Brunei Darussalam, a country with strong Islamic and Malay Culture

Omar Ali Saiffudin Mosque
My city tour to Bandar Sri Begawan (BWN), the capital city of Brunei darussalam, was slightly accidental. I was transit from Jeddah to Surabaya at BWN and my next flight is still 12 hours ahead. My city tour has been arranged by my travel agent and I shall pay about USD 25 for the accomodation and transportation.
Arriving at airport at 9.00 AM, I directly ride a bus to ROyal Orchid Hotel which located near to airport and BWN stadium.
Because it was sunday, the street is almost empty. BWN is neat and clean city with unpredictable weather. Once i got there, it was bright blue sky, but next 2hours was dark cloudy sky.
Royal Orchid Hotel is a hotel with old building (not too old exactly, may be built between 90's era). The hotel is not very large or tall but complete enough. I predict it is ** or *** hotel. Once I got my room, i am searching for internet acces and wow!!!wi-fi is available, free and fast! The room is ok with bathhub bathroom and stadium view.
After cleaned up my self, My next destination is Museums that belong to the His Majesty Sultan Haji Hasannah Bolkiah. I said belong because the islamic artefacts that saved in there are Sultan's private collection.
Royal Orchid Hotel
When I got there, the rain was pouring unexpectedly (remember to bring umbrella when you go there). The building is bit old, and if i might to say, looks dark and creepy (oh hey!!!!which museum isn't look dark and creepy????). One thing that dissapoint me, we are not allowed to bring camera inside, not just in this place but also at next places. So, tough I cant take pictures, I will tell what the contents of the museum.
First thing I saw inside the museum is cover of ka'bah. When I was in Masjidil Haram, I didnt have a chance to look up close to what is really calligraphed on ka'bah cover. After that, I saw Alqur'an collections that consist of biggest Alquran, smallest alquran (that only can see with magnifying glass), and really-really old alqur'an that hand written (one alquran is 1000year old). Then I saw the unique prayer beads collections that made from oak, sandalwood, coca wood, jade, marble, date seeds and many more. The unique one is prayer beads that made of fossilized insects inside each of amber bead.
The next collection is sultan's walking stick collection. As we know, walking sticks were frequently used by prophets, wise men and religius figures at the past.The collections are various and some are got as a gift to Sultan. The unique one is a walking stick engraved with the 99 names of Allah as listed in the Asma Ul-Husna Collection.
Royal Regalia Building
Finish my touring to de museums,I am escorted to the another museums, the Royal Regalia Building. Just like it named, the museums displays a large number of Royal's regalia that inhereted from generation to generation, such as royal chariot, the miniature of the palace, Royal's clothes, traditional weapons such as Taming, spears etc. Once again, we are not allowed to bring camera inside (ah...such a dissapointment!!). Different from previous museums, this one is modern museum with beautifull building. At the corner, we can find souvenir shops with a lot cheaper price (and selled by indonesian people :)). I am not really interested following the tour with boring explanation, so i explore it by my self ;)
This chance I take for chit chat with Indonesian girl whom work as SPG at that souvenir shop. Well, in fact there are some indonesian workers at Brunei. Brunei populations are arround 400,000 which 74% are moslems. In this country which blessed with abundant oil and gas reserves, peoples are enjoying the healthy and stabil economics. Pertamax (gasoline) is only IDR 4,000 per liter or almost 1 dollar brunei for 2 litters, and for solar only IDR 3300. Wow, cheap isn't it?though not less cheap than in Saudi which gasoline only 0,5 SAR per litter or about IDR 1250 per liter and for solar only 1 SAR per 4 litter or only IDR 625 per litter. Hmm...comparing with Indonesia..IDR 10200 per litter for pertamax? (though we are also enriched with oil and gas resources (but different amount)). And don't get wrong, at the normal working days, Brunei also suffer with traffic jam. But I believe not as worse as Jakarta.
