Brunei is boring! There’s nothing to do! These were statements that I read and heard when I researched Brunei before moving here. As a person who likes to be busy and make the most out of every opportunity, they were statements which filled me with dread. Am I going to be just sat in nature all day, every day? I love nature! But, for at least 2 years with not much else to do … is that really what I wanted? However, I also believe you should make your own mind up and not always listen to what is being said or written. You never know unless you try, right?
So, after spending many hours watching every video I could find online about Brunei, I realised that the information available either wasn’t complimentary, was an advert (so obviously it highlighted the positives) which are not always true reflections, or they were videos filmed years and years ago and I knew that things would not be the same. I sat back and thought about where I might find up-to-date, relevant and true reflections of Brunei as they were happening – social media! If I was growing up in Brunei, I would be on the latest social media trends and I would be sharing all the places I’d been to with my friends.
I already knew that Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok were the main three. I wasn’t amazing at using any of them and I didn’t even have a Tik Tok account but luckily Google can tell you how to do anything! I set about searching for hashtags and relevant search words and phrases. Instagram brought back quite a few hits but mainly coffee and food. Don’t get me wrong – I love those things but again, 2 years of coffee and food I’d be lucky to get back on the plane home.
Facebook next, it also brought lots of hits, but I had to join everything in order to find the information. I was left with Tik Tok. This was not the platform I wanted to use as I didn’t really understand it, but after a bit of googling, I was away. I very quickly realised that the information shown to you depends on where the account is set up. But there is a search area: #Brunei #BruneiTikTok and away I went. I found all sorts of things and from there began to populate a list of things I couldn’t wait to visit and try.
I instantly felt better when all the videos popped up as I could see when the videos were posted and they were all recent, so what I was seeing was up-to-date and relevant. It also showed me exactly what people wore, what the streets were like, what was available and a whole host of interesting insights I hadn’t expected to find. I also found the people to be really helpful as sometimes I would find a place but with no information as to what it was called or where I could find it myself. A few messages back and forth and I’d not only have that information but also recommendations for other places.
So is Brunei boring? Absolutely not! You just need to know where to look. But to save you some time I’ve populated a little list of some of the more unusual things which I have done over this past year despite the lockdown. Hopefully this will help any of our new teachers out and get you started on your Brunei adventure but also maybe highlight some new places or activities for everyone else. There are plenty more places I can add but I will try and keep it short but sweet.
Things to try and see
Peliunan Park(A home away from home in Temburong, Batu Apoi)
Peliunan Park is a beautiful homestay but you can just go for an afternoon and have lunch or dinner there too. When I visited, we met one of the owners who explained that they had been adding to and renovating the site over the years to give people somewhere they could have an authentic Brunei experience but also be in a comfortable home away from home environment and I really feel like they are well on their way to achieving this.
The site consists of a small open house which is filled with trinkets, cosy chairs and paintings and upstairs there is a dining area where you can look out across the site and the river whilst dining on traditional cuisines. When we arrived, we were given free time to explore the site which included photo opportunities with the river, traditional clothing and tools, relaxation areas (kitted with bean bags and swinging chairs), swings and a trampoline. Then, the owner brought us together in the house to explain the development of the site and the history of their family and Temburong. He also shared his future vision for the place. We then headed upstairs to a delicious lunch which had been prepared for us with lots of different foods. My local colleagues commented they were ‘very traditional’ even for them – many they hadn’t tried themselves. One of the most interesting dishes was a coconut filled with large tiger prawns and a spicy broth which was cooked on an open fire. It was cooked to perfection. I couldn’t help but try everything and the staff were friendly, helpful, welcoming and nothing was too much trouble. They really did make you feel at home.
We did not stay overnight; we only went for the afternoon, but I think staying over is something which I would do in the future as there were areas that I could imagine relaxing in the evenings which would be a unique experience in themselves. Would I go back to Peliunan? In a heartbeat, I had such a wonderful afternoon there and I think it is one of those places which unless it gets around via word of mouth or TikTok it could be easily overlooked.
Bungee Fitness (An intense but super fun workout, Victorious Gym)
I can’t say I didn’t know what to expect here as I had seen the video which alerted me to it and I instantly set about getting myself booked into a class. However, I was still apprehensive as to what exactly the whole class entailed. The moment my instructor Aedy showed up, all my concerns and fears were alleviated.
