Bandar Seri Begawan – The Capital of Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan – The Capital of Brunei

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Bandar Seri Begawan or B.S.B as it is popularly known is the capital of Brunei. It is located on the North West coast of Borneo, the third largest island in the world (Borneo is administered by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei).

The present day settlement of B.S.B is on a relatively new site as the entire area was heavily bombarded by the Allies during the Second World War.

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

The origins of B.S.B can be traced back to the 7th century, as there are signs that a water village (Kampong Ayer) existed at the site of the present Kampong Kota Batu and the National Museum. The capital was located at many sites during the ages along the Sungai Brunei River which formed the focal point of the marine activities of the Brunei Malays. The move away from the river based settlement to the land locked settlement of today was begun by a British resident Mc Arthur in 1906 who encouraged people to move and settle on the reclaimed land on the left bank of the Sungai Brunei .The Sultan moved in 1909 and he was followed by the Chinese shopkeepers in 1910. This was followed by the creation of the municipal board in 1921 and a new mosque and palace was built in 1922. Bandar Seri Begawan was in fact known as Brunei Town until 1970. Today the city is the center of finance, commerce and the government of Brunei.

Brunei was a British protectorate from 1888 to 1984. On January 1st 1984 Brunei got independence from the British. The Sultanate of Brunei is small but fabulously wealthy due to its oil reserves. The present Sultan His Majesty Sultan Hassanlal Bolkiah came to the throne in 1967 when the previous Sultan his father voluntarily abdicated the throne. He is according to the Forbes list one of the richest people in the world but he looks after his subjects by providing them free education, health care and even a pension. The citizens don’t pay taxes and the Bruneians get a minimum wage which is the highest in Asia. The fabulously wealthy sultan owns a number of luxurious hotels world wide namely the Dorchester in London, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

Climate
The weather in B.S.B is quite similar to that of Singapore and Malaysia. The climate can be classified as tropical or equatorial. Rains come to the city from December via the northeast monsoon and this rainy season lasts until March. The southeast monsoon also brings rain in the months June to October. B.S.B receives rain almost all throughout the year and the average daily temperatures are 32°C which sometimes go down to 23°C because of the rains. Due to the rainfall the humidity is high all throughout the year too . The wettest month tends to be December.

Language
The official language spoken in B.S.B is Bahasa Melayu. However the free education sponsored by the State is in English as a result English is widely spoken as well. Mandarin and other Chinese dialects as well as the native languages of Borneo are spoken by different sections of the population.

Getting to B.S.B

By Air
The Brunei International Airport is strategically located at Mukim Berakas in the Brunei-Muara District. It can be accessed easily from all parts of the country. It is served by several international carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Philippines Airlines and even the low cost carrier Dragon Air. The country’s own Royal Brunei Airlines flies to twenty cities in South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

By Water Taxi and Ferry
Regular water links are used on the Brunei and Temburong Rivers. The water taxis run to the Malaysians towns of Limbang, Lawas, Sundar and Labuan. A ferry service to the Malaysian island of Labuan departs from the Serasa Terminal in Muara. The ferry journey to Labuan takes an hour and a half.

Getting around

By Bus
Buses serve the city and they operate at a frequency of 15-20 minutes, fares start at Brunei $1. There is a Bus terminal located at Jalan Cator car park in the downtown part of the city. The buses to other towns such as Seria and Kuala Belait leave from this terminal. However the residents of the city prefer to travel in private or use the inexpensive taxis rather than use the bus service. In fact tourists say that the streets of B.S.B are hardly populated by the locals who prefer to ride in the air conditioned comfort of their vehicles rather than walk or ride the local bus.

Taxis
There are metered taxis which ply on the roads of the capital and are available from hotels and shopping centers.

Water Taxis
These are used to access the Kampong Ayer (Water Village) and the eastern most Temburong district as well.

Car Rentals
Cars and chauffer driven limousines are available from hotels as well as at the airport from international car rental agencies as well as local agencies.

Hotels
A variety of hotels and accommodations are available in Bandar Seri Begawan. These range from the seven stars ultra luxurious ‘Empire Hotel and Country Club’. This resort can be accessed via its website which is www.theempirehotel.com and the phone number of the resort is (673) 2418888. The resort is equipped with a golf course as a part of its facilities The Sheraton Utama is another luxury hotel and is part of the international Sheraton group. It’s specialty is great service with a hint of Bruneian hospitality, it is centrally located and can be accessed via its website www.sheraton.com/utama and by phone on (673) 2244272.

More reasonably and tourist and business friendly hotels are also found in Bandar. Most are centrally located with easy access to the sights of the city. They too provide a service which is a fusion of Bruneian hospitality with western amenities. Some of these are the Brunei Hotel which can be accessed at www.bruneihotel.com and by phone on (673) 2242372, the Jubilee Hotel which has its web site at www.jubileehotelbrunei.com and its phone number is (673) 2228070. Other hotels of this genre are the Orchard garden hotel which also has its own website www.orchidgardenbrunei.com and whose phone number is (673) 2335544 and the Traders Inn hotel which can be accessed by phone on (673) 2442828 and on the web at www.mybruneihoteles.com/traders-hotel .


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