The best things to do in Bandar seri Begawan

The Best Things to Do In Bandar Seri Begawan – Brunei

We are in the capital of Brunei.  Bandar Seri Begawan – or BSB – and we just have a day here.  You’ll find Brunei expensive compared to other countries in South East Asia, so you’ll want to make the most of your time here.  We had just 24 hours in BSB and here’s how we made the most of it. Here’s a great one-day itinerary for Bandar Seri Begawan and the best things to do in Brunei’s capital city.



Proboscis Monkey

Get up close to Proboscis Monkey in Brunei

This is an amazing opportunity to get close tothe wild Proboscis Monkey in Bandar Seri Begawan and all from the capital city.

One of the first things I’ve learned when traveling is that if you have a short period of time somewhere, then the first thing you need to do is plan how you will leave. Then you know exactly how long you have to explore. And so the first thing we did in Brunei was to figure out how we were leaving.

Our plan was to go from Brunei to Miri < read about that here. And you can also see what there is to do in Miri here.

What to See in Bandar Seri Begawan in One Day

There is plenty to keep you occupied for 24 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan. The main attractions are all within the center and are easy to walk to.   You’ll also find a selection of cheap eats in the city center as well as more expensive options.  Alcohol is, though, banned in the kingdom.

Visit Brunei’s Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

First stop, the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque, but just from the outside quickly.  Each time we approached the mosque there was a sign up saying that prayers were in progress.

Brunei's Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

So as that dark cloud you see over the pictures got darker and much wetter, we hurried off to the Royal Regalia Museum.

The Royal Regalia Museum, Bandar Seri Begawan

It’s less than a 10-minute walk from the Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque to the free-to-enter Royal Regalia Museum where we have to remove our shoes.  You don’t need to do this if you are an official guest or a dude in a suit it appears, the dirt on their shoes is obviously of a different type.  We leave our cameras and mobile phone in a locker (key and lock provided) at the registration desk. We also left out daypacks there. The lockers are big enough to get 2 x 12-liter packs in.

It’s a huge building, with the mission to show off the customs and regalia surrounding the Sultanate. There’s also a sub-exhibition on how Brunei got to independence.  This is very dry indeed, but does contain some nuggets of historic information and seemingly a copy of every document ever produced in the process.  There are dioramas galore showing the various accouterments used in processions.

Royal Gifts in the Royal Regalia Museum

But what we’re here for really is to see the collection of gifts given to the Sultan over the years, especially what Queen Elizabeth gave him.  It’s described by Lonely Planet as a beer mug. We’re intrigued.

Brunei is a strict Islamic state. Alcohol is banned.  Foreigners can obtain a permit and bring some in, but because of the alcohol rules we’re intrigued by the “beer mug” gift

It turns out that it’s an engraved glass bowl of gigantic proportions. not a beer mug. It also turns out it’s high up on the taste status in comparison to some other gifts. I’m guessing from some of these gifts, that the “I donated to charity in your name” or the “I sponsored this Orang Utan for you” type of gift doesn’t work with heads of state.  It seems though, that a model of a building, mosque or weapon encrusted in gold does.

We spent about 90 minutes in the Royal Regalia Museum. Probably about 30 minutes too long, but by then we were on a mission to finish it. Next time you’re looking for a gift for the Sultan of Brunei however, I’d suggest a voucher for an electrician for a couple of days. Then they can fix all the video’s and lights that are “out of order”, which seriously detract from the whole experience.

In Brunei take a Boat Trip to Pulau Ranggu & Kampong Ayer

At 17:15, we find ourselves at the waterfront standing around looking for a boatman. We wanted to see the Kampong Ayer – the world’s largest water village.  Plus we wanted to  head up towards an island in the river called Pulau Ranggu.  There we’d see if we could spot any Proboscis Monkeys. It took less than a minute and we were off, skipping off to the east quickly past the houses on stilts.

Boat Trip to Pulau Ranggu & Kampong Ayer

We head past the palace on our right, which is more like a Vegas style convention centre.  Then we keep going, slowing occasionally as our boatman tries to find us some monkey’s.

Pulau Ranggu, Bandar Seri Begawan

It’s rather magical. There’s just us and our boatman as we sit with the engine off touching the bank of the river, just watching the Proboscis Monkeys ignore us and get on with their life, with the sounds of the rainforest all around us.

