June 10

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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    1. 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!

  1. 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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