Brunei, a nice transit stop destination in Southeast Asia
The sultanate of Brunei Darussalam is often overlooked by travelers as a viable layover port. It boasts swathes of virgin rainforest, majestic mosques, an entire suburb of stilts, and an incredible food scene that is well worth stopping by to soak up for just a couple of days in transit.
Located in between the Malaysian Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah, the small Brunei was known for a little more than the country’s oil wealth until 2014, when the sultanate became the first country to adopt the Islamic penal code at the national level in Southeast Asia. The move was criticized by the United Nations for its harsh punishments, and it hasn’t served as a tourism drawcard. However, Brunei still remains as one of the words safest countries for travelers. Brunei is an interesting hot foodie destination with a slowly and steady emerging coffee scene because alcohol is banned (Even though non-Muslims are allowed to bring a small quantity into the country).
With zero need yet to turn its gorgeous rainforests into palm oil plantations, the verdant examples of greenery team up with the wildlife that is becoming more difficult to watch in greater Borneo. The country’s coral reefs, shipwrecks and unused oil rigs are starting to give some wings to Brunei’s diving industry.
A couple of sights and districts:
Temburong is a small enclave that is separated physically from the rest of the country by Sarawak and contains one of the largest and well-preserved tracts of primary rainforest in all of Borneo. The main draw is the incredible Ulu Temburong National Park, which is only accessible by longboat.
The main attraction of the park is a greatly delicate aluminum walkway that takes you near the jungle canopy up to sixty meters above the floor of the forest. Usually, in primary rainforests, only specific vegetation can grow on the ground because of the low amount of light that penetrates, but in the canopy, all type of life can proliferate.
You can make day trips into the park or the nearby Peradayan Forest Reserve from Batang Duri. If you opt to stay at the Ulu Ulu National Park Resort (The only hotel located in the park), you gain the gain the opportunity to take the canopy walk at dawn, when is more likely to see orange-beaked rhinoceros hornbills fly by, and gibbons swinging across treetops.
Bandar Seri Begawan
Twelve kilometers upstream from Brunei Bay and hugging the Sungai Brunei (River), the clean, quiet and ordered Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB for short) feels more like a sleepy town than a capital city.
All of the parts of central Bandar Seri Begawan are within walkable distance of the gold-domed Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and the few attractions north, east and west of downtown are easily reached by any taxi. In just one day (or half if you pay for an organized tour) you can go to top sights such as the iconic mosque (Brilliantly illuminated at night), the bigger and newer Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the city’s famed water village Kampung Ayer, and the Royal Regalia Museum.
The massive 1778-rooms Istana Nurul Iman (Palace of the Sultan) is only opened to the public during three days at the end of Ramadan, but you can get a great look at it from the Taman Persiaran Damuan, a park 1.2 km beyond the palace.