How to get to Brunei?
Bandar Seri Begawan is Brunei's capital city and air hub. for information about getting to/from BSB.
This section offers information on getting around the capital. information on getting around Brunei.
To/From the Airport
Buses 23, 24, 36, and 38 will get you to/from the airport, about 4km northwest ot the city, for B$l. Leaving the terminal, keep to the right and walk south for about 300m to the bus stop.
Tell the driver where you are headed - if it's on the route to the central bus station then he'll let you off. Taxis will charge around B$20 for trips between the airport and city centre (the price goes up by at least B$5 after 6pm); taxis are unmetered, so agree on the price before getting in. For a cheaper alternative, many hotels offer free or inexpensive pick-up service from the airport, so enquire when you book
The government bus network covers most sights in and around the city, and the international ferry terminal at Muara. Routes for local buses are displayed at the bus station, beneath the multistorey car park on Jin Cator, and numbers are displayed on each bus. Apart from the 40-minute Muara express service B$2), all fares are B$l. Buses to the Gadong area run every 15 minutes; other routes are less frequent (there's usually one bus per hour to Muara terminal). Public transport operates daily between 6.30am and 6pm.
Some useful routes:
Airport Buses 23,24,36, and 38.
Brunei Museum and Malay Technology Museum Bus 39.
Gadong Buses 1,22 and 55.
Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque Buses 1 and 22.
Jerudong Park Playground Buses 55 and 57.
Muara Buses 37,38 and 39.
Car & Taxi
Hiring a car is a good way to explore Brunei, and there's definitely some gratification in saying you did a cross-country road trip (in under two hours). Prices start at around per day. Rental agencies can arrange pick- ups/drop- offs at your hotel. Drivers can F arranged for an additional fee. If you're staying within the city centre, taxis are a fine option. Negotiate the price before setting off. Trips around town cost around B$10; it's about B$35 to the Muara ferry terminal. Rates can climb by 50% after 6pm.
AROUND BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
The sights strewn beyond the capital make a strong case for spending more than a day in Brunei.
Jerudong's two white elephants - the Empire Hotel and the Jerudong Park Playground should rank high on your to-do list if you want to uncover the real Brunei .
Jerudong Park Playground
Perhaps the biggest birthday gift ever, Jerudong Park Playground is a sprawling amusement park that was once a private playground for the royal family. Divided into two sections, one for teens and adults, and one for the youngsters, it's now in a semidormant state - most of the rides have been sold to other amusements and those that remain are 'closed for maintenance'. This gives the park a rather bizarre air - a mix of locals and tourists meander around slightly aimlessly, looking at the defunct attractions with a mixture of awe and bewilderment, like inhabitants of the Planet of the Apes discovering a postapocalyptic Manhattan.
When the big rides aren't working, admission is discounted to B$5. Sleeveless blouses or shirts are not allowed and proper footwear is required. On Saturdays the park is open until 2am, and there are food and drink stalls in the car park.
It's rumoured that the park will be re-opening many of the rides in the near future and revitalising the grounds. We're not holding our breath...
Imagine a zillion-tonne hunk of Italian marble dipped in gold and tossed into the rainforest - you've just pictured the fanciful 003323 Empire Hotel & Country Club . Built on the same scale as a Las Vegas casino, the resort was commissioned by Prince Jefri (see the boxed text, opposite) as - get this - lodging for guests of the royal family. Construction costs were estimated at a whopping US$1.1 billion, an astronomical sum considering the Petronas Towers in KL cost US$1.9 billion to build! The property was quickly transformed into an upscale resort in order to recover some of the construction costs (they still have a long way to go). Among the resort's spoils are two camel-shaped lamps made from pure Baccarat crystal, topped with solid gold accoutrements. They cost over US$500,000 each, and one of them lives in the Emperor Suite (B$22,000 per night), home to the world's most opulent indoor swimming pool. Rooms for more conservative wallets have hand-woven carpets, gold-plated power points, and enormous bathrooms with marble floors.
