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About Brunei 

Abode of Peace is the literal translation of Brunei Darussalam. Brunei is located on the north-west coast of exotic Borneo, surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak, and on the west, by the South China Sea.

Brunei is divided into four districts, Brunei-Muara, Temburong, Tutong and Belait. The country consists of 5,765 sq km of land, most of which is still covered by rich tropical rainforest. Of this, the majority is still untouched primary jungle which hosts a large variety of flora and fauna.

History
Once called Poli or Puni by sixth century Chinese historians, Bruneis exposure to Islam started as far back as the 5th century. Bruneis empire once extended throughout Borneo, the southern parts of the Philippines and parts of Indonesia. When European influence spread throughout the region, Bruneis territory and power declined.

In 1906 Brunei became a British protectorate and the British Resident became an adviser to the Sultan on all matters except Islamic affairs and Malay customs. In 1959, the Anglo-Brunei Treaty was signed and this gave Brunei its first constitution. In 1979, both countries signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation, paving the way for full independence in 1984. Membership of the UN, the British Commonwealth, ASEAN, and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) quickly followed.

Brunei's current Monarch, the 29th descendant of one of the worlds oldest continuous Royal lines, is His Majesty, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzadin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam. He ascended the throne in October 1967 at the age of 21. He serves as Prime Minister, Finance and Defence Minister. Brunei's relatively small population of approximately 300,000 allows him to  remain close to his people.

The people of Brunei Darussalam have enjoyed one of the highest standards of living since the country negotiated a 51% interest in their oil and gas production industry in the mid 1970's. The oil and natural gas industry dominates the economy, although government policy includes the development of other income and employment generating industries. Generous incentives are provided to encourage foreign investment in new industries.

Places of Interest

     Bandar Seri Begawan

The Brunei Museum houses an extensive collection of Islamic art and historic artefacts that date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Because Brunei once included all of Borneo and parts of the Philippines, these collections are some of the best historical record of the entire region. The Natural History displays and information are also of great interest. Brunei Museum staff have responsibility for surveying and preserving Brunei's natural assets. 

The Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque named after the 28th Sultan, is the most striking feature of the city centre. The mosque is made using some of the finest quality materials from around the world.

 

In Kampong Kiarong, lies the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. This majestic monument to Islam was commissioned by the current Sultan.  It is the largest mosque on Borneo, complete with golden domes, huge internal spaces, an awe-inspiring exterior, and beautiful surrounding gardens.

 

Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, hosts the largest traditional water village in the world. It accommodates  30,000 people who continue to choose to live with the strong community ties of the water village. Walkways link these stilt houses together into a community network which includes schools, clinics, mosques, fire stations, police and corner stores.

The largest residential palace in the world, the Istana Nurul Iman,  His Majestys official residence, has 1788 rooms, a banquet hall to accommodate 4,000 people and a ceremonial dining hall for up to 500 guests. The Istana is open to the public only during Hari Raya Adil Fitri, at the end of the Moslem fasting month, when thousands of people que to greet the Sultan or his wives.

A dedication to Brunei's neighbours lies in Persiaran Damuan, a park off Jalan Tutong, where six permanent outdoor sculptures, each represent a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) .

The Malay Technology Museum, focuses on the evolution of traditional crafts and skills such as architecture, house-building, handicrafts, boat building, fishing, metalworking and gold smithing. 

The Royal Regalia houses an extensive display of events, items, gifts etc related to Brunei's Monarchy and with it the evolving history of Brunei, and Borneo. Many significant historical events that have shaped modern Borneo are captured in the artifacts and descriptive materials. Some visitors will want more than a day to fully explore this very large collection.
   
Places of Interest - 
    A uniquely preserved Natural Heritage

Brunei's financial security has created an environmental gem. Located on the north west coast of Borneo, about 4 degrees and 445 kilometres north of the equator. The natural environment is dominated by rainforest. 

This rainforest is largely devoid of the tangle of vines and ground level vegetation. Such re-growth occurs when the vegetation is recovering from selective logging, disturbances from tree falls, or fires. The Brunei rainforest in mostly open on the ground level, because the sunlight blocking canopy has not been disturbed. 

There is no export logging industry in Brunei. Commercial forestry for local use occurs only in selected areas of the Tutong and Belait districts. Brunei's forests reserves are largely intact as they have been for  thousands of years. 

Viewed from an aircraft, Brunei's border is obvious; it's where the trees start again.

The relatively small population of just over 300,000 people live in a country of approximately 5,765 square kilometres. About 80% (4,346 square kilometres) of that land is undeveloped jungle.

Temperatures are high throughout the year, with a daily range of 23 to 32 degrees Celsius and minimal monthly variation. The average humidity is between 66 to 89 percent.

Mangrove forests at sea level merge with heath forests on sandy alluvial soils up to about 30 metres elevation. Peat swamp forests are found further inside, along the lower sections of main rivers. 

Mixed dipterocarp forests are next in elevation, extending to around 1,300 metres. Montane forests are present in the rugged inland areas of Temburong district, where elevations can reach over 1,800 metres. 

Traditional human habitation was located around the coastal bays and rivers, where easy boat transport and the abundance of food facilitated water village communities. The hilly terrain, and  difficult access meant rainforests stayed largely undisturbed.

In modern times, Brunei has set aside large areas as National Parks, Recreation Reserves and protected forests. These now provide unique habitats for wildlife, recreation and scientific research. Scientist from around the world visit the University of Brunei Darussalam's Belalong Field Studies Centre for study and research. This centre is on the Belalong River, which branches off the Temburong River adjacent to the Ulu Temburong National Park entrance.

People and Religion

The population of Brunei Darussalam is approximately 300,000. Malays are the majority ethnic group, while Chinese, Indians, and a number of  indigenous groups make up the rest. Half the population is under the age of 20 and males outnumber females by a slight margin.

Brunei has a dual language policy. Malay is the official language for government administration, and official functions, but English is taught in the schools, the British based legal system is conducted in English, and English is widely spoken. Brunei seeks to maintain its cultural heritage, yet have easy access to the world and the wide range of information available in written English.

The official national religion is Islam. Other faiths practiced include Christianity and Buddhism. Brunei's religious tolerance is reflected in non work days for the government being Friday (the Islamic holy day) and Sunday (the Christian holy day). 

Customs and Etiquette

Bruneian etiquette is a combination of Islamic religion and Malay culture. Polite, gentle, and respectful are the principle characteristics. Visitors should aim to follow that style in their interaction.

Members of the opposite sex may not wish to shake hands. Wait for their lead before offering your hand. 

Do not point with the index finger, instead use your thumb. Do not beckon people with your hands, instead, call people by their name or title.

When visiting mosques, remove your shoes at the steps. Do not pass in front of people at prayer or touch the Al-Quran. Do not walk on the prayer mats. Dress conservatively, covering arms and legs.

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