Brunei — A Home Away from Home

It’s the last day of my two week journey on the island of Borneo, and I’ve felt like I’ve done so much, I don’t even know where to begin! 😯

…well, I guess I could just start at the beginning. 😆

On November 11th, my mom and I arrived at the airport in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Nation of Brunei, “The Abode of Peace.” My uncle Vincent picked us up and brought us to where we’d be staying:

(Oops! I had a photo of the house here, but the current owner requested of me to not show any photos of it online for security reasons. Sorry, y’all!)

Ever since I was a child, I’ve visited Brunei every 3-4 years and stayed in this house, which belonged to my dear old grandfather. I have fond memories of walking around the premises, picking up fallen mangoes and coconuts, and enjoying the various other fruit trees around, such as the ones of bananas and rambutans.

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Banana trees, everywhere!

One of my favorite things about this huge island is how fruit just grows freely everywhere.

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One of my relatives asks for help in cutting down a fresh pomelo for us to eat.

But if the fruit you desire isn’t in season, then you can usually find it at the local grocery store. (I also had a photo here, but was asked to remove it.)

Stores here also have unique local treats. One little treasure is a type of small waffle stuffed with various fillings, such as kaya (delicious coconut jam), red bean paste, and/or peanut butter.

Mmmm... freshly cooked waffles :)
Mmmm… freshly cooked waffles 🙂 Notice the tubs of different spreads on the right!

But possibly one of the most beloved places in Brunei might just be the Gadong night market.

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Here, there is a wide variety of local food to choose from – roti beef/mutton/chicken, satay, chicken wings, barbecued/grilled fish, fried kuey teow (literally “stir-fried ricecake strips”), lamb chops, beef steaks, ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken), traditional kueh melayu (sweet pancakes with peanuts, raisins or sugar fillings) and more.

Food is usually only cooked when there’s an order, so it’s nice and hot when served. And the best part? Each dish usually costs only one or two dollars! 😀

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Satay (seasoned, skewered and grilled meat, served with a sauce). 4 sticks for 70 cents ($1 BND)!
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Local sweet and colorful drinks of all kinds.

However, the night market certainly isn’t the only good place for food. I think that the one thing that everyone can agree on here is that the food in Brunei is *delicious*. There’s really no shortage of tasty food everywhere, and my relatives have made absolutely sure that I never go hungry when I come here! 😛

A typical dinner served at home.
A typical dinner served at home. There’s always plenty of choices! 😀
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Dinner with a bunch of my mom’s side of the family at a local restaurant.
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My great aunt Alice, my mom, and me, preparing to eat way more than I should. 😳
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Dinner at Dynasty with another group of extended family, the Ongs! 🙂

After endless eating sessions, it was hard for me to justify just sitting around potating away, so I asked some of my cousins to take me with them on hikes within the local parks.

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Following my trail-blazing cousin Wan Li up one of the more steep and difficult trails in Tasek Lama Park. Reminder to self: don’t wear sandals on a hike.
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View from up high in the Tasek park. In the distance, you can see the newly built Sungai Kebun Bridge across the Brunei river.
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View of downtown when leaving from one of the park’s exits.
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My cousin Greg took me to another park, Bukit Shahbandar Forest, and it also ended up being quite a tiring and sweaty jaunt! 😮

Although forest parks are a great way to experience nature in Brunei, there’s also some nice beach areas around as well. I was lucky enough to be invited to a private party on one with my cousin Nicole, and I had a blast! 😀

Me and my cousin Nicole :)
Me and my cousin Nicole 🙂

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The whole beach crew!
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I love the pastel colors of the sunsets here. Thanks Michelle Wong for the beach photos! 🙂
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Leaving that night, it took us what seemed like forever to get our SUV out of the sand, but everyone pitched in for a massive group effort and we did it! 😛

Other than what I’ve mentioned, and some shopping, there isn’t a whole lot more to do in Brunei for non-Muslims. The Islamic faith has grown to have a very strong foothold here in Brunei, and although many of the archaic news-grabbing Sharia laws aren’t strictly enforced, there are no clubs and bars, as the country is entirely dry.

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The Omar Ali Saifudden Mosque of downtown Bandar, completed in 1958 — probably the most iconic image of Brunei. Regardless of your faith, it’s hard to deny its architectural appeal.
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Nearby, my mom and I stop for a photo along the deserted waterfront of the capital. It’s hard to have bustling nightlife when all there is to do is eat and shop!

However, for those who are interested in computer games, cyber cafes seem to be quite a popular venue for the younger crowd. For just 70cents ($1 BND), you can play any pc game you want for an hour. It’s actually a lot of fun when you’re there playing multi-player games with your friends right next to you!

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The “black ace” internet cafe, recommended by my cousin Nadia. I’ve never been in such a rowdy gaming hall, it was hilarious! 😆

In summary, I’m glad that I made the time to visit Brunei again. It’s always great to see my relatives, and even though they all usually only see me once in a blue moon, everyone is always so nice and welcoming. It’s truly like a home away from home, and I’m very grateful that I got to experience the growth (and sadly, decline) of this country throughout my lifetime.

Would I recommend visiting Brunei for people who don’t have family here? Hmmm… yes, but only if you plan to do a tour of Borneo. I can’t say that Brunei is the best thing about Borneo, because I also visited Sabah, Malaysia on this trip for roughly four days, and even though I’ve been battling a stomach virus ever since, Kota Kinabalu was definitely a more interesting place… but I’ll try to write about that fiasco next! 😛

Thanks for reading, everyone, and if you are enjoying my posts and haven’t subscribed by email yet, please do so by using the signup on the sidebar to the right! 🙂

‘Til we meet again,

– Comrade Brad

2 Comment

  1. Team 5 says: Reply

    We’re enjoying your posts here in Plano! Hey, we have question for you. When picking the last date in mobile ACH when submitting template – just kidding! Enjoy your travels! Team 5

    1. jbradleyporter says: Reply

      LOL, you definitely got me for a second! 😅😆
      Happy to hear from y’all and I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts! 😁👍🏼

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