As the classes have a max number of 5, they obviously book up quickly, so I had booked a week in advance. I arrived first and as soon as I met Aedy he was friendly, chatty, funny, accommodating and he let me be myself completely. I am a big kid at heart, so whilst waiting for my friend, I was being very curious about the equipment and what was going to happen and how safe it was etc and in the end Aedy attached me to my bungee in the ceiling and let me just play around and get used to it.
It was a blessing and a mistake all in one as I got used to the bungee and he showed me a few exercises. However, do not underestimate the strength and fitness which is needed for this exercise. By the time the class started, I was shattered. So, what exactly is it? What happens? You are given your harness and from the ceiling they have their bungee cords which attach to the back of your harness. Once you are attached you are stuck until he lets you out, as they need to be stable and tight to ensure your safety and that there is enough resistance. Then you do a few warmups such as stretching, planks, and squats but instead of thinking it’s easy as you are bouncing around, bear in mind you now have resistance against you when doing these exercises and that is how you end up using more strength and energy. Aedy then put together a few sequences with music and we would work through them, needing many rests in between. I didn’t stop smiling and laughing through the whole session. Aedy is laid back and despite trying to run his class, he also gave us the time to just enjoy ourselves. One of the exercises is ‘fly’ this is where you take a run and jump and for a few seconds the bungee allows you to fly in the air before pulling you back down. I think it’s something everyone should try at least once. If you have any injuries or persistent problems, please contact them first as the gym will be more than helpful and give you advice on whether this class with alleviate or aggravate your condition. If you decide to give this a go, happy bouncing!
Bukit Kamser (A steep but short climb with a view, Kota Batu Road)
You will spot this place by the vast arrangement of tyres adorning the entrance to the walk. Kamser is a short walk which adjoins other routes at the top, one being Sipatir. The view from the top of Kamser overlooks the Temburong bridge, the river, Kota Batu and Subok. It is a steep but short climb so I find it is good if you want that quick burst of exercise, as you can be up and down in half an hour depending on your fitness level. There is a loop you can do with one way being a slightly lesser incline so you can choose whichever way you feel most comfortable. The main trail up is a well-marked path, and I would have no issues with doing this alone. There are always people about and when you get to the top there is an area to sit and buy drinks. If you walk up a little further there is a viewing tower too. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to see beautiful views but doesn’t want a long hike to get there. I do stress that it is steep though, but the route is made into almost steps so it’s relatively easy in that respect.
Tanjung Batu (My favourite sunset spot, Muara)
Tanjung Batu is one of my favourite places to go in Brunei. It is peaceful, relaxing and most of all safe. The views of the sunset are stunning and it’s also a great place to run. You can spend as little or as long as you want at Tanjung. If you want a short walk to see the sunset and head back then the walkway takes you down a safe, flat path to a point where you can either sit on the wall or in one of the BBQ huts as the sun goes down or if you wanted to spend longer there you have the option of continuing your walk onto Meragang beach and enjoying a beautiful walk down the coastline. There are always people about and there is also a small beach which can get busy at times just in front of the car park at Tanjung. A few people usually gather, some bringing food and just sit on the wall and watch the sunsetting as it is only a 10 min walk from the car park. One thing to be aware of here is that there are no lights, so please make sure you leave time to get back to your car before the sun completely sets. This is also an ideal spot for running as I mentioned it is safe and flat. Children often bring bikes and scooters here too. They have also just built public toilets and sometimes there are food stalls available, but this is not always the case.
Gerai Muafakat Sarubing Kampong Belimbing (A beautiful walking and photography spot, Subok)
This was somewhere I found during lockdown and what a find it was. Again, I was looking for somewhere safe I could walk on my own but also somewhere that provided me with photo opportunities as I like to take out my SLR from time to time. This park delivers both. It is only a small park. However, there are longer walks to the back of it off into the jungle which I haven’t explored. From the car park, it looks like this area could be a busy spot (out of covid times) as there seems to be food stalls available which are built into the car park. The first thing you will notice about this park is the Lily Pad Pond (as I call it) which is so completely covered in flora and fauna that you cannot see the water beneath and you can get the most amazing photographs. Around the pond, they have small jetties and pondoks which you can either use as a viewing point or sit and while away the day and take in your surroundings. If you move away from the pond and go further back into the park you will come across a small lake and a bridge which again provides excellent photo opportunities, and this is also where the trail starts to enter the jungle. There are pondoks available if you wish to stay in this area. It is very quiet every time I go but bear in mind our current situation. I do see fishermen there sometimes. So, if you are looking for something just to get out and about for a short time, this is worth a look. I am sure you could spend longer there if you were willing to enter down the trails but even without the trails it is worth a visit.
