Empire Hotel and Country Club
For tourists, the first stop would be the hotel. You have to unload your baggage and get some rest first before exploring the beauty of the country, and you need to have a place where you can stay for the rest of your visit.
And if that first stop is the Empire Hotel and Country Club, you’d be more excited to explore the whole of Brunei.
The hotel name, the “Empire Hotel and Country Club,” should already clue you in that you’d get a taste of luxury and elegance at this place. Modern in style but inspired by the splendor of the sultan’s home, the hotel offers you 533 spacious and cozy rooms to choose from, 24-hour premium-quality room service, and available Wi-Fi connection. With the Empire’s high-end facilities, it surely deserves its recently acquired membership in the exclusive World Hotels group.
The Empire also has pools, where you could relax by the waterside; a sports facility, where you could exercise; a theater and cinema complex, where you could enjoy movies; and plenty of food establishments, where you could have a taste of Brunei’s delights.
If the sports facility is not enough to satisfy your sports enthusiasm, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course and Shahbandar Forest Recreation Reserve would give you just what you need. The Jack Nicklaus Golf Course is an 18-hole course and is also a good spot to get a good view of the resort and nearby coast, while the Shahbandar Forest Recreation Reserve is a place to enjoy mountain biking, jogging, or a simple hike to explore the forest.
Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
Built to pay tribute to the 25th year of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah’s reign, the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque – or Kiarong Mosque, to the locals – is just one example of Brunei’s splendid structures.
It is one of the largest mosques in Brunei, and many claim it is one of the grandest as well.
With the well-kept gardens and fountains surrounding the mosque and the peaceful ambiance inside it, this mosque is truly a must-see for everyone traveling to Brunei. You could either just observe the people in silent prayers or you could opt to experience praying inside the mosque yourself.
The mosque is open even to non-Muslims, but since it is a house of prayer, tourists are obliged to observe certain decorum upon entering the mosque, such as taking off their shoes to show respect for the sanctity of the place and not taking pictures inside the mosque to avoid disturbing the people who are praying. Female visitors should wear conservative clothing, and they should cover their heads before entering the building.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Your trip to Brunei can’t be complete without your seeing one of the country’s best-known attractions, the mosque named after Brunei’s twenty-eighth sultan, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III.
What makes the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque special are its golden domes, beautiful fountains, huge courtyards, and well-kept gardens that are sure to dazzle one’s eyes. This mosque is built within a man-made lagoon not far from another famous spot in Brunei, the Kampong Ayer, or “the Water Village.”
It would be difficult to miss this mosque when you’re in Bandar Seri Begawan because of its towering height of 52 meters (171 feet). The highest part of the mosque is its main minaret, which has an elevator that leads to a platform on top, where you can get a bird’s eye view of Brunei’s capital.
The centuries old Kampong Ayer, or the Water Village, is one of the most famous landmarks of Brunei. It is one of the largest water villages in Southeast Asia; thus, it is often called “Venice of the East.”
In this watery village, thousands of houses stand on stilts right above the Brunei River itself. The area is divided into six districts and 42 villages, and they have their own police stations, schools, restaurants, shops, hospitals, mosques, even a marine fire department.
Because Brunei has a strong history of river dwelling, Kampong Ayer, which preserves that history, is an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. Today, there are around 40,000 people who live in the 42 villages of Kampong Ayer – that’s about 10% of Brunei’s population. And though the houses may look somewhat old-fashioned from the outside, a good number of them actually have air conditioning, Internet access, and satellite TV.
Yayasan Complex is the shortened name of what is really the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex. It is found in Bandar Seri Begawan and is one of Brunei’s most popular shopping places.
Occupying four hectares of land, the Yayasan Complex is one of Brunei’s largest shopping centers. Within the complex’s four buildings, you can find restaurants, boutiques, bookstores, Internet shops, supermarkets, banks, exhibition halls, and offices. Its parking lot can hold 1,500 cars.
