Tiny, oddly shaped Brunei lies on the South China Sea, cut in two by the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak. Ruled by an autocratic Sultan, most inhabitants are nonetheless satisfied with the arrangement, partly due to the enormous wealth produced by the vast oil reserves that are located within its boundaries.
Oil has also ensured that much of the natural environment has been preserved. Brunei has huge tracts of unexplored jungles, unlike its neighbour Malaysia which has cut many of its forests to make way for palm oil plantations.
Nature therefore is probably the main attraction that Brunei has to offer the traveller, but it doesn’t come especially cheap. Brunei is expensive and there is no tourist infrastructure at all. It simply doesn’t need tourists, therefore, it doesn’t cater to them.
Still if you make it out into the jungles you will find a pristine environment. If you don’t have the cash, don’t worry, there are some other worthy sights in this tiny Sultanate -- nearly all located in its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. First and foremost is the stilt village of Kampung Ayer (aka Kampong Ayer or the Water Village), right across the river where you can get a glimpse of traditional Brunei life. The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is beautiful any time of day. For a cheap jungle experience you can head to the Peradayan Forest Reserve not far from the tiny hamlet of Bangar, a quick boat ride away from Bandar Seri Begawan and on the other sliver of land that is Brunei.
Hints and Tips for Brunei
- Brunei isn’t cheap, if you can’t get a bed in the one and only youth hostel in Bandar Seri Begawan, the next cheapest room is near 40 dollars and it is a dump! So, if at all possible, get a bed in the youth hostel, or look into a hospitality exchange service like couchsurfing.
- Bangar also has a youth hostel, it is clean and cheap and you will probably be the only one staying there.
- Brunei is a conservative Islamic nation, which means that alcohol is illegal, and you should take care of how you dress.
- The people of Brunei are well educated and you can easily get by with English, but learning a few words of Malay will be appreciated.
- Getting into Brunei is easy, and most countries will simply get a stamp in their passport upon arrival, valid for 3 months.