BWN overview
Brunei is a country who also England's commonwealth as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia. They protected by England. They also adopt England's law. But don't imagine the environment will be the same as Singapore. No, though it is neat, clean, and well organized, but I still feel the Malayan taste in here. Feels like at the another city in Indonesia, but with more clean and neat environment, just far from modernized and sophisticated country like Singapore.Plus also, there is a lot of tropical forest in there...just like in Kalimantan :)
One more attracting place is of course the landmark of Bandar Sri Begawan, Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah
Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah
Mosque with its golden and eye catching dome. We can almost see this mosque from any eye-sight of the city corner. The beautifull of this mosque is well known untill to Indonesia of course. What tickles me is, In Indonesia I am rarely visit mosque for city tour. Not because of our mosques are not beautifull as that mosque. Name it, we have masjid agung surabaya that believed the biggest mosque in southeastAsia, we have masjid baiturrahman in aceh who also very beautifull, in fact that mosque havent been tourism attraction to the domestic tourist like me. I just feel ashamed that in my own country, I don't care how beautifull mosque is, in another country I visited mosque for tour.Ah yeah, call me ignorant (i only go to nearest mosque to pray). I think the tourism ministry in Brunei put a great effort to sell their tourism (i'll tell at the end of this write).
Floating village
The next famous tourism attraction is floating village. Don't imagine it as slum area adjacent with river! Nope, in fact it is beautifull village. There are arroung 400 people live in there with complete supply of water, electricity, telephone and any other utilities. They work normally as public servant, doctor or any other job, some of fishermans.
Because Brunei is rich country also a monarchy, there is no such income tax in there.Individual isn't subject of tax. Salary will be levied 5% to provident fund but, the employer should pay the same amount with the levied tax. No property tax except if it is used for commercial. Free education and medical treatment. Well, what makes you happier live in there as citizens? The main source of income of Brunei is for exporting oil and gas. Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) is the largest petroleum company in Brunei and the second biggest employer after Brunei Government.Folks in there have a joke because of their blessed of oil, if only their oil resources is running out, they won't worried, they will sell wood, and any other things from their forest, so they will remain rich for very long time (oh yeah, i couldnt agree no more ;)).
My last stop before i back to airport is Latiffudin Complex, a local souvenir shop. I am not recommended to buy any souvenirs in there because the price is almost twice more expensive than in souvenir shop in ROyal Regalia Building. Honestly, I am bit concern with the price of any items in Brunei. When I was in airport, i cant help to wandering arround searching for souvenirs. Turn out, everything is slightly expensive in Brunei (or may be it is just beyond my reach). Parfum, chocolate, a doll, silver even a recycled bag, just beyond the average price. A recycled bag (after a long debate with the seller) is 13 Dollar Brunei or almost IDR 100,000...ah yeah i give up then, I am not buying anything in there. First because i dont exchange my money with Dollar Brunei, two because it is expensive.
By the way I am not recommend to exchange your money at Airport. At the morning, my friend exchange her rupiah to dallar brunei with rate 1 DBR = IDR 8000. At night, she sell her dollar to the same money changer,she got price 1 DBR = IDR 7000..what?????????
Ah ya, some shops in Brunei receive any rupiahs with lower rate than at airport. I recommend you to bring many rupiahs in there.
When I was at Airport, I saw a posters that attracting my curious souls. the poster said that any delayed flight more than 3 hours, or long waiting transits, passanger is encourage to register her/his self to Brunei City tour. No explanation how much it costs but i assume it is free charge. It is just one of creative strategy from their Ministry of tourism. The destinations are almost same with mine. Moreover, at some spot, i also meet a lot of bus carriying 'accidental tourist' from airport.
Well, I also see the same thing in KL and Singapore. I think Jakarta havent had it. I don't blame it, because Jakarta is way too large and crowded for short city tour. Not enough time!!!! But what makes me so amazed is how the packaging this city tour to introduce Brunei's tourism. Honestly I don't see any spot that can impress me in there. The museum is ok, as well as the palace. The mosque is beautifull but so what?it won't enough to attract me to fly over hundreds miles form indonesia with expensive flight ticket. But how i am 'forced' to join city tour because of my long waiting transit time,,thats smart!!
So, that s my impression of Brunei, a very wealth country with ok tourism attraction :)
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