I went to Brunei Darussalam with two of my bestest college friends. We never had any plans of going outside the country that time, but when I saw a good deal of airfare, I just had to ask them if they want to go. When they said YES, we booked right away!
Brunei Darussalam is located south of the Philippines. Even though it is near, Filipinos seldom go there for vacation. Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok are the most-likely cities to be visited by Filipinos for vacation. So when my friends asked why Brunei? I just told them, we should go for the sake that we’ve been there. Something new… Something different…
This trip would probably be the cheapest I have been so far. I got the roundtrip airfare for P2175.00 (using Cebu Pacific Air with a base fare of P488) and hotel accommodation for two nights at The Brunei Hotel for P3815 (agoda.com). We availed a half day city tour for B$55 (borneoguide.com). Taxi to and from the airport costs B$30 one way.
I have read in some other blog that food cost as cheap as B$1 in Brunei, but in my case, our food cost range from B$4-7.
There are no big-ass shopping mall in Brunei so I wasn’t able to buy anything… which is a good thing right?
We arrived 2 in the morning from Manila to Brunei. Talk about Red Eye! The travel is about 2 hours. Despite the unlikely time, we we’re able to get a cab easily and arrived in the hotel in just a few minutes. The cab driver was even nice enough to show us the Mosque on our way there.
We were booked at The Brunei Hotel, which is a three-star hotel. The hotel is very nice, clean, newly renovated and with superb location. By the time we entered the lobby, the concierge knew me by booking name. He was expecting us to arrive…amazing! To my surprise, the staffs there are also Filipinos. It was easy to communicate with them, as we even asked for things to do in Brunei as well as information regarding our city tour.
Upon checking in our room, we slept and woke up around 10:30am. I didn’t get the opportunity to avail the free breakfast as I was more interested to sleep soundly the whole morning in preparation for our half day city tour in the afternoon.
So around lunch, we we’re already prepared and dressed for the day. Good thing a few restaurants are just walking distance to our hotel. We had a good meal.
I knew that the half-day city tour would cover almost all tourist attractions in the area since Brunei is not a big country to begin with. I was very excited to take photos of the Mosque and enter the Royal Regalia Museum since I have read so much about it.
So this is our tour itinerary:
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Royal Regalia Building
Jame Asr’ Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
‘Istana Nurul Iman’, the Royal Palace
Our tour guide, who is also the driver of our trip, was kind enough to let us stop over for souvenirs before dropping us back at the hotel. We didn’t buy any though…haha
One thing very interesting about Brunei is you can cross the streets safely without regard to the traffic light and pedestrian crossing. Our tour guide told us that zebra crossing is okay since cars really intend to stop when someone is crossing the street. Apparently, the criminal penalty in Brunei for those kind of mishaps is crucial.
Around 6pm, we were back at the hotel. Thereafter we went to Gadong, their shopping mall area, using the hotel’s free shuttle. The mall is quite disappointing. It is nothing compared to the malls here in Manila. So to kill the time, we just had dinner there, stroll the grocery for exciting stuffs and chilled at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf until the shuttle would pick us up back to the hotel.
Since the night was still early for us to sleep (that’s around 9pm), we decided to walk to Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque from our hotel which is just a few blocks away. We wanted to take a night photo of the mosque because of its impeccably beautiful lighting.
While we were taking photos, drivers of the cars passing by really stare at us. I mean, they really stare! I guess it is really a shock for them to see three young women in casual clothing out by night taking photos in the streets.
So, thereafter, we want back to the hotel for a good night sleep.
We have nothing scheduled for this day so we slept the who morning. Again, I passed out breakfast since we over-slept. Our plan is originally to go to Kampong Ayer and take a water taxi to tour around the area, then a late room check-out, and drop by The Empire Hotel ans Country Club before going to the airport.
After eating at KFC, we went to Tamuh Kianggeh (market place located at the banks of Kianggeh river), which was just across our hotel. Unfortunately my friends and I decided not to take the water taxi after seeing it. We’re not in the mood to be adventurous that day because the clothes we were wearing are the same clothes we will be wearing going back to Manila.
So we just went back to the hotel, watched television until our check out.
After leaving our luggage in the lobby, the hotel staff helped us get a taxi going to The Empire Hotel and Country Club. The same taxi also picked us up and drop us off the airport. The taxi fare to and from The Empire Hotel cost B$35 one way. It is even more expensive than going to and from the airport.
The Empire Hotel, as I’ve heard, was a 6 or 7 star hotel. I saw their rates in agoda before when I was browsing for a hotel to book. Their rates are not that steep considering their 7-star status. I, however, did not book this hotel simply because of the location. We wanted our hotel somewhere in the city center for better accessibility.
So back to the story… The Empire Hotel was really luxurious. The architecture was a mix of contemporary and Muslim design.
After taking a few photos, we had early dinner at the country club.
So somewhere in between that time, we got really bored. This is the part when we realize, there is really nothing much to do in Brunei. To our consolation, at least we were there for only 2 nights.
We then went back to the hotel, and thereafter, went to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf which is just a few blocks away. We literally killed time waiting for our flight back to Manila. Thanks to our ipods and the free wi-fi that we we’re able to survive the boredom.
So there, around 11pm we went to the airport and went back to Manila!
To my lovely friends Mika and Marta… ‘Till our next trip to Vietnam!!!