Where to stay
The Empire Hotel and Country Club is about 20 minutes from the airport in the country’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The resort’s sprawling grounds and facilities include a cinema, a bowling alley, a huge fitness centre with tennis, courts, squash courts, various pools, darts, pool tables and lots more. The rooms are luxurious – the suites even more so – and the grandiose chandelier-clad lobby area will make visitors from the UAE feel right at home. This hotel is popular with celebrities, families and business travellers alike and is the top place to stay when visiting Brunei. Rooms start at Dh1,180; suites start at Dh2,660; and villas start at Dh3,840. Visit www.theempirehotel.com for details.
What to do
Located on the top side of the island of Borneo, Brunei offers impressive wildlife as well as an interesting cultural contrast between the very traditional, authentic village lifestyles of the people and the enormous wealth of the royal family.
Take a day trip from the capital to the sleepy, but beautiful, Temburong district, which is a thrilling 45-minute speedboat ride down a winding river. Spend the day (and night if you wish) at Sumbiling Eco Village, located next to a real tribal village – the inhabitants of which look after the facilities and lead jungle tours. Trek an hour into the jungle with the village chief, brandishing his machete, to a cleared spot where you cut down bamboo trunks to cook your lunch in and can even camp overnight. Once back at camp, laze around in the river, or in a hammock.
For details on this and other tours, visit www.borneoguide.com. While in Temburong, check out Temburong National Park, where you can go trekking, take a longboat ride down the river, or walk through the treetops on the 60-metre canopy walkway.
What to see
In Bandar Seri Begawan, take time out to visit the Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (which has gold-plated turrets and other features) and the floating fisherman village – a taxi boat tour guide will take you into the houses and show you around. Additionally, take a sunset trip through the mangroves to see endangered proboscis monkeys, crocodiles (if you’re lucky) and fireflies.
Out and about
There are shopping malls in Brunei. However, imported goods can be quite pricey. So stick to locally produced arts and crafts from markets and tourist sites. As for restaurants and nightlife, Brunei is a dry state, so everything closes down quite early. Bruneian cuisine is similar to Malaysian, so there is some fabulous local food to be had – don’t miss soto (a spicy noodle soup with meat) and rendang (a spicy, hearty beef curry).
Prices for a return economy ticket from Dubai to Brunei start at Dh2,250; Dh9,100 for business. Until the end of November, Royal Brunei is offering two twin-city packages, including flights and hotels: six days in Brunei and Kuala Lumpur for Dh3,440 per person; or six days in Brunei and Kota Kinabalu for Dh3,340 per person. Visit www.bruneiair.com.