Joyful Garden (A well-being and wellness garden, Subok)
I found this place on one of my drives, I just drive around till I find something interesting and this is one of the best and most interesting places I have come across. So much so, I ended up researching the back story of how it all came about. So, first, let me tell you what it is. The Joyful Garden is a wellness and well-being garden. It provides you with a serene and tranquil environment to just be.
Walking in you are immediately calmed by the relaxation music which is constantly playing out across the whole sanctuary. As you walk around there are waterfalls, little water mills, statues, swings, gazebos, lanterns, ornate structures, and a museum in which you can learn all about Chinese culture. You could take a book and spend the day just relaxing here easily.
I spent some time walking around the garden before heading into the house to learn about more of the culture and background of the owners and their Chinese heritage. There were lots of artifacts and traditional items to view. It was certainly very interesting and not something I had expected when pulling up. The garden is across different levels (I took myself up onto the top level). I then had a view across the garden. There I spent time just sitting, relaxing and listening. All you can hear is running water and the relaxation music. Who needs a spa? I had a wonderful day here and it is a place where you could go if you needed to de-stress. The owner also teaches Qi Gong classes which is related to Tai Chi.
I was so in awe of the place I immediately researched it when I got home as it is so unexpected. It is in the middle of a housing estate and is essentially someone’s very large back garden, there had to be a story and there is. I found out that the owner created this garden to honour his late wife who unfortunately passed from cancer back in 2012. He wanted the garden to be a place which he could dedicate and pay tribute to her and a place her memory could live on by bringing joy to others. Although this garden has been built from grief and loss, it is such a wonderful, heart-warming and powerful dedication, he has succeeded in building such a therapeutic place and a place where you can feel (as the name suggests) joyful. Due to the current situation, I would advise checking before you go whether they are open.
Lake Lugu (Water sports and swimming spot, Jerudong-Tutong highway)
Want to paddle board, kayak and swim without fear of being eaten by crocs? Here’s your place! You can spend the day trying out the different water sports or just rent a pondok and relax. It is one of those places where you can spend an hour or a day. They have kayaks and paddle boards available to rent at a low cost and the lake is big enough that you won’t be crashing into each other. If you are thinking of spending the day and renting a pondok, each pondok is slightly different and offers different things so they are worth taking a little look before booking. At the lake, they also have some food stalls but due to the current situation I don’t know if they are still running. I spent a wonderful morning there with a friend, we took out paddle boards and just enjoyed the open water. Just be a little careful as there are old jetty’s still under the water in parts of the lake. This didn’t spoil our fun in the slightest, but I think it is something to be aware of. Also note, you do not have to be able to kayak or paddle board to go here – it’s all part of the fun!
Labu Estate (History and scenic walk, Labu, Temburong)
If I hadn’t lived here, then I wouldn’t have known it even existed! So, this is a perfect place to share with you. Labu estate in Temburong is actually an old rubber plantation and what they have done is preserved parts of the machinery and buildings within the estate and erected information points to tell you about the history. It is very interesting to find out about how the industry changed over the years and to imagine what this sleepy little estate used to be like years ago. Whilst in Labu, you may want to take a wander a little further in as I found lots of hidden gems.
They have a little jetty overlooking the river you can sit and relax on or further in they are currently building a series of pondoks which can be rented. This, in particular, was a beautiful spot as the walkway snakes between the trees and over the water to the pondoks which are shaded by jungle. You feel like you have stepped into a little hidden world away from the rest of the estate. Labu is a hidden gem if you are willing to go looking. Also, whilst you are over that way, Temburong has a few other places for you to visit so please don’t feel it would be a wasted journey just to see the plantation. The closest place from the estate is Bukit Patoi which is just opposite if you wanted to extend your visit.
I have so many places which I could add to this list and I have even more which I have still yet to try. So, I hope this just helps to confirm that Brunei certainly isn’t boring!