Farah Najam takes us on a journey through the Abode of Peace.
To the casual visitor, the Abode of Peace lives up to its name despite its current infrastructure, contemporary architecture, and wide roads with the latest cars.
Brunei is a relatively new country, having achieved its independence from Britain in 1983. The nation’s main benefactor was the Sultan’s family. Using the country’s oil revenues, this royal family began to modernize the country and improve its infrastructure for their people.
The special thing about Bruneian cooking is the miscegenation of various cultures that have settled in the country. Hence, it tastes a little bit Malaysian, Filipino, Thai, Indonesian and Chinese.
If you are on a tight budget, then head to the hawker centers that offer fine delicacies at reasonable prices. Some of the favorite dishes are Satay, noodles, whole roasted chickens, grilled fish, and steamboats. From Western meals to local delicacies, one of their selling statements is that they have a melting pot of dishes guaranteed to make the mouth water profusely.
- Roti Prata – a kind of fried bread served with Dahl and Sambal or fish/chicken curry. Can also be ordered with eggs (Roti Telur).
- Nasi Lemak – coconut rice served with anchovy Sambal (spicy sauce), peanuts, eggs, and cucumbers.
- Lontong – cubes of rice served with Sayur Lodeh, a vegetable curry made with coconut milk and turmeric.
- Mee Goreng – fried noodles. Turmeric powder is used to give this dish a nice orange colour.
- Nasi Goreng – fried rice.
Most activities in Brunei are of the organized, lycra-sports-gear, pay-to-play variety. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium is of Olympic proportions and includes a track and field complex, a tennis center, squash courts and a swimming pool. Golfers can enjoy an international standard course at Mentiri Golf Club, as well as a driving range near the airport. You can also hear the pins rattle at the bowling alley on Jalan Tutong.
In Brunei, festivals are always celebrated with colour and enthusiasm. Young and old from different races come together in the spirit of unity.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya is a time for celebration after the fasting month of Ramadan. Prayers are held in the early morning all out the country mosques on the first day of Shawwal marking Hari Raya.
Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day
The formation of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces is commemorated every year on the 31st of May with a military parade.
Hari Raya Aidiladha
It marks the time, when Muslims embark on the Hajj. A usual practice – for those who can afford it – is to sacrifice goats and cows.
Places of Interest
Following are some famous locations worth a visit:
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque – situated in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, it flaunts a gold dome, observation deck, finest marble, carpets and furnishings.
- Jerudong Park – located in nearby Jerudong and is basically Disneyland for free. A big ride and entertainment complex that provides the only night recreation in Brunei.
- The Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque – grand and opulent, with shimmering golden domes and intricately ornamental minarets set in a landscape of gardens and fountains. This mosque is undoubtedly the most magnificent in Brunei today.
- Kampung Ayer “Villages on Water” – Brunei’s famous water village.
- Yayasan Complex – a sparkling new shopping complex built by the Sultan. Contains a nice public square in the center from which you can get a stunning view at night.
- Masjid Jamek Asr Hassanil Bolkiah – this mosque was built to commemorate the 25th year of the reign of the present Sultan.
- Ulu Temburong National Park – ferries to Temburong leave Bandar Seri Begawan whenever full from the Jalan Residency jetty in the center of the city. From Temburong, access to the park itself is by Temuai, or longboat. Not so easy to get to but something worth considering, if you want to get off the tourist trail.
- Gadong’s ‘The Mall’– Brunei’s first, recently opened, largest and the most sophisticated shopping complex with more than 150 shops and a hotel.
- Brunei Museum – attractions: artifacts of the history of Brunei Darussalam, both ancient and the relatively recent. Among the most interesting items are ancient canons, gongs, and kettles. There is also an exhibition on different ethnic communities in the country.
- Malay Technology Museum – attractions: technological tools utilized by the Malays in ancient times.
- Royal Regalia Building – attractions: artifacts used in royal ceremonies, the Royal Chariot, the gold and silver ceremonial armory, and the jewel-encrusted crowns.
- Brunei History Centre – established in 1982, the Brunei History Center was founded to undertake research on the rich history of Brunei Darussalam.
- Lapau and Dewan Majlis – traditional royal ceremonies are normally held here. Adjoining the Lapau is the Dewan Majlis or Parliament House.
- Tasek Recreational Park – this is one of the oldest recreational parks within the city. For those, who want to get away from the noisy traffic of the city, this park is an ideal place to spend some time.
- Tamu Kianggeh – the Tamu, or open market, is where one can find a wide variety of items including local dishes, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and handicrafts.
- The Istana Nurul Iman and Taman Persiaran Damuan – it is the largest residential palace in the world, and its golden domes, vaulting roof, and riverside setting make it a spectacular object for photographers.
- Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex – it is a commercial and shopping complex, designed to generate revenue for a foundation dedicated to the welfare of the people.
This tiny oil-rich Islamic sultanate lying on the northwest coast of Borneo is known chiefly for the fabulous wealth of its Sultan, its tax-free subsidized society, and the fact that (statistically at least) its 280,000 people enjoy one of the highest per capita income on earth.