Getting There & Away
It's easy to get to the playground on buses 55 or 57 from the bus station, but the last bus leaves at 5.30pm and getting back to town can be a problem. Major hotels have shuttle services for about B$20 per person. A taxi back to BSB will cost about B$35. Taxis can be organised at a moment's notice from reception at the Empire Hotel.
While technically located within the same district as Bandar Seri Begawan (officially called the Brunei-Muara District), rural Muara feels like a different world.
Not many people come to Brunei for a sun 'n' sand experience, but if you do have some spare time to stretch out on the dunes, there are a couple of options around the small port of Muara.
Two kilometres from town, Pantai Muara (Muara Beach) is a popular weekend retreat. The white sand is clean, but like many beaches in Borneo, it's littered with driftwood and other flotsam that comes in with the tide. It's quiet during the week and has food stalls, picnic tables and a children's playground.
Other beaches include Pantai Serasa, a thin bit of beach on an equally thin spit of land. ttjng out into the sea. The Royal Brunei Y cM Club is here, as well as a water-sports entre and lots of food stalls on the week-nd. About 4km west of Muara along the lvuara-Tutong highway, Pantai Meragang /Crocodile Beach) is another beach that's pleasant and not quite as crowded as the others on weekends. There are a couple of food stalls and it's a good place for a picnic, but it's difficult to get to without your own transport.
Known as 'Mosquito Island', this small island (25 sq km) off Brunei Bay, about one hour by boat from Muara, is on the itinerary of some tour companies for day trips - see p581 for operator listings. The island is a good example of mangrove ecology, with 2km of wooden walkways and an observation tower. A guide is necessary and caution is advised because of venomous snakes. A permit from the Forestry Department must be obtained in advance (which can be arranged by a travel agency within one working day).
Getting There & Away
Buses 37, 38 or 39 go from BSB to Muara town (B$2); bus 33 will take you from there to Pantai Muara or Pantai Serasa (B$l).
TUTONG & BELAIT DISTRICTS
The Tutong and Belait districts form the bulk of the big western section of Brunei. Most travellers merely pass through the region en route between Miri (Sarawak) and BSB, but there are a few mildly diverting attractions for those who have several days to spend in the country. Buses ply the coastal highway, but if you want to see the sights, the best way is to take a tour or rent a car.
About halfway between Seria and BSB, Tutong is the main town in central Brunei. The town itself is unremarkable, but the area is famous in Brunei for two things: white sand . and pitcher plants. Tutong has six species of pitcher plants and the locals cook a variety of dishes in their insect-catching sacs. The local sand (seen in patches along the side of the highway) is so white that Bruneians will often take pictures with it while pretending that it's snow. There's a great beach a couple of kilometres outside Tutong town near Pantai Seri Kenangan, often simply referred to as Pantai Tutong. Set on a spit of land, with the ocean on one side and the Sungai Tutong on the other, the casuarina-lined beach is arguably the best in Brunei. The royal family clearly agrees, as they have a surprisingly modest palace here for discreet getaways. Us plebeians, sadly, have to make do with picnic tables, a simple restaurant and food hawkers at weekends. The turn-off to the beach is near the Tamu Tutong, where a market is held every morning.
The 7800-hectare Merimbun Heritage Park is 27km inland from Tutong, gazetted as an ASEAN Heritage Park to protect Tasek Merimbun, Brunei's largest lake. The black-water habitat is unique in Borneo, dyed a distinctive tea colour by tannin from leaves falling in the water, and supports a wide variety of birds, mammals and snakes. It's a pretty, tranquil spot surrounded by forest and rarely troubled by large groups. It is possible to pitch a tent along the lake, as there are bathroom facilities, but make sure you ask the local chief if you can stay on his land first. He'll say yes, but it's good manners to double check. A wander around the lake will set you back a whopping B$l.
The only way to get there on your own is by car or as part of a tour from BSB. If you drive, note that the road gets pretty rough between Lammuni and the lake; drive through the kampung and stick to the main road.
