One of the smallest, yet richest countries in the world; Brunei is located on the island of Borneo, which hosts Malaysia and Indonesia as well. Brunei is a sultanate, an absolute monarchy, where the Sultan has supreme authority and is not bound by any written laws or legislature. The small country is rich in oil and natural gas resources, and given its small population of about half a million, Brunei is considered to be one of the richest countries in the world per capita.
The flights from Malaysia to Brunei were expensive, really unjustified given the short flight distance. The good thing though, is that there are many ways to get there by land and/or water, from Malaysia. In my case, I took two ferries to get to Serasa, which is about a one hour bus ride from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The first ferry was from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan, both in Malaysia, then a ferry from Labuan to Serasa. You stamp your passport at the ferry terminal in Serasa, where you find the hourly bus to the city, costing $1.
I spent only one day walking around the capital, which is pretty small, finding time to tour almost the whole city. Bandar Seri Begawan, which is really well kept, clean and has luxurious architecture is a family oriented muslim city; difficult to find a party or even a bar to have a drink. Most people living there go to the Malaysian border, which is about 1.5 hours to find a party.
On the other hand, the Sultanate invests a lot in parks and recreational spaces; saw lots of group work outs and general activities out in the open. Nonetheless, had some of the best sushi at Kaizen, a restaurant overlooking the river, so the city has some nice hangout spots if you don’t want to be outside.
Amongst the attractions worth seeing in the capital is ‘Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque’, which was built by the 28th Sultan of Brunei in the 1950s. The main dome of the mosque is covered in pure gold, and the mosque is overlooking a beautiful lagoon with a ceremonial barge. Another ‘golden’ building that can be seen from certain elevated parts of town is the ‘Istana Nurul Iman’ palace, which is the residence of the ruling Sultan.
To get back to the Malaysian side, I took a taxi to Miri, which is the city closest to the border. You can haggle the price with the drivers, I ended up paying about $70 for a 2 hour, 160 km ride. I was quoted $160 when I phoned some taxi companies, so you’re best bet is negotiating directly with the drivers. On another note, there is only one morning bus ($20) that serves that route, therefore, if you are flexible on time, this may be the preferred alternative.