Pulau Ranggu, Bandar Seri Begawan

It’s peaceful until a boat of perhaps 40 people arrives. They’re all brightly attired in Orange life vests and selfie sticks. The monkey’s have clearly seen it all before.

Pulau Ranggu, Brunei

And heard it too, as they mostly ignore the intrusion much more gracefully than I do. It appears this boat can’t enjoy the wildlife without exclaiming over it, although I’m not sure what shrieks are supposed to add to the occasion.

Probocis Monkey Brunei

Finally they move off, selfies taken, shrieks fading into the distance as the daylight goes with them and so we head back towards BSB.

Pulau Ranggu Probocis Monkey

Now our boatman has his torch out and he’s spotting crocs for us. Now it’s me shrieking, at the speed of them as they dart away from the boat.

We spot the red reflection of their eyes in the torch light first.

This has been so incredible and unexpected, it’s like our own private rainforest.

Pulau Ranggu Private Tour
Sunset Pulau Ranggu

Kampung Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan

Heading back to the city, we motor through the water villages. Kampung Ayer houses some 20,000 people in a series of connected water villages – a hundred years ago more than 50% of Brunei’s population lived here – and there are some pretty fancy houses that we go past, lit up now in the dark. There are schools here, mosques, police, and fire stations. These houses on stilts have been here for centuries – an early traveler dubbed them the Venice of the East.

Kampung Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan

Perhaps not, but we’ve enjoyed our extensive viewing of them.

Brunei's Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque at Night

It’s been a bargain trip on the water – B$40 for the both of us for 2 hours 30 minutes of monkeys, crocs, and stilt houses. We’d have dearly loved to have headed to the pristine rainforest that is Ulu Temburong National Park, further into Brunei, but this is a budget visit, so we take a budget dinner at the DeRoyal Cafe and head to bed, for tomorrow we head back to Malaysia.

Where to Stay in Bandar Seri Begawan

There are a host of places to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan, mid-range places to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan, and budget accommodation in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Radisson Hotel Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan: The Radisson Hotel Brunei is a four-star hotel in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan. All rooms at the Radisson Hotel Brunei include amenities to ensure a good night’s sleep. Enjoy your visit, knowing that certain rooms at this top Bandar Seri Begawan hotel offer air conditioning and free internet access to keep you connected. Daily newspapers, television, and cable TV are provided in certain rooms. Don’t worry about being thirsty since some guestrooms have a refrigerator, a coffee or tea maker, bottled water, and a mini bar. This luxury Bandar Seri Begawan hotel, the Radisson Hotel Brunei also offers both continental and buffet breakfast choices. It is a lovely place to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan. Check availability here.

The Capital Residence Suite, Bandar Seri Begawan: The Capital Residence Suite is conveniently located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan. Some rooms at this mid-range hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan, the Capital Residence Suite include air conditioning and blackout curtains for your comfort. You will also find in-room entertainment options in selected rooms, including cable TV and television. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout your stay at this great hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. Some rooms provide bottled water, a refrigerator, a coffee or tea maker, instant coffee, and instant tea. The hotel offers a hair dryer, toiletries, and towels in selected rooms as it values customer satisfaction. And while you’re here, enjoy the delectable continental breakfast. The Capital Residence Suite is an excellent choice to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan. See room rates here.

Qing Yun Resthouse Bandar, Bandar Seri Begawan: The Qing Yun Resthouse Bandar is conveniently situated in the Kota Batu part of Bandar Seri Begawan. Some of the budget Qing Yun Resthouse Bandar hotel rooms include air conditioning for a more comfortable stay. You can also rest assured that some rooms at this budget Bandar Seri Begawan hotel have a coffee or tea maker available. Some of the guest facilities also have a hairdryer and towels available so that you may stay clean and fresh. Stay connected with complimentary internet access during your stay. Additionally, there is a strict no-smoking policy anywhere in this budget Brunei hotel. The Qing Yun Resthouse is a great place to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan. Read more reviews of Qing Yun Resthouse Bandar here.

Travel Tips for Exploring Brunei

Final Words on Spending one Day in Bandar Seri Begawan

The capital city of Brunei is often visited on a route across Borneo. Perhaps from Labuan to Brunei and then on from Brunei to Miri. We had an interesting one day here, taking a private tour of Pulau Ranggu and Kampong Ayer as well as exploring the Royal Regalia Museum and seeing the mosque. It’s a great place to visit and a perfect one day itinerary.

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