Early this year we went to Miri to attend my friend’s wedding reception. Jas is from Miri, and the groom – David also from Miri, so the couple decided to hold their wedding celebration there. It was a beautiful Chinese wedding style with a lot of friends and family, very nice one.
The wedding was on Friday night and I was started thinking how if we flew out from Brunei ? As always, a little adventure seems like a good idea at that time. I booked the bus ticket for overland from Miri to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), and I booked the quite expensive flight ticket from BSB to KL and finally realized : what are we going to do in Brunei ?
I must admit, Brunei was not on our bucket list “to visit” at all. The country is super rich, super small, but what else ? I was not sure what to do in this sultanate, all my Malaysian friends (and Mirian as well) were saying nothing to do in Brunei haha. But I was excited to find out, at least the country is only 3 hours drive from Miri and it will be our 7th country in South East Asia, can add another stamp in our passport.
4 pm on Saturday our bus was leaving Miri Express Bus Terminal at Pujut corner, off the Miri-Pujut road. The terminal was quiet and clean. Our bus was clean, and almost empty.
Several transport companies plies the route between Miri and BSB, ~ RM 60 for 3 hours drive. The bus company will provide the immigration card and the first clearing immigration is at Sungai Tujoh near Kuala Baram (about 15-20 mins drive from Miri). Driver and all passengers must leave the bus and go through passport control and customs. Leaving Malaysia was relatively easy, no question at all, just chop and sign.
We reboarded the bus for 5 mins ride to the Brunei immigration checkpoint at Kuala Belait. We must leave the bust and go through passport control and customs and suddenly we got lot of questions…sigh. We were the only Indonesian, others were Malaysians, Bruneian and one backpacker lady from French. So perhaps you can guess why did the officer need to ask a lot of questions to us, Indonesian tourist. The officer lady was asking how much money that we had, why we only had 100 Brunei dollar, what did you do in Miri and few other questions. Suspicious travelers.
Another interesting fact was that we can leave all our belongings at bus, later the Immigration officer will check the passenger list, discuss several things with the driver and welcome to Brunei, as simple as that.
The bus rolled into Brunei Darussalam and the first city was Seria. Small, old and beautiful. The city is famous as a base for the Brunei Shell Petroleum company. Seria is the heart of the oil industry in Brunei and also the site of the first commercial onshore oilfield discovered in this country.
There is almost nothing in the city, there are no ferry services, river services, port services, train services or even airport. The nearest port is in Kuala Belait and the closest commercial flight is either BSB or Miri. Later I knew from my friend who used to live in Seria that he must sent his 12 years old son to BSB for school, his wife will go to Miri for some errands, they spent almost every afternoon in the beach, lunch at home during working day, life in Seria is simple yet peacefull.
The second city in our trip was Tutong, it is definetely smaller than Seria, and I couldn’t see a lot from the bus window since it was getting dark. The houses are old, very basic, a weird image for one of the richest country in the world.
At 7 pm we arrived at BSB, we and the French backpacker were the last passengers. There is no such thing as a bus terminal and the bus just stopped in the city centre, near the river, later I knew as BSB waterfront.
We were hungry and were very lucky that we found a food stall nearby. Surprisingly the seller was Indonesian lady and she was very kind to us. Her bakso was delicious, her nasi campur was yummy, perfect dinner.
We booked our hotel earlier but the worst things was the hotel is around 10 km from our location and the taxi in BSB is very expensive. The lady seller called her husband but unfortunately he only can come after 9 pm. Cici was very tired so we didn’t have any choice and finally rent a “taxi” for 15 Bruneian dollar for 10 km distance, uh everything is expensive here. One thing that you should remember that most of Bruneian is not very rich but they are not poor. So it was hard to bargain the price for anything.
Bang Ali – the taxi driver was very friendly and talk active, he speaks Bahasa Malaysia very well with Indonesian accent. He offered a taxi service for us in Sunday, the price is quite reasonable thus we decided to hire him as our driver and guide for exploring the city.
Our Sunday trip was perfect, it was short but we manage to visit the great things in BSB, here are our top things to do :
The water village which known as the South Asia’s largest stilt village. People have lived in Kampong Ayer for over 1300 years and it was historically known as the very core of Brunei and one of the most important centres of trade in Borneo.
We had a good time boat cruising around the village and the mangrove area. There were many houses, mosques, shops, schools, hospital, everything we would need as a home.
Initially I thought the water village will looks like a slum and I was wrong. The water villages are modern and neat. Most of the houses are having air conditioning, satellite television, along with concrete jetties, piped water, electricity supplies, and telephone for sure.
Museum Technology Malaya
The museum is well maintained and good for everyone visiting Brunei to understand the way of life in Brunei and the way of living. Their toilets also very clean, a good stop after Kampong Ayer visit.
Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
I would say it is the one of the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen. It is decorated so beautifully, the garden is very relaxing, and the golden dome is very impressive.
Visiting hours for non-Muslims are outside praying hours, and we will be asked to wear the robe provided. No photos allowed inside and we have to leave our camera in the locker. Inside the mosque is mind refreshing, very calm and soothing.
Best stop in the middle of hot day. The museum is a purpose designed building for His Majesty’s coronation and Jubilee Regalia as well as gifts of state from foreign dignitaries. Interesting museum that we can learnt a lot about the Sultan, monarchy and his life.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
A beautiful floating mosque in downtown of BSB, looks humble outside but very beautiful inside. We came here as our last stop before airport and I found my Dzuhur prayer was very relaxing, alhamdulillah.
Our visit in Brunei was very short but I would say enough for exploring the city. We arrived at airport at 3 PM and happy.
We have visited one the richest country yet the most humble one. I am totaly agree there is not much to do in BSB, there is not many people, very few shopping small, expensive but yet still worth to visit. The city is clean, the people are nice and friendly. We definetely found out the gems and my daughter keep asking to visit the Sultan Palace on next Raya open house haha.
” Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before” ~ Anonymous