Bandar Seri Begawan – The Capital of Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan – The Capital of Brunei

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Sights
Istana Nurul Iman

The most famous sight of B.S.B is the lavish residence of the Sultan. He in fact owns four palaces, the Istana Nurul Iman, Istana Nurul Izzah, Istana Darussalam and the Istana Darul Hana.

The biggest and the most renowned is the Istana Nurul Iman. It is situated on Jalan Tutong and one cannot visit the Palace except at the end of Ramadhan which is the Muslim holy month of fasting. It is the largest residential palace in the world with 1788 rooms and it is rumored to have cost US$400 million to build.

The Palace is built on the top of a hill and is the glittering symbol of the monarch .The palace is believed to have a large banquet hall which can accommodate 4000 people; the Sultan’s soirees are well documented as often he flies down western performers to perform at his lavish parties. It also has a mosque within its folds as well as air conditioned stables for his prized Arabian stallions. The Sultan has a lavish fleet at his disposal consisting of aeroplanes, helicopters and 165 Rolls Royce.

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Touted to be Brunei’s most important landmark this mosque is a fusion of Islamic and Italian style. It is situated on the banks of the Sangai Brunei River on an artificial lagoon. It is surrounded by the Kampong Ayer (Water village). The Dome of the mosque is covered in pure gold and is visible for miles around. The mosque itself stands 52metres (171 feet) high and consists of marble minarets and courtyards. Lush gardens adorned with fountains are located in the environs of the mosque and contribute to the air of tranquility that surrounds the mosque.

The tallest minaret of the mosque from where the muezzin delivers the call for prayer at sunrise and sunset is built in a style which is unlike that which is found in other Islamic houses of worship. The minaret is an exponent of the fusion of Italian and Renaissance architecture and it has an elevator which can take one to the top in order to have a panoramic view of the city. The mosque was built largely of imported components with the marble coming from Italy, the granite from Shanghai, the chandeliers from England and carpets from Saudi Arabia. The interior of the mosque is equally breathtaking as it is composed of a mosaic stained glass and many semi domes and arches. In the lagoon of the mosque is a boat made of stone where one can read the Koran.

The Kampong Ayer
The name itself in Malay means water village. It is composed entirely of wooden houses on stilts which look like shacks. The village is built over the Brunei River and the government has made an effort to restore this historic village so that people continue to reside there. Schools and other modern amenities such as electricity, sewage and water systems as well as internet access are available in the water village and it encourages the people to continue to live there. If by chance a wooden home in the Kampong Ayer is destroyed by fire it is not reconstructed but the inhabitant moves to a new ‘real’ dwelling.

The Museum of Royal Regalia
The Museum houses the magnificent treasures of the Brunei throne including the royal regalia of the ruler and his royal chariot.

The Brunei Museum
This is another museum one must visit in order to see its displays of antique cannons and carved daggers as well as an exhibit of glided Korans. The museum also houses a collection of Borneo ethno graphs as well as treasures recovered from shipwrecks of the coast of Borneo.

The Mausoleum of Sultan Bolkiah
Situated near the Istana Nurul Iman is the mausoleum of the Sultan Bolkiah the father of the present Sultan who abdicated his throne in 1967. It is a verdant, tranquil alcove which symbolizes the respect the Bruneians have for their monarchy

The House of the Twelve Roofs
A symbol of Brunei’s colonized past can be witnessed at this museum. Like the home of Jim Thompson in Bangkok, this museum was the home of a British Resident in B.S.B. The museum is used to entertain foreign dignitaries as well.

The Brunei History Center

This center contains archives which trace the origins of the Royal Family as well as other records and documents which catalogue the history of the nation.

Churchill Memorial
Churchill Memorial is a memorial to the erstwhile British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It is housed in a building with a gold Chinese style roof and it houses the collection of Churchill memorabilia which was collected by the former Sultan who was a great admirer of Churchill.

Shopping
One should try and shop at the traditional handicraft centers that dot the city and sell many of Brunei’s rich and varied handicrafts. These include luxurious materials woven with silver and golden threads and called Jong Sarat. Other collectible textiles made here are called Kain Tenunan. The Jong Sarat is worn at weddings and other important occasions. Brasswares, Silverware, gongs, baskets and of course the traditional dagger called Kris are all exponents of Brunei’s rich handicraft industry. These can be purchased at various Handicraft stores around the city as well as the International airport. Apart from handicraft centers one can see modern malls on the landscape of downtown Bandar Seri Begawan. The most famous of these malls is the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex and the Mall. In the areas of Kula Belait and Seria in B.S.B there exist other air conditioned outlets as well as the traditional shop houses peculiar to this region These outlets are popular with both tourists and locals alike.

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