The Yayasan Complex was built by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu´izzaddin Waddaulah as a sort of fundraiser for charity projects and the general well-being of Brunei’s citizens. It was officially opened in 1996.
Sultan Bolkiah Mausoleum
This mausoleum is dedicated to one of Brunei’s greatest sultans, Sultan Bolkiah, who ruled Brunei from 1485–1524. His mausoleum houses a tomb made of exquisitely carved hard basaltic stone. It is located at Kota Batu.
His Majesty, the fifth sultan of Brunei, is credited with enlarging his country’s territories to its greatest extent – but the most striking thing about the great Sultan is that, according to reports, he gained his territories not through war by through diplomacy and negotiations.
Another thing the good sultan was known for was his love of music. Able to play both the drum and the lute, he was fondly called Nakhoda Ragam, or “the Singing Captain.”
It is said that as he matured in age, the sultan began preparing royal tombs in different parts of his country so that, should his time come while he was at sea, there would always be a nearby site in which to inter his body.
Royal Regalia Museum
The Royal Regalia Museum is one of Brunei’s most famous museums. It was built in 1992 in commemoration of the 25th year of His Majesty’s reign. It is found right at the heart of the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.
The museum is a multistory structure, and not all the floors are open to the public, but the ones that are publicly accessible are quite impressive enough to let you forget about those floors that you are not allowed to enter.
One of the biggest crowd drawers in the museum is the grand royal chariot – a large, glittering, gilded, ornate vehicle that is used to carry the newly crowned sultan during the coronation day parade.
If the chariot does not dazzle you enough, the crowns will. The museum showcases a wide assortment of bejeweled crowns – the actual crowns used during the coronation ceremonies of the sultans of Brunei.
A gold-and-silver ceremonial armor and a copy of the sultan’s throne are also parts of the exhibit.
Jerudong Park Playground
Built in 1994 at a staggering cost of $1 billion, Jerudong Park Playground is definitely one of Southeast Asia’s most expensive theme parks. On its first years of operation, it featured free admission and free rides. There were carousels, bump cars, roller coasters – everything any state-of-the-art billion-dollar amusement park could be expected to have.
In recent years, things have been a little different. While entrance to the park is still free, paid tickets are now required to access the rides – and there aren’t quite as many rides left in the park.
After the heady excitement of its first years had worn off, Jerudong Park Playground today is a quieter, more subdued place. People go there for picnics and maybe a Frisbee or football game. It is a park to visit when you’re seeking to avoid the crowds of regular tourist spots.
On Sundays, families come here to play in the clean and spacious grounds; it is still one of the largest parks you can find in Southeast Asia. If you want to enjoy the rides, you can choose among the carousel, the train, and the go carts. There is hardly ever any need to queue up.
At night, you may catch a concert from local or international bands. And at 8:30 every day, you can see one of the parks greatest attractions today, the bright and colorful musical fountain show, which features songs from Disney, Michael Jackson, and Ricky Martin.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium
The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium was built in commemoration of His Majesty Sultan Haji
Omar Ali Saifuddin’s 70th birthday. In line with the commemoration, the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium held its first football match on the evening of its opening day, in 1983.
Football, however, is not the only game played in this stadium. With its advanced facilities such as the Sports Medicine and Research Centre, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium also caters to everyday joggers as well as to athletes undergoing extensive training.
In 1999, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium became the venue for the 20th Southeast Asian Games.
Serasa Watersports Complex
If you’re a water sports enthusiast, then Serasa is the place for you.
The Serasa Watersports Complex entices watersport lovers with its fully equipped world-class facilities. Here, you can indulge in windsurfing, jet skiing, kayaking, power boat racing, regatta sailing and other water sports.
In 1999, during the 20th Southeast Asian Games, the water sports competitions were held in this complex.
You don’t need to be a world-class athlete, though, to enjoy the place. Whether you’re a novice or expert, you’ll find something here that is suitable for your skill level.
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