for you to know that this is the world’s largest residential palace with 1,788 rooms. How about that?

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

This is actually located near the Brunei river and we even spotted this palace when we did the water village tour at Kampong Ayer. The palace is open to the public only during the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri at the end of Ramamdan, which explains why we only had photos of the palace outside.

Mohammad was eager to tell us an important trivia about the palace, that it was actually designed by a Filipino architect Leandro Locsin, mixing some elements of Malay and Islamic designs. As a Filipino, I am delighted to know that information.

Eco Phonies Garden

On our second day in Brunei, we traveled for about 45 minutes to Lamunin in Tutong District to visit the Eco Phonies Garden.

It is a popular ecotourism site in the region promoting Brunei culture through food and community focused activities. They also focus farm to table concept, ensuring the freshness of food that they serve by tapping local farmers.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

We met Eyon Ukoi, co-founder of Eco Phonies Garden. She shared that it all started in 2015 when her sister thought of an idea to set up a cottage at the back of their house. Then they met an Australian family who wanted to experience the taste of wild durian. This family also practices organic lifestyle and stayed at the garden for four days.

After that, people from all over the world started visiting the garden, which gave Ekon the opportunity to promote the Bruneian culture through food, and also helping the local farmers in the community.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Durian Fritters

We just stayed in the garden for an hour, but we already experienced the delicious food that they offer as well as the refreshing drinks. We also met some volunteers there from the UK and the US.

Tasbee Meliponiculture  Farm

After having a nice breakfast at Eco Phonies Garden, we traveled just a few minutes to Tasbee Meliponiculture  Farm along the old Tutong Road in Kg Sg Kelugos. Meliponiculture means commercial stingless beekeeping.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

This is actually a bee farm where you can learn about the different types of stingless bees and how they produce a variety of honey.

We met there Hj Mitasby, the owner of the farm. He shared that he started the farm in 2009. He was just particularly interested in beekeeping, but after many years, he realized that he could use the farm to educate people on the value of stingless bees in the natural ecosystem.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

He showed us a room filled with different information about stingless bees, as well as the different honey that each type of bee produces.

Then, he even showed us how to harvest honey from different stingless bees. It was definitely a first-time experience for me. The natural honey also tastes so good.

Malay Technology Museum

This is one of the last attractions in Bandar Seri Begawan that we visited before heading back to the hotel and prepare for our flight back to Manila.

If you’re looking for a Museum that will provide you perspective and information about the history of Brunei as well as how the past generations of Bruneians live, this museum is for you.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

It has 3 exhibit halls namely the Water Village Traditional House Gallery, Water Village Traditional Technology Gallery, and Inland Traditional Technology Gallery.

The first gallery is all about the traditional houses of the people of Brunei living in the water village. Remember that Kampong Ayer or water village played a huge role in the culture and history of the country. The gallery is a showcase of the architectural structure of the house in the water village during the 19th century.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
The second gallery showcases the diverse industries and handicrafts of people in the water village such as roof making, goldsmithing, boat construction and cloth weaving among others. The final gallery is an exhibit of the lives and the indigenous technologies of the inland people.
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Royal Regalia Museum

This is one of the first attractions that we visited during our city tour located at the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan.

Inside the museum, you’ll find all about the life of the current sultan from the days when he was still studying, until he was crowned and some of the most important occasions in the royal family. This is the best way to know more about the sultan of Brunei.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

One of the interesting displays in the museum is the chariot used during the sultan’s silver-jubilee procession in 1992. Also, you’ll find here the gifts of different countries to Brunei during special celebrations. Try looking for the gift from your country when you visit the Royal Regalia Museum.

Where to eat in Brunei?

Don’t leave Brunei until you get a taste of its authentic cuisines. Here are some of the food and restaurants that we’ve tried during our trip. All are highly recommended.

Amina Ariff Restaurant

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Ambuyat and other Brunei dishes

This is where we had our first Bruneian food experience during our first night in Brunei. This restaurant offers authentic Bruneian dishes.  One of the stand-out was Ambuyat – the national dish of Brunei.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Tempoyak – a sauce made of Durian

I’ve already shared with you some details of this food at the beginning of this post. Well, Ambuyat is made up of the interior trunk of Sago palm. It is starchy and tasteless, but the exciting part is you have to dip it into the sauces to create a taste that you desire. One of the popular sauces is the fermented durian called Tempoyak.

