Bandar Destination Guide
Bandar Seri Begawan Holidays
Bandar Seri Begawan is a unique capital city. Built on oil money but without the expected flashiness of an oil rich city, Bandar is instead a humble town consisting of stilted water villages, museums and mosques. Situated on the top part of the island of Borneo, the country’s exotic geographic location leads to a mix of South-East Asian cultures defining the town’s genetic makeup. Close by to the city you’ll find beaches offering vibrant undersea life and several attractions for budding water sports enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.
Top Attractions »
Bandar’s stilted water villages lead the list of the city’s attractions. Spreading out for kilometres through historic districts stretching into the sea, take a cruise through Kampong Ayer, an area home to an estimated 40,000 residents. Funnily enough for a water city, many of its residents own cars, which are parked ashore. Ashore you’ll find numerous mosques. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is the biggest and most impressive of them all and you’ll catch a glimpse of the audaciously coloured dome from most places in the city. Another of the city’s leading mosques to visit is the Jame’ Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, which commemorates the current reigning Sultan of Brunei. To continue your pilgrimage or sorts, visit the Sultan’s residential palace, Istana Nurul Iman.
Eat and Drink »
Being a dry state means drinking options are limited to the ‘bring your own’ option available at the Sheraton Utama Hotel. Alas while a drink is hard to come by, Bandar more than makes up for it in the food stakes. Take a trip to the night markets in Gadong and for only a few dollars you can gauge on some of the most mouth-watering chicken, fish and satays available anywhere in Asia. Hati Buyah (marinated beef lungs) and Pulut Panggang (sticky rice stuffed with beef or prawns wrapped in banana leaves) are some of the local specialties and a quenching Samboi (sour plum juice) will do a good job of putting your dreams of an alcoholic beverage to bed.
Where to Stay
When it comes to deciding where to stay in Bandar there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is that most hotels lean towards the middle and higher end of price ranges. The good news is that accommodation options in this budget range are excellent so those willing to spend a few extra dollars can find themselves a 5-star room for well under $200. By far the most popular of the choices is The Empire Hotel and Country Club. A tourist attraction in itself, this 5-star property is home to a cinema, a bowling alley, fitness centre and much more.
Shopping options in Brunei run the gamut from multi-storey department stores to local market stalls known as ‘syarikats’. The largest of Bandar’s malls is the majestic Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah which houses a wide range of designer and up-market stores. Prices for imported goods in Brunei can be higher than in neighbouring countries but shop around and you can still find yourself a bargain. For a one-stop-shop, head to the country’s leading department store, Hua Ho Department Store, while for more unique wares, downtown Bandar, as well as Kuala Belait and Seria are all home to numerous individual stores.
Bandar Seri Begawan Like a local
Similar to Malaysian cuisine, Brunei’s local fare is some of the tastiest in the world and mixes the sweet and spicy influences from its neighbouring countries. Local coffee shops are a great place to sample tasty affordable food with the locals or for something extra special, seek out Chop Jin Chiew. Serving a multitude of tasty varieties of the local dish, Roti, this Gadong located restaurant is somewhat of a local institution. Use your hands to eat and nobody will pick you as a foreigner.