Brunei’s Hidden Gems

As far as travel in South East Asia is concerned, Brunei is often overlooked due to a lack of cheap backpacking options and a perceived lack of tourist attractions. However, if you have a curiosity for the country, and a willingness to meet and greet regular Bruneians, then a trip across the water to this tiny oil-rich kingdom in Northern Borneo (sandwiched between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak) should be on your bucket list. As well as the famous mosques and water towns of the capital Bander Seri Begawan, there are also some other highlights you should seek out if you are lucky enough to spend more time in the country.

JERUDONG PARK

Once the largest and most expensive theme park in SE Asia, Jerudong Park is not quite what it was, but that fact is now part of its charm! It has a great history (including concerts by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston) with many of the classic theme park rides still standing. It is especially nice for children to enjoy the playground and carousel in the hot weather, although clearly don’t expect an experience comparable to Hong Kong Disneyland…

GADONG NIGHT MARKET

Although Brunei doesn’t have much of a street food scene, I was pleasantly surprised with what was on offer at Gadong Night Market in the capital. From fresh fruit and cooked meats (satay) to cheap accessories and clothing items, you can find it all here at Gadong Night Market, and because it is usually open from around 4pm to midnight, you can enjoy extra special ambience in the hot and humid darkness!

BILLIONTH BARREL MONUMENT

Designed by a local architect in 1991, this grand monument represents the 1,000,000,000th barrel of oil that was produced in the Seria Oil Field in northern Brunei. If you can make it this far to look around the area, then this monument will strike you as get closer. It is also possible to check out first hand parts of the oil fields themselves on guided tours. Since the 1920s, Brunei has been fortunate enough to have one of the world’s largest oil reserves, and this is why much of the country is so rich (although obviously poverty still exists).

Proboscis Monkey relaxing in Ulu Temburong

ULU TEMBURONG NATIONAL PARK

This was one of the first times I ever set foot in the tropical rainforest – and what better a place than Ulu Temburong! Wherever you go in Bandar Seri Begawan, you can be sure of vendors trying to sell you a day trip the park (a few hours outside of city limits, including boat trips upriver) so there will always be plenty of tourists accompanying you as you trek into the jungle. Ulu Temburong is a great place to spot the Proboscis Monkey and orangutans.

BRUNEI MARITIME MUSEUM

This newly opened museum in Kota Baru is a great example of Bruneian history, separated into 3 distinct galleries. I always enjoy harking back to the good old days of maritime supremacy in SE Asia, and I was surprised to learn that Brunei has a rich history on the sea. The Maritime Museum is also fairly close the Malay Design Museum, so you can hit two birds with one stone!

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