Bandar Seri Begawan, nestled along the banks of the Brunei River, welcomes travellers with a charming blend of modernity and tradition. As you meander through its bustling streets, the aromatic scents of local delicacies beckon, while the intricate architecture narrates tales of a rich historical past. Amidst the warm smiles of locals, the city’s serene mosques and vibrant markets offer a glimpse into the heart of Brunei’s cultural tapestry. Let’s journey to uncover the hidden treasures and captivating allure of Bandar Seri Begawan, where each step unveils a new chapter in this enchanting cultural gem.
Unveiling the Landmarks of Bandar Seri Begawan
Nestled along the meandering Brunei River, Bandar Seri Begawan reveals a captivating blend of history and modernity, inviting you to embark on a journey of discovery. As you traverse its vibrant streets, the whispers of ancient stories intertwine with the city’s contemporary pulse, creating an immersive tapestry of culture and tradition. From the grandeur of its majestic mosques to the lively energy of bustling markets, the city offers a glimpse into the heart of Brunei’s rich heritage. Join us as we uncover the timeless allure of Bandar Seri Begawan’s renowned landmarks, each bearing testament to the city’s enduring legacy.
Kampong Ayer – It’s home to over 30,000 people and is the largest water settlement in Southeast Asia. It’s filled with homes, mosques, restaurants, shops, schools, and even a hospital, all built on stilts above the Brunei river. It’s an ancient place, with people living there for more than 1,300 years, and the residents are mostly fishermen, traders, and artisans who still live traditional lifestyles.
Istana Nurul Iman – The Sultan of Brunei’s Royal Palace is a massive and luxurious building. It has 1,788 rooms, a banquet hall that can fit 4,000 people, a Mosque for 1,500, 5 swimming pools, and a 110-car garage. It was built by the Philippine’s Ayala Corporation in 1984 and is situated on top of a hill overlooking the capital and the Brunei River.
Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque – You won’t be able to miss the bright domes and four minarets of Brunei’s biggest mosque when you’re heading to Gadong. It was built in 1992 to celebrate the 25th year of the sultan’s reign and is decked out with 29 golden domes – since the sultan is the 29th ruler of his dynasty.
Royal Regalia Museum – When you’re asked to present a gift to the sultan of Brunei, you might be at a loss for what to give the guy who literally has it all. Check out this rad museum with its dome-shaped roof for some ideas – it’s full of presents that people have given the sultan. There are things like portraits made with semi-precious stones, gold models of oil wells, a solid silver model of Angkor Wat, and family photos documenting the sultan’s life.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque – This mosque, Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien, was named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the late father of the current sultan. It’s surrounded by an artificial lagoon that serves as a reflection pool, giving off a gleaming golden glow from its domes. Inside, you’ll find the finest Italian marble floor and walls, English-crafted chandeliers, and a 3.5-million-piece glass mosaic with real gold leaf covering the main dome.
Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum – As soon as you walk into the shiny building at Kota Batu, just 5km from the centre of the city, you’ll come face to face with the 15th century Chinese sailing ship – complete with ceramic vessels – that’s been preserved as a skeleton. This is the spot where Brunei’s most important shipwreck, discovered by divers in 1997, was found, and you can check out over 13,000 artefacts that were dug up from the area.
Kampong Ayer Cultural & Tourism Gallery – A great way to get to know Brunei’s culture before the oil boom is to check out this museum and cultural center near the waterfront in BSB. It opened in 2009, and it’s full of information about Kampong Ayer and its customs. You can also climb up the tower to get a panoramic view of the whole village.
Taman Peranginan Tasek – If you need a reminder of the Bornean jungle right outside the air-conditioned malls of BSB, this park will do the trick. You’ll definitely hear the buzzing, chirping and rustling of a rainforest as you walk along the well-marked paths. You can find waterfalls, picnic spots and a menara (tower) with a great view of the city and the greenery.
Culinary Delights: A Gastronomic Journey Through Bandar Seri Begawan’s Flavorful Offerings
In Brunei, rice and noodles are the main foods. You’ll usually get them with fish, chicken or beef, plus coconut milk and chili for flavor. Everything is fried and the food is really spicy. As it’s an Islamic country, all food is halal – so no pork or alcohol. If you want to order food at a restaurant there, it’s useful to know some basic Bruneian words. They’re also handy in Malaysia.
Ambuyat – Ambuyat is a total one-of-a-kind dish in Brunei. It’s got a special taste and look that can surprise visitors. It’s made out of sago, which is a starch found in trees in Borneo. It’s taken from the tree, mixed with water, and becomes a thick, glue-like paste. It was invented during World War II when the Japanese soldiers were rationing food and there wasn’t enough, so locals had to get creative and try eating what was around them.
Nasi Katok – Nasi katok is definitely one of Brunei’s most popular dishes and it’s a great budget meal too. It’s like the unofficial fast-food of the country, and it’s just hot rice, chicken and sambal (a mildly spicy peanut sauce). There’s a cool story behind it too – apparently, the dish was created when a traveler knocked on the door of a restaurant late at night, looking for food.
Nasi Goreng – It’s a simple dish that’s easy to make and really reliable, which is why it’s so popular. It literally translates to “fried rice” and usually comes with shrimp, prawn, egg or chicken. In Brunei, you’ll see lots of different variations of it on menus, and the best part is it’s usually reasonably priced and quick to whip up.
Nasi Lemak – Nasi lemak is a total hit in the Malay Archipelago – a dish made with rice cooked in coconut milk, fried chicken, sambal, peanuts, egg and cucumber. You can get it in restaurants and street markets all over Brunei.
From the captivating history woven into its architectural marvels to the tantalizing flavors that tantalize your taste buds, the city has left an indelible mark on your soul. Take with you the spirit of Brunei, nurtured by the kindness of its people and the richness of its traditions. May the vibrant spirit of Bandar Seri Begawan accompany you on your journeys, inspiring a deeper appreciation for the beauty of our world.
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