A short stop in Brunei: Must do’s

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It isn’t any wonder why Brunei attracts visitors from all over the world. While it may be a less known Asian destination, it should be included in your Asian vacation destinations. Brunei resides on the island of Borneo, an island well-known by nature enthusiasts for its biological diversity. The rainforests there are simply a must-visit. After all, rainforests are not as widespread as they once were.  Best of all, Brunei can be visited on a budget, especially if it is a stopover while visiting other Asian destinations. In fact, Brunei can be thoroughly enjoyed in three days.

Before arriving in Brunei, American visitors should apply for a tourist visa. This is a simple process that can be completed online, but it does charge a higher fee than visiting your local consulate, if you live near a big city. Visitors should be aware that Brunei is a Muslim kingdom, ruled by the Sultan. Therefore, tourists will not find the usual bars and clubs as in other Asian destinations.  Brunei is a dry country. However, the government does permit tourists to bring up to two bottles of wine, twelve cans of beer, or two bottles of liquor. The food in Brunei is acceptable, although nothing to write home about. One great tool for food delivery is Food Panda. Travelers can order from many restaurants delivery directly to the hotel room. The real reason people include Brunei on their itineraries- the nature. Take a look at a sample three-day itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Brunei

Arrive at Brunei International Airport. Book a hotel that has a free shuttle, or you can pay for a pickup for a nominal fee. Hotels are sprinkled throughout the city, but there are less than 20 to choose from. Always check out the reviews. Booking.com is a great one-stop shop to find the right hotel. Catch the shuttle to the hotel, settle in, and plan for the first adventure. Some ideas for the first day include:

Jerudong Park: Depending on the level of fatigue, this is a very interesting place to visit. At the very least, it merits a walk or drive-by. Horse themed, this ghostly theme park does have some rides and attractions. It costs roughly $15 per person to get in, and is well-kept on the outside. This theme park gives an almost creepy abandoned theme park feeling, but can also be interesting to visit.

-Walk around the city of Bandar Seri Begawan: While it is possible to take taxis galore to and from the different areas, a walk around the city is quite peaceful. Grab a coffee at De’Royalle, a quaint local coffee shop and café. Walk around and appreciate the architecture of the mosques. The top mosques worth a look are: Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, and Masjid Kampong Pandan. The most impressive, however, is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin as it slightly resembles the sultan’s castle from Disney’s Aladdin.

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-Take a moment to shop: Check out the Kg Kianggeh Open Air Market. The natural beauty of the fruits and vegetables make great photographs and snacks as well.  The mall downtown is also worth a visit.

Day 2: Excursion

The toughest part of this day, is which excursion to take. Some excursions allow an overnight stay in the rainforest. Others allow some of the most spectacular diving in the entire world.  If diving and rainforest trekking are both in your wheelhouse, you should do both. One day for trekking and one for diving. The possibilities are endless.

For diving, try the Oceanic Quest Dive Center or Poni Divers. Diving is surprisingly affordable, by diving standards, and those with very little or no experience can try out diving here as well. The biodiversity is worth the dive.

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For rainforest trekking, a visit to Ulu Temburong National park is a must-do.  A tour guide is essential to really experience and appreciate all of the life all around you. Borneo Guide is an excellent choice. If you only want a day trip, you can try their Ulu Temburong day trip. It is the best of everything with two unique boat trips and a chance to climb onto the scientists’ canopy walk high above the rainforest floor to take in the wide expanse of the oldest rainforest in the world. The tour even includes lunch, snacks, water, and a free natural fish food spa session for only B$135.00 per person! If time permits, you can venture even deeper into the rainforest and possibly be lucky enough to spot an orangutan or proboscis monkey.

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Day 3: Unwind

 

After a day of adventure, you are sure to be a bit tired. Take advantage of a nice massage at one of the spas in town.  Thann Sanctuary Spa is a good choice and is rated by Conde Nast. After a nice massage, try a meal at Energy Kitchen. Finally, wrap up a successful day with a visit to the Gadong Night Market.

 

Wherever Brunei leads you, it is sure to leave a lasting impression. Whether it is getting back to the wild, trying a new adventure, or admiring architecture, it should be added to your Asian travel list. For more information, visit Brunei’s website.

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