As you enter the Belait district, east of Seria, a road branches inland to Labi, taking you past some prime forest areas. This jalan is the easiest way into the interior of Brunei and it offers the chance to see some Iban longhouses, most of which come complete with car parks and mod-cons (see the boxed text, p430 for details about the longhouse lifestyle). Nothing on this road is a must see, but if you've got a few extra days in Brunei, it makes for a good day away from BSB.
The Forestry Museum (admission free; 8am-12.15pm & 1.304.30pm Mon-Thu & Sat) is located down the Simpang 50 turn-off. It's a simple place that makes for a good leg-stretch on the way to Kuala Belait or into the interior further down Jin Labi. There are cleared walking trails through primary forest and a small museum detailing the history of logging and conservation in the region. The collection of insects is a sneak preview of what's to come on a trip down to Labi.
More than 50km south of the coastal road, the kampung of Labi is a small Iban settlement with a few fruit orchards. Note that there is a fork in the road just before Labi (as you head south, away from the main coastal road). Take the left fork to reach Labi and Teraja; don't take the right fork, which is marked ln Labi Lama (Old Labi Rd). Several 'drive-up' long-houses are located beyond Labi.
From the end of Jin Labi, one can make a day hike all the way to Gunung Mulu National Park. A guide and proper border-crossing paperwork are required - ask a tour operator in BSB for more information.
If you are trying to access Jin Labi without a vehicle, take a bus from BSB towards to Sarawak border and ask the bus driver to let you off at 'Junction to Labi'. After getting off, grab a coffee at the pistachio-coloured building on the side of the road and ask around for a ride into the interior (don't pay more than B$ 10).
Seria, a company town spread out along the coast between Tutong and Kuala Belait, is a transit stop on the road to Sarawak. This is where Shell Brunei has its major installations, and the low bungalows accommodate company staff and the Gurkha troops brought in to protect their work.
The coastal plain between here and Kuala Belait is the main centre for oil production in Brunei, and at a beach just outside town the curvy Billionth Barrel Monument commemo-rates (you guessed it) the billionth barrel of oil produced at the Seria field. From the beach, oil rigs are visible, jutting up on the horizon.
If that's just not enough hydrocarbons for you, the flashy new Oil & Gas Discovery Centre aims to put an 'edutainment' spin on the industry, ap-pealing particularly to young science buffs. The complex includes an exhibition hall, a gallery, a theatre, an education centre and even a playground with a skate park to keep any disaffected youths happy. The Discovery Centre is opposite the town centre, on the foreshore. You could walk to it from the bus station, but it will be a hot 500m indeed. It's clearly signposted.
The only place to stay in Seria is the pass-bje Hotel Koperasi about 150m from the bus station.
About 10 buses a day run between Seria nd BSB (B$6, two hours). There are regular local buses between Seria and Kuala Belait m$l, every 30 minutes between 6.30am and 7 30pm), where you can catch buses onward to Miri and Kuching. Brunei transport are now running buses to Tutong and Belait from the main bus station, no longer from Tamu Kianggeh. Private vehicles should note that there is a toll (B$3) located 18km before the Malaysian border.
The last stop before Sarawak, Kuala Belait is the main town in Belait district and the place to get buses to Miri. 'KB' has colonial shop-houses in the town centre, the Silver Jubilee Park (Jin Maulana) and a reasonable beach, though most travellers just hustle through on their way to or from Sarawak. The HSBC bank has an ATM, diagonally opposite the bus station on Jin McKerron.
If you're looking for a bite, take a stroll down Jalan Pretty, where you'll find a variety of simple restaurants and Chinese kopitiam. Spend the night at the well-run Hotel Sentosa, conveniently situated near the bus station.
While Malaysia has plundered its cache of lush jungle to keep its economy afloat, Brunei has surfed the waves of 'black gold', leaving its rainforest untouched. Temburong, the smaller of Brunei's puzzle-piece land claims, is plunged deep into the heart of neighbouring Sarawak like an emerald dagger.
