ruffeecola in brunei

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going to Brunei

Travel Date: April 20 - 21, 2010

Have you even wondered what Brunei looks like? From old times, I knew that Brunei is a very rich country - I was thinking of gold is everywhere.

Then came the Chun invasion, he is a Taiwanese popular actor and singer (member of Fahrenheit) who was born is Brunei but a graduate of Business Administration in Melbourne, Australia. (Reference: I thought of seeing the place where he was born.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Flights to Brunei

Royal Brunei Airlines ( almost run a daily flight from Manila to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the fare is from 12,500 to 25,000php.

Another cheaper option is to treat Brunei as a side trip in your Kota Kinabalu (KK) itinerary. You can either take Malaysia Airlines ( or Air Asia ( from KK.

My Flight

Flight from KK to BSB almost took less than 45 minutes. During the flight, I have been given the Arrival Card Information and Health Card declaration - you should be completing these cards prior to the landing. Before I reached the Immigration counter, I was welcomed by three ladies and submitted to then the Health card. As part of the ASEAN, Philippines passport holders does not need VISA and can stay as tourist in Brunei for 14 days.

After the Immigration, you will immediately notice the Foreign Money Exchange counter on the left hand-side. (Tip: You should have decided as to how much you will spend for the trip. Also, the foreign exchange service from Brunei Dollars back to Peso is available in all SM Malls.)

Beyond the exit point is the waiting area for the drivers of the airport transport and cabs. I’m not able to find my name from them, but tried to ask them on who knew the driver from Jubilee Hotel. And viola! I was able to find him. (He is making chika with other drivers.)

While waiting for the other travelers, I looked for the Tourism Booth where I took a map and few magazines on what to see on Brunei or Sabah. We were only three persons who were picked-up going to the hotel.

On the road, we passed by Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, their night market, and Pusat Belia (cheaper dormitory for students and travelers). I noticed that there are only few buses (service is from 6am - 6pm) and read somewhere that only 40 taxis are operating in BSB. I have a seen a number of Mazda 5 on the road.

The weather is gloomy, cloudy at times. Trees and plants are everywhere.

Staying at Jubilee Hotel

The hotel ( is almost less than 15 minutes away from the BSB airport. Booking it online is just so easy and they are very quick in answering my inquiries about their hotel. They do accept credit cards upon check-out and cash upon check-in. Their staff can speak good English and others are also Filipino so you can speak with them in Tagalog.

The complimentary breakfast is being serve at Room 601. The ground and first floor are commercial establishments. There is a Thai Restaurant and Mini Mart (a store like 7/11 but is open only until 10pm) near the hotel lobby. Computer shop (internet costs 1BND for 1 hour) and health center (spa or massage service) can be found at the upper ground floor.

I paid 70BND (roughly 2300php) for a Standard Room. It includes the hotel-airport transport, complimentary breakfast, private bathroom (with bath tub, hot/cold water and soap), mini fridge, spacious closet (with hangers), telephone and a television (less than 5 channels).

Extended checkout is also available for free until 4pm but is subject to room’s availability.
The beddings, pillows and towels are clean. (Good thing I have not seen an insect or cockroach in my room). But you can’t also deny the fact that the hotel also aged over the years. The carpet is old but I guess clean, there are few stains in the curtains and bathroom tiles.

Upon entering Room 410, it has it’s own small hallway. The left door if for the spacious private bathroom.

While there is a separate door (can also be lock) for the actual bedroom.

Roaming Around - Late Afternoon

After I settled my things on the hotel, I immediately grabbed my map, focus on my sense of direction asked the front desk to guide me on how can I reach the Mosque and started walking.

From Jubilee Hotel, you will see a Chinese temple, a commercial building that holds the Microsoft Office, a small clock tower (which is a very helpful landmark), a radio television station and outdoor stadium. Finally after crossing multiple roads I reached the Mosque.

Clock Tower

The traffic lights are definitely working for the cars, but the pedestrian light indicator, most of which are not working. In cases that it was working, it only allowed me to cross a huge road for less than 18 sec, so I have to run while crossing. You have to be careful on crossing within an intersection area, if you are not familiar on the change of the traffic direction, you have to be observant on where do the cars came from and on which direction they are heading to.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is a beautiful, covering a huge area of land and man-made water. I did not bother to go inside the mosque but took few photos from outside. I tried to walk around its perimeter to have a 360 degree view of the building. At dusk, the prayer from the mosque echoes through out the city center.

I thought of Brunei as a very rich country and seeing the Mosque as a reflection on how rich their culture. But as I turn my camera just across the mosque, I saw a part of the water village that is not just of what I expected. No need to say more - same as other countries (simply like us), the difference of how people live is also visible.

Nearby the mosque, is the Yayasan Complex. I visited few clothing lines, a souvenir shop (where I bought postcards), until I bumped to our very own Jollibee.
After being warned by the Filipinos I met on the Souvenir Shop, I immediately bought my dinner and head back to the hotel. Don’t worry as the streets from Yayasan Complex to Jubilee Hotel are well lighted, but you have to always be careful especially when traveling alone on a foreign land.

