Break From the Law travel blog

Welcome to Brunei! Sign on road shortly after overland border crossing into...

Government building in BSB.

Exterior of Royal Regalia Museum, which we plan to visit tomorrow.

Many of the signs contained both the Latin and Arabic script with...

View of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque from waterfront.

Banner with Sultan's picture at shopping mall.

Giant picture on mall featuring Sultan.

Giant picture featuring the Sultan.

Sultan is depicted on all of the currency in Brunei.

Giant portrait of the Sultan, close up.

Omar Ali Suffidien Mosque.

Minaret of Omar al Sufidien Mosque in front of building built in...

Frontal view of Omar al Saifuddien Mosque.

Side view of Omar Al Suffiddien Mosque.

Side view of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

Houses in water village adjacent to Omar ali Suffiddien Mosque.

Wooden walkway through water village adjacent to Omar al Suffiddien Mosque.

View of house in water village next to Omar Ali Suffidien Mosque.

Street decorations in BSB.

Open air market near our hotel.

Outdoor market near our hotel.

Open air market near our hotel

Our chartered boat & its driver for evening cruise on Brunei River...

Houses on floating village.

House & adjacent dock in floating village.

House & adjacent dock in floating village.

Floating village as viewed during our boat ride

Floating village as viewed during our boat ride

Floating village

Wooden walkways connect different parts of the floating villages together

View of floating village

Life on the Brunei River in floating village

View of floating village

Floating village

Electricity poles virtually encircle the floating village.

Floating village

Many of the houses in the floating village were quite colorful.

Floating village

Floating village

Floating village

Floating village

View from our seats cruising past Floating Village. Compared to many boats...

Houses in floating village

Houses in floating village

Houses in floating village

Houses in floating village

Houses in floating village

Mosque on stilts in floating village

View of BSB & Omar Ali Saiffuddien Mosque from boat on river

The riverfront quickly grew quite wild in character, and no traces of...

Me on Brunei River.

Vikki on the Brunei River.

Our boat driver

View of dock to Sultan's palace on Brunei River. We could see...

Sunset on Brunei River

Sunset on Brunei River

Sunset on Brunei River

Sunset on Brunei River

Sunset on Brunei River

Sunset on Brunei River

Nightfall quickly approaching on Brunei River

After the boat ride around the floating villages, we returned to central...

Central BSB at night

Central BSB at night

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, lit up at night

As Brunei prohibits the sale of alcohol, we had to settle for...




It is around 11 p.m., and I am writing this entry from the common area of the Terrace Hotel in the city of Bandar Seri Begawan, called “BSB” by nearly everyone. BSB is the capital of Brunei, the tiny oil rich sultanate lodged along Borneo‘s coast in 2 separate pieces bordering the Malaysian state of Sarawak. We are actually en route to Indonesia, but opted to make a 2 day stopover here to see firsthand this tiny country.

Getting to BSB from Miri proved easy. This morning a jeep picked us up from our guesthouse in Miri and shuttled us to Brunei. As the bus connections between Miri and BSB are poor, an enterprising Malaysian Chinese father and son have an informal business whereby they shuttle passengers daily between the 2 cities. Today we were the only passengers, so we had the car all to ourselves.

Miri lies only about half an hour from the border, and we easily cleared the border within minutes. As the sale of alcohol is prohibited in Brunei, Brunei’s immigration officer asked us only if we had any alcohol to declare, and, receiving an answer in the negative, stamped us through. One immediate change we noticed was the new presence of the Arabic script alongside the Latin alphabet on many of the official signs along the road. The drive to BSB from Miri struck me as rather unremarkable. Even if it had been an amazing road trip, however, I honestly wouldn’t have noticed, as I wound up napping through about three quarters of the drive inside Brunei. Finally, less than 3 hours after leaving Miri, we arrived in the outskirts of BSB.

After settling into our room at the Terrace Hotel near BSB’s center, we headed out to check out the city. BSB does not feel like a capital city. It is small, and for an oil rich sultanate, it does not have scores of modern buildings flaunting the national wealth derived from petroleum exports. Compared to neighboring Malaysia, the architecture here has a decidedly more Islamic tilt, with a number of the government buildings reflecting Islamic architectural styles.

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, along with the grassy mall immediately in front of it, dominates the city center and is the tallest building here. The mall contains a giant portrait of Brunei’s sultan, much larger even than Mao’s portrait hanging on the entrance to Beijing’s Forbidden City. Giant almost comical portraits seem to be a standard hallmark of absolute rulers, and it is hard to miss it here on the mall. We visited the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, which is quite beautiful and lies adjacent to the Kedayan River. While the interior of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is nice, the outside and mosque grounds turned out to be far more stunning visually.

The boat tour we took of the Kampong Ayer in the late afternoon proved to be even more interesting. Some 28 villages with around 30,000 residents, collectively referred to as the Kampong Ayer, have been built entirely on the water directly across the Brunei River from the center of BSB. Here life seems to occur completely on the water, with walkways made of wooden planks connecting the houses and shops to one another. Sunset out on the water while riding among the various villages of the Kampong Ayer proved to be today's highlight, as we experienced a spectacular final Bornean sunset while out on the lake before returning to shore. We topped the boat cruise off with mocktails at a restaurant on the waterfront before strolling back to our hotel. Nightlife here is quiet, not surprising given the fact that alcohol cannot be sold here - although it can be consumed by non-Muslims.

Tomorrow evening we will be flying from Brunei to Kuala Lumpur before we catch a flight to Manado the day after tomorrow, but we will try to see a number of the tourists highlights around BSB before we fly out of the country tomorrow night.

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