It may still be a lesser-known Southeast Asian destination, but Brunei is seeing a steady, slow growth in cruising. Muara Port gives cruise visitors a warm, traditional welcome when they arrive at Muara Port on Brunei Bay. Take a mosque tour of Bandar Seri Begawan to see the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, which is within easy walking distance of the Royal Regalia Museum. The mosque is a spectacular sight with its mix of Mughal architecture and Italian styles. It was completed in 1958 and is named after Omar Ali Sai_ udein III, the 30th Sultan of Brunei. At the Royal Regalia Museum, visitors can find ceremonial dresses and artifacts that belonged to the country’s former royals as well as many lavish gifts that the Sultan has received from overseas official visitors, displayed in galleries overlooking his elaborate coronation chariot. Not far from the Sultan’s palace is the largest mosque in Brunei, Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. Its interior is elegant and its centre piece is a Swarovski crystal chandelier weighing three tonnes. Take a motorboat to a water village across the bay from the city centre. Locals have lived here for generations in houses built on stilts and connected by timber walkways. Schools and mosques, police and fire stations are part of each village and some homes welcome tour groups with cakes and drinks.
PLACES TO STAY
Brunei only has about 2,500 hotel rooms spread among 30 establishments ranging from guesthouses to the super-luxurious hotels. The best places to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan include the Rizqun International Hotel. It only has three and a half stars, but is conveniently located close to malls, restaurants and supermarkets. For a more luxurious stay, there is the four-and-a-half star Capital Residence Suites on the edge of central Bandar, or the Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam. One of the most attractive properties is the seven-star Empire Hotel and Country Club, which is about 20km from the centre of Bandar on the South China Sea in Kampong Jerudong. It is Brunei’s most prestigious beach resort and features a 12-storey marble and gold lobby, 180 hectares of manicured gardens and an 18-hole golf course.
Who goes there: Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Silversea, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Seabourn.
Best for: Culture buffs and nature lovers.
Getting around: The best way to see the town and nearby attractions is with a tour. There is no taxi rank at the port and it’s a 20 minute walk to the nearest bus stop. Water taxis are available at the water front in Bandar.