For information on getting to/from Temburong, see right of the Bangar section.
The 'capital' of Temburong, quiet Bangar is but a three-street town on the banks of Sungai Temburong. The speedboat trip to reach Bangar is a highlight in itself, roaring down Sungai Brunei and slapping through the open sea of Brunei Bay, then tilting and weaving through dense mangroves into the mouth of Sungai Temburong. Bangar can be visited as a day trip if you catch an early boat, but you'll get more out of it if you stay over and explore the area more thoroughly.
At the time of research, there were plans to reopen the tourism office - hopefully renovations will be well under way by the time you read this. Escape the balmy air at Restoran Hijrah, a kedai kopi (coffee shop) up the road from the boat wharf. The menu offers a good mix of Chinese and Malay flavours, including the region's famous udang gallah (river prawns) and steamboat meals (B$12 to B$16, minimum two people).
Spend the evening at Bangar Guest House a great find located several kilometres from the pier. Rooms are immaculate and there's always service with a smile.
Boats to Bangar operate from the jetty just east of the river-front satay stalls, along Jin Residency. The last boat back to BSB leaves Bangar at 4pm.
Temburong has two main roads; both are sealed but traffic is light. One leads south to Batang Duri and the other runs between the east and west borders with Sarawak. Private and unofficial taxis are the only form of transport in the district, and drivers congregate near the wharf. They don't have meters, and prices must be negotiated.
The Sumbiling Eco Village (www.sumbiling.blogspot .com) is a new ecofriendly project in the Batang Duri area. Borneo Guide (p581) runs this rustic camp in cooperation with the local Iban.
PERADAYAN FOREST RESERVE
Fifteen kilometres southeast of Bangar and protected within the Peradayan Forest Reserve (admission free) are the peaks of Bukit Patoi (310m) and Bukit Peradayan (410m), which can be reached along walking tracks (bring your own water and trail food). For those who can't be bothered with the trouble or the expense of UIu Temburong National Park, this is a fine and easy alternative.
The 330m trail up to the top of Bukit Patoi is a steep and sweaty climb that starts at the entrance to the park. It's very much worth the trek as the scenery is breathtaking. Keep an eye out for hornbills, even if you can't spot one, you will likely hear their distinctive calls. Every year, the Bukit Patoi Challenge tests the endurance of willing participants with a 15km dash through the jungle.
Most walkers descend back along the same trail, but it's possible to continue over the other side of the summit and around to Bukit Peradayan. The trail eventually rejoins the road some 12km from Bangar near the Labu Km 5 marker. Allow at least three hours for the walk from Bukit Patoi to Bukit Peradayan and back to the road. This trail is harder and indistinct in parts.
A private car (the only means of getting there) will cost about B$10 each way. Hitchhiking is also an option. The road to the Peradayan Forest Reserve - and Lawas (Sarawak) - is across the bridge from Bangar wharf, on the east side of the river.
ULU TEMBURONG NATIONAL PARK
Beautiful Ulu Temburong National Park is tucked inside the larger Batu Apoi Forest Reserve, a wild expanse of primary rainforest that covers most of southern Temburong. In the last few years, this stunning realm of green has become the most promoted attraction in the wee sultanate. Tourists and locals have been flocking here ever since.
The main feature at the park is the 60m canopy walkway, which is reached by a 1200-step climb up a shiny brass tower. The apparatus itself looks like a carpenter's scaffolding, but the views from the walkway are breathtaking (if you can get over the vertigo, as the tower wobbles in the wind).
The only accommodation in the park is the Ulu Ulu Resort (www.uluuluresort.com), man-aged by Sunshine Borneo Tours. Accommodation prices start at B$248 and include transport and guided treks. Rooms vary in quality - we liked the private doubles the most.
The park is not accessible by independent travellers, as longboat hire is necessary. The vessels along the river service tour groups -and even if you convinced a boatswain to take you, it would cost almost B$200. Tour packages are available with several companies, and start at around B$180 for a day trip.
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