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.