What do Monkeys and Oil Have in Common? Backpacking Brunei

Getting to the Sultanate of Brunei from Malaysian Borneo requires crossing a thorough customs process which we covered uneventfully. The funny thing is that we thought we were heading to Bandar Seri Begawan (capital city, Bandar for short), but half an hour into the country we were dropped in Kuala Belait, a small town 2 hours from Bandar and no buses to continue because it was after 5 pm. It was as far as we were going that day and as far as you will too (unless you begin your trip really early).

brunei mosque

At the mosque before prayer time

Being an oil wealthy country, there are no hostels or cheap accommodation and we were pretty much forced to stay at a hotel (Hotel Sentosa: spotless, comfortable and with very helpful staff)  which, in a way, was a good opportunity to relax. Food is cheap though, so we had an early dinner in the nearby market and went to sleep soon after.

The roads to the city of the once richest person on Earth are surrounded by oil wells, yet extreme wealth is only noticeable by a few mansions in the outer city limits. Again we had to0 sleep in a hotel but at a better rate, and went for a walk to discover the city.

brunei palace

Campung Ayer

Easily covered in an afternoon, we had a quick cheap eat and hopped on a water taxi that would show us Ayer Campung, a village with 30,000 people that live in houses built on stilts right on the water. Boats are the only method of transportation, and our 39 year old driver told us that 2 of his 12 children had actually born on the boat on the way to the hospital!

The ride also included watching Proboscis monkeys (we saw more here than in Bako, mind you) and views of the Sultan’s Palace. A great 2  hour trip (instead of the 1 hour we payed for) for 20 Brunei Dollars, about 10 euros.

brunei river

Cruising the river

Later in the day we visited the Great Mosque which is a great subject for photography, especially if you’re lucky and skies are clear. We were diligently yet respectfully  requested to leave the premises right before prayer time which of course was no problem for us; the surrounding artificial lake is nice enough as well.

The following day we would headed back into Malaysia, straight to Kota Kinabalu: I was looking forward to climbing this iconic mountain. Did I make it?

Have you visited Brunei? What did you do? Did you go to any interesting places that I missed? Please share this post if you liked it!

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Leave a Reply 12 comments

Camels & Chocolate - November 30, 2011 Reply

I went from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu to fly out, and we (no joke) passed through customs EIGHT times, during which the entire bus had to unload and do a face-to-face every time before we could proceed.

Ayngelina - November 30, 2011 Reply

I have never been there but its definitely a place I would love to go

    maitravelsite - November 30, 2011 Reply

    And you´d love it Ayngelina

dtravelsround - November 29, 2011 Reply

Gah!!I want to see monkey pictures!!

    maitravelsite - November 30, 2011 Reply

    I do have more! 🙂

Nomadic Samuel - November 29, 2011 Reply

I was there about half a year ago. I loved walking around Kampung Ayer – quite the fascinating stilt village.

    maitravelsite - November 30, 2011 Reply

    It is, isn´t it? The boat man told us that one of his children was born on the boat, on the wat to the stilt hospital!

Hogga - November 29, 2011 Reply

Sometimes it’s nice to be forced into a hotel though. We may not do it otherwise and it’s good to relax and have time without others 🙂

    maitravelsite - November 30, 2011 Reply


Stephanie - The Travel Chica - November 28, 2011 Reply

The boat ride would have been the highlight for me.

    maitravelsite - November 30, 2011 Reply

    And it was for me 🙂

maitravelsite - June 12, 2009 Reply

Hi Jamarcus

I enjoyed the stay and it is an interesting stop if you are travelling through Borneo. It is pricey though so I would probably not fly from far away to visit it. In my case I am glad i did stay for a couple of days and would do it again though.


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