Jul 16, 2012 / 5:00 am
Brunei is a pint-sized yet excessively wealthy oil-rich sultanate with a population of just over 400,000. A small yet wealthy country surrounded by Malaysia, Brunei attributes is wealth and riches to the oil and gas industry. The Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the richest people in the world with an estimated personal wealth of around 40 billion dollars and his government provides for all medical services and subsidizes housing for its citizens. The country is also home to The Istana Nurul Iman -the world’s largest residential palace. This 300-acre palace sits on a man made hill, is the residence of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the palace is quoted to have an estimated value at US$600 million. Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with many large mosques across the country. Sale and consumption of alcohol is banned as is meat (other than seafood) which has not been certified "halal" (slaughtered according to Islamic law).
This small country is made up of 4 districts: Brunei and Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong. The climate is semi-tropical, with a temperature range from 14°C to 33°C - January being the hottest month. Rainy season is always mild and humid, followed by a hot and humid dry season. The difference between the two seasons however is not that noticeable. There are no typhoons, earthquakes, severe flooding or other forms of natural disasters to contend with, and the biggest environmental issue is the seasonal haze that results from illegal land clearing by man-made forest fire's in Indonesia.
Among the hundreds of activities and places to visit in this small country, there are 5 main tourist attraction that bring droves of tourists each year to view:
1) ULU TEMBURONG NATIONAL PARK - Brunei's first national park is located south of the Temburong district, covering 550 square kilometres of the Temburong forest. The national park has a scientific research centre facility, the Kuala Belalong Rainforest Field Studies Centre, which is only accessible by boat. The Temburong District itself is rich in unspoiled natural heritage. The National Park is one of the world's best kept rainforest and has one of the highest levels of bio-diversity. The remote destination is disconnected from the digital world. There is no television, no mobile reception and no Internet. The goal is to reduce the number of people that have 'lost' the human connection with one another and nature. The concept here is to create an environment of zero "distractions" and allow guests to use this valuable time to reconnect with oneself, one another, and the earth's natural wonders. There is a wide selection of activities such as trekking, bird-watching, team building, kayaking, flora and fauna discovery or simply sitting back and relaxing.
2) ROYAL REGALIA - One of the most culturally significant places is the Royal Regalia Museum. Located at the heart of the capital this museum was constructed in 1992 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of His Majesty of Brunei. Containing a vast and fascinating collection of items of Brunei royal dynasty, the Royal Regalia Museum is a must visit. The Royal Regalia houses a large number of articles related to the sultan and the royal family, displays the royal chariot, the jewelled crowns of the sultans that are used during the ceremony of coronation, a replica of the sultan's throne, the armoury in gold and silver etc. Besides the royal collection, an annual exhibition is held to give a full representation of the history of Brunei's constitution. The Royal Regalia Museum reflects the royal, historical, cultural and the political aspects of the country of Brunei.
3) KAMPONG AYER - One of the main tourist attraction of Brunei is an old settlement area called "Kampong Ayer". Dubbed as The Venice of the East, Kampong Ayer is one of the oldest and yet functional settlement area's in the asian region. Kampong Ayer means "Water Village" and is the biggest settlement ever built on water. Most of the houses there are made of wood however some have given some modern touches to their houses such as concrete. The houses are connected by a network of bridges they call "Jambatan". From a distance the water village looks like a slum. But it actually enjoys many modern amenities including air conditioning, satellite television, Internet access, plumbing, and electricity. Some of the residents keep potted plants and chickens. The district has a unique architectural heritage no tourist should miss a visit to.
4) JERUDONG PARK - a huge amusement park located in Jerudong. The amusement park is the gift of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah to the people of Brunei to mark His Majesty's 48th birthday in 1994. From 1994 and 2000, the public in Brunei got free admission to the amusement park although this is no longer available. Many of the rides are out of order due to spare parts issue. Still, visitors can wander around and guests often come here for picnic trips, field trips, or just to stroll around and see the beautiful park. Kids can enjoy kiddie rides, bumper cars, roller coasters, and many other kinds of rides to be enjoyed by people of all ages. There are also available boat rides where you can roam around the lake-like area inside the park. The park itself is incredibly spacious where visitors can enjoy comfort and ease while experiencing the park's famous unique beauty.
5) SULTAN OMAR SAIFUDDIN MOSQUE - a royal Islamic Mosque is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific area and a major landmark and tourist attraction of Brunei. The mosque as a symbol of the Islamic faith in Brunei and dominates the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan. The building was completed in 1958 and is an example of modern Islamic architecture. The mosque is built in an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River at Kampong Ayer, the "village in the water". It has marble minarets and golden domes with courtyards and lush gardens full of fountains. The mosque is surrounded by a large number of trees and floral gardens which in Islam symbolize heaven. A bridge reaches across the lagoon to Kampong Ayer in the middle of the river. Another marble bridge leads to a structure in the lagoon meant as a replica of a 16th Century Sultan Bolkiah mahligai barge. The Mosque's most recognizable feature, the main dome, is covered in pure gold. The mosque stands 52 m (171 ft) high and has an elevator to the top, where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The interior of the mosque is for prayer only. It has magnificent stained glass windows, arches, semi-domes and marble columns. Nearly all the material used for the building has been imported from abroad: the marble from Italy, the granite from Shanghai, the crystal chandeliers from England and the carpets from Saudi Arabia.
For more information on getting to Brunei, along with the variety of accommodation options, make an appointment to see your Travel Agent.
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