Bandar Seri Begawan is the ultra-wealthy and very laidback capital city of the Brunei Darussalam. Despite of the city’s well-publicized wealth accrued by oil money, Bandar Seri has adopted a humble appearance and character, and the locals have been content with it for many years. The capital city features a small center, which lies on the northern bank of Sungai Brunei (the Brunei River). It houses a couple of malls, shopping complexes and restaurants, but none of which are too flashy or grandiose.
It is rare to see a large group of people walking around the downtown area. In fact, there are certain times of the day that the center and its wide, well-cemented streets appear to be like a ghost town. But if you do encounter a local or two they are usually polite, albeit a little shy.
Interesting Fact: It is quite noticeable that there are plenty of foreigners working in the commercial establishments around town. Most of them are Filipinos who are contracted to work for a company for a designated period of time. The large population of Filipinos in the city is most likely the reason why Jollibee, (the biggest fast-food chain in the Philippines), decided to establish a restaurant here.
If you are wondering which structure is the most luxurious and striking; the answer is undoubtedly the King’s Palace, officially called Istana Nurul Iman. Unfortunately, everyday tourists won’t get a chance to see the interior of the palace because the doors remain closed except for three days at the end of Ramadan (Muslim fasting month), during the Hari Raya celebration. But make no mistake Bandar Seri Begawan has a few other surprises and delights of its own to show visitors. These attractions will really impress you and exploring them within a day or two is certainly worth the time and planning. Here are the top things to do while in the Bruneian capital.
1. Go Museum Hopping
Visiting Bandar Seri Begawan is all about discovering the country’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage. These are truly precious treasures of the Bruneians, so they make a point to honor and treasure them by building museums to show off to the world. Some of the most prominent museums include:
- The Royal Regalia Museum: Highlights the magnificence of the Bruneian monarchy. It features some of the Sultan’s most precious possessions such as jewelry, gifts, and the royal regalia.
- The Brunei Museum: Home to the Islamic Art Gallery, the Oil Gas Gallery and the Brunei Traditional Cultural Gallery. This museum is located at 4.5 kilometers east of the city center.