Brunei is a country with plenty to offer tourists, from comfortable beaches and untouched natural areas to markets selling unusual souvenirs. And despite its conservative nature, the government has opened its mosques to non-Muslim visitors outside prayer time.
Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is one of the most popular attractions in Brunei Darussalam. It is the largest mosque in the country and can accommodate 5,000 worshipers at a time.
1. Ulu Temburong National Park
Known as the ‘Green Jewel of Brunei’, the Ulu Temburong National Park is a huge area of protected rainforest in eastern Brunei. It’s home to a wealth of wildlife, including the Muller’s Bornean gibbon and several hornbill species.
But it’s the forest itself that makes this place so special. The forests that make up Ulu Temburong National Park are lowland dipterocarp, a type of jungle found throughout much of South East Asia.
The best way to experience the park is through a guided day trip. It can be taken from Bandar Seri Begawan or Bangar, and includes a boat journey along the river and some hiking in the rainforest.
One of the highlights is a canopy walk, where you can see the entire jungle from a 50m high platform. You can even peer down into the forest and look at the rare medicinal plants.
2. Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
The Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is the largest mosque in Brunei, and one of its most iconic. Commissioned by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in 1994, it was completed to commemorate his 25th year as sultan.
The building is 58 meters (190 ft) high and the 29 domes and four minarets stand tall in awe-inspiring style. This mosque is a true work of art and is a must-visit if you’re in Brunei!
Inside, the prayer hall is awe-inspiring with spectacular stain-glass windows and crystal chandeliers. The Mihrab (altar) is carved out of black marble with a Quranic inscription and golden mosaics.
The Qibla wall is also adorned with gold mosaics and flower and vegetal motifs. It is the most important part of the mosque and the focal point of prayer.
3. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
One of the country’s two masjid negara, or national mosques (the other being Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque), Omar Ali Saifuddien is one of Brunei’s most iconic landmarks and a popular tourist attraction. Located in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei Darussalam, Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is an architectural masterpiece that unites Mughal architecture and Malay styles.
- Built in an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River, Omar Ali Saifuddien’s main feature is its gold dome – a reflection of the shimmering water. The mosque is surrounded by gardens and features marble minarets, a courtyard, and a ceremonial stone barge in the water.
- The dome is a spectacular sight at night when it sparkles in the light of twilight, resembling a dream-like Van Gogh painting. The building is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting the Sultanate of Brunei.
- While the mosque may not be as large as the Jame’ Asr Hassanilbolkiah Mosque, it is still a must-visit for travelers to Bandar Seri Begawan. The gold dome is easily recognizable, and the structure’s location on the bank of the Brunei River makes it an exclamation point above the city’s skyline.
4. Kampong Ayer
Kampong Ayer, or 'Water Village' as it is known locally, is the largest floating settlement in the world and an extraordinary sight to behold. Founded at least a thousand years ago, the picturesque village of stilts sits right in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan and is separated from the city center by the Brunei River.
The entire settlement is connected by a network of over 38 kilometers of stilt walkways that twist and turn between houses, bridges, and jetties. The total length of these walkways is a testament to the incredible construction that Kampong Ayer is famous for.
Residents of Kampong Ayer live in a mix of squatter homes and traditional timber-style buildings. The houses are painted sun-bleached hues of green, blue, pink and yellow.
Most people who live in Kampong Ayer commute by boat to the city center to work or shop, and they can be seen crisscrossing the river at all hours of the day. However, there are also affluent locals who live in the area, and they use their luxury cars to get around.