by Colin Tan
Brunei is home to a majority of Malay followed by Chinese, indigenous and other ethnicities. It has a small population of about 428,000 people compared to Singapore’s 5.39 million. However, Brunei is larger in geographic terms and the country has preserved about 70% of its rainforests. Islam is the main religion and yes, this is the country that has made headline news for implementing Shariah laws but things are normal here, really. Here are the top five places to visit in Brunei.
1. SULTAN OMAR ALI SAIFUDDIEN MOSQUE
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, this royal mosque is named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei who initiated its construction. With a main dome of solid gold and minarets of Italian marble, it might seem engineered to be a tourist magnet – but the interior of the mosque is dedicated solely to worship.
2. KAMPONG AYER
True to its literal translation of “Water Village”, all of Kampong Ayer’s buildings sit on stilts above the Brunei River. A population of 39,000 makes this place the world’s biggest water village, and its amenities are surprisingly modern: they have air-conditioning, internet access and electricity. Visitors can take a boat tour to experience this unique heritage site.
3. TASEK LAMA RECREATIONAL PARK
Popular with tourists and locals alike, this park located within the capital city is perfect for a quick, momentary escape to nature. There are various jogging paths suited for both serious hikers and families, and even a jungle trail for the adventurous. The park also houses a reservoir that supplies water to half the country.
4. ROYAL REGALIA MUSEUM
If you’ve ever wanted a peek into the life of a sultan, this museum presents an opportunity to do so. A plethora of exhibits commemorates Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s silver jubilee; bejewelled crowns, opulent ceremonial costumes, as well as gifts presented to the sultan by many different countries.
5. GADONG NIGHT MARKET
Although more functional than bizarre, the Gadong Night Market is well worth a visit for a good, strong dose of Bruneian cuisine. With food prices ranging from B$1 to B$3, a bonus is that you can try many different delicacies without worrying about your wallet! Some interesting fare includes tongkeng ayam (chicken buttocks) and hati buyah (stir-fried beef lungs).