13 Jul Guide to Borneo 1 – Brunei
The island of Borneo – which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei – is home to some of the world’s best diving sites, along with a huge variety of plants, birds and mammals, some unique to the country. Yet it is also the land of the super-logger and oil-palm plantations that are eradicating the island’s natural forests. Ecotourism is one of few economic activities that can make a convincing case for protecting these habitats while supporting indigenous communities.
The Borneo rainforest is 130 million years old, making it the oldest rainforest in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, 420 species of resident birds, and 440 freshwater fish species in Borneo (about the same as Sumatra and Java combined). It is the centre of evolution and radiation of many endemic species of plants and animals.
The Sultanate of Brunei (Negara Brunei Darussalam) officially Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a small but – thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources – very rich country located in Southeast Asia. It’s surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically located on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs. Brunei is a pint-sized and fabulously wealthy oil-rich sultanate with a population of just under half a million, if illegal immigrants from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines are included. It is a member of the Commonwealth and has good education and hygiene. The population is devoutly Muslim.
=How to Get There=
The sole airport in Brunei is Brunei International Airport which is small but clean and functional. Flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia costs only US35 onwards. Departing from Brunei requires a payment of B$7 for departure tax.
There are only 40 cabs in the whole micro nation of Brunei, but you can get around by hiring a car or tour vans. This is only possible if you book it via the hotel you are staying and cost between $B20 to $B40 for the whole day.
=What to See and What to Do=
• Brunei Essential
Address: Bandar Seri Begawan
A short and sweet introduction to the symbols of Bruneian wealth, faith and identity. Make your way around Bandar Seri Begawan, the nation’s capital, and explore the exhibits of regal pride, be humbled by the towering shrines of Islamic faith, and marvel at the majestic residence of one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchs. Along the way, get an insight into Bruneian society, past and present, and get better acquainted with this unique nation off the beaten path.
• Night Safari
Address: 80 Mandai Lake Road
A river adventure into the tropical mangroves onboard an open water taxi, and seek out its interesting selection of wildlife, such as mangrove cat snakes, monitor lizards and perhaps the most curious of all, the proboscis monkey, endemic only to certain parts of Borneo, these monkeys became known for their bright-orange brown coats, long white tails, and the protruding noses on the adult males. And then when the sun goes down, follow the lights of the boatman’s torch to seek out the red eyes that betray the presence of saltwater crocodiles, ranging from arm-sized young ones to adults as long as the boat!
• Seria Oilfield
Address: Seria, Seria Oilfield, Brunei
Head west to Seria, the centre of Brunei’s petroleum industry, and where it all began in 1929. See the installations crucial in ensuring the supply of oil and gas exports, from the refinery to Brunei Shell’s headquarters, or the ‘nodding donkey’ pumps, and also the natural gas liquefaction plant in Lumut.
• Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park
Address: Lake Merimbun, Brunei
Explore the wilderness of Tasek Merimbun declared as ASEAN heritage site in 1984. It is the largest black water lake in Brunei that was divided into two connected lakes with a total of 220 hectares. Best way to experience Tasek Merimbun is by taking a spectacular lake cruise. Be amazed by the beautiful native plant such as Purun that grows wild in abundance in the lake. On top of that, learn about the mystery, myths and folklore of the lake! This tour was designed to start early morning or late afternoon for maximum experience of wilderness! A short trek to the trails – a wild uncultivated land which has a variety species of flora and fauna. The tour costs $B95 per pax
Shopping in Brunei is practically a national pastime – Bruneians love to scout the shopping malls searching for the best deals while lamenting the country’s limited variety of retail havens. With pensions for all, education and healthcare on the house, free sport and leisure centres, subsidised houses and cars, short working weeks, the highest minimum wage in the region and income taxes are unheard of, the people of Brunei remain happy with their lot. So it comes as no surprise that high-end purchases from ritzy big brand names such as Versace, Guess etc. are commonplace. The micro-nation’s only traffic jam occurs every night in Gadong, Brunei’s main shopping district, when locals clamour to find parking space for their nightly retail fix.
• Kompleks Bangunan Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
Address: Jalan Pretty, Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8711
• Pasar Gadong
Address: Lorong Sultan, Gadong
=What to Eat=
• Thien Thien Restaurant
Address: Seri Complex, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
Address: off Jalan Tungku Link, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei D
Address: A4 Lot 308 Bangunan Maju, Jalan Bunga Raya, Kual
• Kaizen Sushi
Address: Waterfront, BSB or Kiarong Complex, Hassanal Bolkiah
=Where to Stay=
• Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam
Address: P O Box 2203 Jalan Tasek, BS8674 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
• The Capital Residence Suites
Address: Simpang 2, Lot 21027, Kg. Berangan, BS8211 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
• Badi’ah Hotel
Address: Mile 1 1/4, Jalan Tutong, BA1712,, BA1712 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
• The Brunei Hotel
Address: 95, Jln Pemancha, BS8811 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei