Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mosque_bsb_brunei_front.jpg Camera Operator: PH2 JACOB JOHNSON, USN
Brunei is a small, wealthy country on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. Its official name, Negara Brunei Darussalam, means the Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace. In the south it shares a border with the Malaysian state of Sarawak which splits Brunei into two parts, and is bordered by the South China Sea to the north. The supreme ruler of Brunei is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is both the head of state and head of government. Brunei consists of four districts namely Belait, Tutong, Muara and, separated from the rest of Brunei by the state of Sarawak, the district of Temburong. The capital of Brunei is Bandar Seri Begawan, located in the district of Muara.
Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mosque_bsb_brunei.jpg Daniel Weiss
The history of Brunei can be traced to the Sultanate of Brunei which achieved the peak of its power and glory from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. The Sultanate's suzerainty is thought to have extended over the coastal regions of modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, the Sulu archipelago, and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo. The encroachment of European influence gradually eroded the power of the sultanate. A brief war with Spain resulted in the occupation of Brunei's capital. Although the sultanate was eventually victorious, it lost territories to Spain.
The Bruneian Empire was at its weakest in the nineteenth century, when it lost much of its territory to the White Rajahs of Sarawak, resulting in its current small landmass and separation into two parts. Brunei was a British protectorate from 1888 to 1984, and occupied by Japan from 1941 to 1945 during World War II.
A rebellion against the monarchy during the 1960s, which was suppressed with help from the United Kingdom, partially affected Brunei's decision to opt out of the Malaysian Federation. It regained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984 and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Fast Facts about Brunei
Official Name: Negara Brunei Darussalam
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan (83,500)
Population of Brunei: 372,400
Languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese
Currency: Bruneian dollar (BND)
Religions: Islam (67%), Buddhist (13%), others
Size: 5,770 sq km (2,228 sq miles)
When to visit Brunei
Brunei experiences equatorial tropical weather, with high temperature and high humidity the whole year round. There is rain any all times of the year, though it gets even more humid and wet from September to January.
What to wear in Brunei
Lightweight clothing is encouraged. Umbrella and raincoat are necessities. Brunei is a conservative Muslim country, so dress decently so as not to offend.
Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_Mosque.jpg Dcubillas
Planning your trip to Brunei
Your best bet for the cheapest flight into Brunei is provided by AirAsia, the low-cost carrier. You can also enter Brunei by road from Sarawak, Malaysia. As a budget traveler, you can take buses from Miri or Limbang. The bus fare from Miri costs RM12.20. The bus goes to Kuala Belait in Brunei. From there, you can take another Brunei bus to reach the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.
Brunei Entry Requirements
Nationals of US have visit Brunei for up to 90 days without requiring a visa, nationals of UK up to 30 days, and Canada up to 14 days. Australian nationals need a visa.
Planning your travel within Brunei
There are not many roads or many places to go. Also there is limited public transport. As most people in Brunei can afford to own a car, there's not many buses apart from the purple minibuses that ply the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan. The good news is that most of the sights in Bandar Seri Begawan are within walking distance.
Metered taxi costs B$3.00 for the 1st km, between 6:00am and 9:00pm, and an additional B$0.20 for each subsequent km. Between 9:00pm and 6:00am, the start fare is B$4.50. Be warned that there are only forty taxis throughout Brunei, so the possibility of finding one may be rather slim.
To go from town to town, there are long-distance buses that run between Bandar Seri Begawan and Seria. And that's about all. Did I mention that Brunei is not a budget destination?
District of Brunei
Muara District is bordered by the South China Sea to the north, Brunei Bay to the east, Limbang to the south and Tutong to the west. It is the northernmost as well as the smallest of the four districts of Brunei. However, being where the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located, Muara is also the most populous. Apart from the state capital, another town in Muara is the town of Muara. Together, Muara has a population of 380,000.
Belait is the westernmost district in Brunei. It is bordered by Tutong to the east, and Miri Division of Sarawak to the west. The main town in Belait district is Kuala Belait and Seria. This is the heart of Brunei's petroleum industry.
Temburong is a district that is separated from the rest of Brunei following the forced annexation of Limbang by Rajah Charles Brooke in 1890. The two main rivers in Temburong are Sungai Temburong and Sungai Pandaruan, which marks the border with Malaysia. Temburong is subdivided into five counties, or mukim, namely Amo, Bangar, Batu Apoi, Bokok and Labu. Due to the forested nature of Temburong, many of the activities and places of interest here revolve around appreciating the environment.
Tutong is a district located between Kuala Belait District to the west, and Muara District to the east. The district is subdivided into eight counties, or mukim. The Pan Borneo Highway links Tutong with many of the towns in Brunei. The highway also continues to Sarawak and Sabah. Tasek Merimbun in Tutong District is the largest lake in Brunei. It was declared an Asean Heritage Park. There is nothing much to see at Tutong Town itself. If you find yourself here, you may visit the beach at Pantai Seri Kenangan (often called Pantai Tutong) which is quite nice.
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