In case you did not already know, I am a part-time fitness instructor. And as part of our travels, I had the unique experience of helping open an indoor cycling studio in Brunei. Now you might be asking yourself “Brunei? Huh? Where’s that?!” and you are definitely not alone. It is one of the world’s smallest countries (about the size of Delaware!), located on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Despite its size, it does not lack in wealth. Brunei is an Islamic country where the residents do not pay tax, the gold adorning the mosques and palaces is the real deal and there is a large, lush rainforest.
While you may not be planning your next vacation in Brunei, there might be a chance you have a stopover there on your way to other spots in Southeast Asia. If that is the case, below are a list of activities you should take into consideration while you are there.
Visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
This mosque is absolutely stunning and its gold dome can be seen from many areas of the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan. But if you ask me, it is still worth a closer look. However, be mindful that it is only open to visitors when not being used for prayers. Additionally, you will need to take off your shoes and put on a robe before entering (don’t worry – they have robes you can borrow!)
Visit the Jame’ Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque
Why visit one mosque when you could visit two?! This mosque is a bit outside the center of Bandar Seri Begawan but well worth the short 20-minute drive. Built to commemorate the current reigning Sultan, it is the largest mosque in Brunei. In addition to an opulent interior, 29 golden domes (in honor of the 29th Sultan) adorn the outside.
Explore the Water Village
The water village or “Kampong Ayer” is a collection of buildings built on stilts over the Brunei River. You can access the village via footbridges near Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque or by taking a water taxi from the waterfront. The Kampung Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery explains the history and centuries-old lifestyle of the people who live here, and the friendly residents often open their homes to visitors.
Enjoy a Day Trip to Ulu Temburong National Park
Admittedly, I did not get the chance to visit Temburong while I was in Brunei and I really regret it. As an adventure traveler, I like to get outdoors as much as I can. Plus, given that about 80% of Brunei is virgin rainforest, it begs for exploration! If you do get to go, you will need to book your tour in advance with a guide. Much of the rainforest is off limits so this is not the type of trip you want to do alone. You should expect to pay about $125-180. One of the main attractions of your tour is the canopy walk. But be forewarned that it is not for the faint of heart as it is about 200 feet high!
Get Your Grub on at the Night Market
Brunei is a dry country, so if you’re hoping to spend your evenings pounding back beers at a local bar, you’ll be sadly disappointed. That said, you can bring alcohol into the country as a non-Muslim, so long as you declare it. But if you decide to stay healthy and abstain while there, you can still find a bit of nightlife at the local night market. Wander through the stalls and taste a few dishes. And if you’re feeling adventurous, give durian a try!
Take a Fitness Class!
This is a shameless plug, but since the reason I came to this country was to help open a studio, I had to throw this on here! Plus, if you feel like you need to get some exercise between your long-haul flights, then this is the perfect answer! Check out Elev8 studio and you can take indoor-cycling or resistance training classes from some amazing instructors.