Soto Pabo

Located at the water village or Kampong Ayer, this family-run restaurant offers a fantastic view of the entire water village, even more enticing during night.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Soto

We got to experience Soto – the famous noodle soup of Brunei. This is made of noodles, vegetables, eggs and a lot of beef meat, fats and beef’s internal organs. Mohammad also ordered a vegetable dish as well as the mixed skewers of beef fats and chicken.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Nasi Katok Mama

This is one of my favorites! Why? It is so delicious and very affordable. For only  1 Brunei Dollar, you can have a full meal of rice and chicken with a delicious sambal sauce.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

The sambal sauce makes this simple meal, so delicious!

You can either choose for spicy or sweet sambal. As for me, I chose mixed, and it was delicious! I ordered two and finished everything in just one eating. So good. You have to try this when you visit Brunei. Plus, the one serving the food is a Filipina. Say hi to her when you buy their delicious chicken dish.

Horizons Seafood Restaurant

This is where we had our dinner together with the delegates of the BIMP-EAGA Conference. It was a sumptuous buffet with different Asian as well as Western dishes.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

The restaurant is located at the waterfront with the breathtaking view of the water village or Kampong Ayer.

The Box

We also have these kinds of establishment in the Philippines which uses shipping containers, but The Box is quite out of the box!

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

It is stylish and carefully chooses shops that adhere to their standards and creativity. It’s a mix shops, cafes, and more restaurants, not just food stalls. Plus, their comfort room’s design is pretty creative. So over the top!

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures
explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

We tried some delicious chicken rice at The Box and some refreshments. Check it out when you visit Brunei. This is just quite far from the city center, but don’t worry you can just book a ride with DART.

Where to Stay in Brunei?

We stayed at Kiulap Plaza Hotel during our entire trip and I was satisfied with the amenities and food. Plus, they also have a warm and accommodating Filipina and an Indonesian staff at their restaurant. It was nice chatting with them.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Two beds for me. 🙂

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

The location is also good, which is very near the grocery and restaurants. CHECK ROOM RATES HERE.

If you have a tight budget, you can also check out some hostels in Brunei. They have a few in the capital city.

Brunei Itinerary

This itinerary is just the same one that we had during our trip to Brunei, you can use this as a reference and feel free to alter to fit with your schedule.

explore, travel, brunei: the kingdom of unexpected treasures

Day 1: Arrival in Brunei
5:30 PM – Arrival at Brunei Airport
6:00 PM – Check-in at Kiulap Hotel
7:00 PM – Dinner at Amina Ariff Restaurant

DAY 2 : Temburong District
8:00 AM – Meet up at the port for the speed boat ride to Temburong
9:00 AM – Arrival in Temburong
9:30 AM – Arrival at Sumbiling Eco Village
10:00 AM – Rainforest Trek, River Tubing and late lunch.
3:00 PM – Depart from Sumbiling Eco Village going to Bandar Seri Begawan
7:30 PM – Dinner at the Horizons Seafood Restaurant

Day 3: Tutong District
8:00 AM – Depart from Hotel going to Tutong District
9:00 AM – Arrival at Eco Phonies Garden
10:30 AM – Arrival at Tasbee Farm
12:30 PM – ATV Ride and Lunch at Katimahar Agripark
4:00 PM – Back to Bandar Seri Begawan
7:00 PM – Dinner at Soto Pabo

Day 4: City Tour
8:00 AM – Start of City Tour
Visited Royal Regalia Museum, Istana Nurul Iman, Omar Saiffudien Mosque, Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Malay Technology Museum
12:30 PM – Lunch at Nasi Katok Mama
3:00 PM – Kampong Ayer Tour (water village)
Flight back to Manila

There you have it, I hope you enjoyed this long post about Brunei. If you need help with your itinerary, feel free to get in touch with the Brunei Tourism Board, or contact Pan Bright Travel Services at  +673 224 0980. They handled our tours while we were in Brunei.

If you want to try the Rainforest Trek at Sumbiling Eco Village in Temburong, contact the Borneo Guide here.

Note: This travel to Brunei was made possible through the Brunei Tourism Board. Thank you for your warmth and hospitality. I’ll surely go back!

Also, thank you to our DOT Assistant Secretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar and her awesome team, for giving me the chance to participate in this important BIMP-EAGA Tour.