Go birdwatching in Luagan Lalak Recreational Park, which includes a rare alluvial fresh water swamp, an inviting freshwater lake, and a series of footpaths and elevated walkways.
A little-known destination within an already obscure country, Brunei’s coasts feature hundreds of hectares of reefs, home to countless coral, rays, sharks, and tropical fish. In addition, there are a number of wrecks and even a decommissioned oil rig, all of which have been sunk to form artificial reefs for coral to grow on.
Shop for food at the Gadong Wet Market, a rambling maze of stalls selling all the manner of fresh produce, seafood, and meats. Many of the boisterous, friendly hawkers at Gadong hail from the nearby Kampong Ayer.
Visit the Istana Nurul Iman, the residence of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and with 1,700 rooms spread over 300 acres (121 hectares), the largest royal palace in the world. A fascinating structure whose design influences include traditional Islamic architecture and modernist principles, the Istana Nurul Iman sits on a series of green, rolling hills overlooking the Brunei River.
Unfortunately, the palace is closed to the public except during the annual celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which marks the end of Ramadan; during this three-day period, over 100,000 visitors are allowed to visit the halls of the palace. For the rest of the year, the Istana Nurul Iman is closed, and must be seen from afar.
Similar in design to the Saifuddin Mosque, the Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque was built to commemorate the current, ruling Sultan. Consisting of a central dome flanked by numerous, smaller minarets (all of which are also decorated with golden domes as well), the Bolkiah Mosque features a beautiful marble courtyard, flanked on both sides by marble walls with sharp, distinct arches cut into them.
Charter a boat to visit Kampong Ayer, the largest over-water village of its kind in the world. Comprising a group of 42 villages and 30,000 inhabitants, the many dwellings and structures in Kampong Ayer are built on stilts over the Brunei River, and linked together by a series of wooden paths. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances, however; many of the houses within Kampong Ayer feature modern amenities, including satellite television, air conditioning, internet access, and electricity.
Named for the previous sultan of Brunei, this mosque is a beautiful structure of gold and marble sitting on the banks of an artificial lagoon on the Brunei River. Designed by an Italian architect, the mosque is a mix of Mughal, or imperial Indian, architecture, and Italian aesthetics; the most striking aspect of the mosque is certainly the dome, which is covered in the purest gold.
Cruise along the Brunei River’s myriad mangroves in search of the endangered Proboscis Monkey, a comically shaped creature with a long, trunk-like nose, mottled, half-orange and half-gray fur, and an exaggerated potbelly. Other creatures include ferocious, saltwater crocodiles and flocks of migratory birds, including magnificent herons, wily kingfishers, and white egrets.
Visit the Royal Regalia Museum, a repository of artifacts, possessions, and photographs of the royal family of Brunei. Browse displays of luxurious royal clothing, extravagant gifts from other notaries and heads of state, and royal accessories - including a large carriage built in the shape of a dragon.
Hike through the Sungai Liang Forest Reserve, a lush tropical forest located in the countryside outside Bandar Seri Begawan. Listen to the various sounds of the forest, from the chirping of tropical birds to the rhythmic croaking of the cicadas.
Visit the tomb of Sultan Bolkiah, the fifth sultan of Brunei, who ruled from 1485 to 1524. A shrewd ruler who was responsible for expanding Brunei’s reach over the neighboring islands (present-day Sulu, Malaysia, and the Philippines), Sultan Bolkiah was interred in Kota Batu after his death. Today, his cenotaph is set amidst a lush, pleasant park, covered with a simple, domed pavilion.