Roaming Around - Early Morning

After taking my breakfast, I’m now ready to visit my next destination - Post Office. I do not visit post offices in Manila, but I make it a point to send out postcards when in a foreign land. This is one way of collecting stamps on the places I have visited, and also sending out my regards to friends abroad and to my sister. Good thing that they have also an exhibit on the stamps they produced over the years.

Few blocks away is the Royal Regalia Museum. Slippers or shoes are not allowed inside (better yet wear socks so you will not feel the coldness of the marble floor ). Also, your bag, camera and camera phones will be requested to be left at their baggage bins. You can take your other valuables with you like passport or wallet.
Royal Regalia Museum
Address: Address Jalan Sultan, town centre, Town Centre
Phone: +673 222 8358; admission free
Schedule: 08:30-17:00 Sun-Thu, 09:00-11:30 & 14:30-17:00 Fri

What to see in the Museum? The list of the Sultans that head and govern Brunei. All the accessories used during the current Sultan’s coronation - from the clothes, shoes, head dress that the guards used, to the swords and different colored umbrellas that were carried, the gongs (drums) that were played and the actual chariots that were used on his coronation (1968) and his Silver Jubilee (1992).

Where is the Philippines in their Museum? I have not seen a jeepney, but found 2 gifts from us: a box made of capiz (not sure if it something like a jewelry box) with the Philippine Presidential Seal from Pres. Gloria Arroyo and a three-feet long wooden (serene) carved sword case from Pres. Cory Aquino.
On a wall, is a framed signatures of the presidents participated in the APEC Summit that held in Brunei and Australia - both were signed by Pres. Joseph Estrada.

1992 was the Sultan’s Silver Jubilee celebration, this was attended by Pres. Fidel Ramos and First Lady Ming Ramos. Their photos were very visible during the event.

After getting back my things and shoes, I have decided to go back to the hotel to take a rest and prepare for my departure in the afternoon.

Unexpected City Tour in 15 minutes

Upon leaving the hotel for my flight back to KK, I was joined by the other 2 hotel guests that requested to be dropped off to Muzium Brunei. It was located on the opposite direction of the city and off-road to the airport, at first I’m afraid that I maybe late on my flight, but it turned out to be a good journey. During this few minutes on the road, I suddenly had an unplanned city tour. I’m able to have a quick chat with the driver, and what I learned from this?
  • The only product of Brunei is oil.
  • The long structures on Kampung Ayer are schools. Each water village has it’s own school.
  • Across the Chinese Temple, walk a little further and you will see the day market.
  • When you go further the Museum, you will see another day market and behind it is a Catholic Church.
  • The Parliament Building is painted with white and has a blue dome - looks like another mosque.
  • Nearby the Parliament Building is the Finance Building, so far the highest normal building (not mosque) in Brunei.

Leaving Brunei

Upon reaching the Departure Area, read on the Flight Status display. Find which code (there is only A or B as your choice) is you flight. If you believe that it is your time to do the check-in but your destination is not yet displayed in counter, ask the desk officer and they will let you check-in and give you the proper boarding pass. Prepare 5BND for the Brunei travel tax. After the Immigration, this is the first airport I have seen to be using Machine Readable passport (too bad, mine is only the maroon biometric passport). If you still have spare time, roam around the airport - there are restaurants, coffee shop and souvenir shops.

There are also television sets attached on the walls for entertainment. There are only 8 gates in the departure area, where gates 6-8 are on a separate area, so be careful to proceed further until you see the actual Gate 8 (Air Asia AK6213). This is my first flight with Air Asia, for those who are traveling, if you have a hand-carry baggage then be sure to follow the allowed size and weight. Upon boarding, you will be directed to place your bag/luggage to the weighing scale - it be fitted in the container and weighing equal or less than the designated weight.

To the travelers, please bring enough money if you believe you will have excess baggage or better yet, just travel light and buy things that is just enough to fit your hand carry bag.

My flight back to KK was delayed for almost an hour, but all is well.

Thank you to the driver who have been helpful in my hotel-airport transfer, the Jubilee front-desk attendees, Filipinos in the Thai Restaurant and Souvenir shop in Yayasan Complex.

As my new “thing to do” while traveling, while I make an opportunity for myself to see a foreign place, I’ll try to carry Philippines with me for them to see it too. Below is the first Philippine postcard I left in a hotel where I stayed - as a token of my appreciation to the room keeper who makes my stay comfortable.


About Me

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A backpacker in Philippines and suitcase traveler in Asia. Love checking low fares and hotel hunting and mostly stay in the middle of the road. Addict in planning and sorting itineraries. Collection includes: paper bills, maps, photos, postcards, stamps and Starbucks mug. Travelling with my Nikon D40 and Nikon J1. You can send in your questions about the places I've been to on my email address. Thanks!