Brunei Darussalam Day 1: Tamu Kianggeh | National Day Celebration | Tamu Selera | Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Travel Date: February 23-25, 2014 (Sunday to Tuesday)
Brunei is my first ever out of the country trip and it made me so excited and at the same time anxious.  I got a little bit scared too because even though it's not my first time to fly, it's the first flight that is more than an hour. The flight feels like forever, i was just thankful that our flight was smooth and we arrived in Brunei safe and sound. For the complete itinerary, please visit: Brunei Darussalam 3 Days & 2 Nights Itinerary

And after 2 years  and many travels thereafter, not to mention many individual blogs about the attractions in Brunei, I was able to start writing about it. For must see attractions in Brunei Darussalam, please visit: Must See Attractions n Negara Brunei Darussalam

1:40am: Arrival in Brunei
We arrived in Brunei exactly as what's indicated in the ticket and after the immigration check we headed to the parking area where the hotel driver is waiting for us. I really commend Jubilee hotel for arranging our pick up even though it's past their schedule. 
Anyway, the driver is very friendly and with little English he tried to welcome us. He told us the many attractions we can visit while in Brunei and even offered his service just in case we need a driver and a tour guide. Not free of course, but it's better to have a plan B just in case our self-prepared tour won't work out. We had to know first how the transportation in Brunei is before we contact him. For your guide in Brunei, please visit: Getting Around Brunei

2:30am: Hotel Check-In 
We arrived at the hotel and I was really happy and again, thankful because the hotel let us checked-in early and upgraded our room with no extra charge. We were able to sleep for a few hours before we start our adventure...and no one knows that it's going to be one hell of an adventure for us. I prepared our itinerary with few changes and suggestions from my friends before i get the final list of what to do and what to see in Brunei.

I only know Brunei in movies and some news but I never actually dreamed of visiting. It's just a chance that my friend found a cheap fare and when I was asked if I want to go, i didn't hesitate. And we found out later, while I'm preparing the itinerary that our visit is in time for their National Day Celebration. I was glad to know that because I can witness one of the grand celebration in Brunei. To know more about the hotel, please visit: Jubilee Hotel & Plaza
8:45am: Start of the Day Tour
I originally put 6:00am as the start of our first day in Brunei but since we're kind of tired and sleepy we started at 8:45 am instead. That's after all the ceremonies girls have to do in the morning and before heading out to see the world (most girls know what I'm talking about LOL)With my printed itinerary, my camera, my sunglasses (they said it gets really hot in Brunei), and my hat we headed to the hotel reception area. Brunei is a Muslim country and we  had to be very careful of what we say, do or wear outside the hotel.  
We need to ask a few tips and some help getting to the National Stadium where the celebration will be held. The receptionist is very helpful and asked if need a car to go there. We find the rate expensive so we refused. We didn't realize that he really wants to help us and that he knows how hard it is to commute in Brunei during the holiday.

8:54am: Tamu Kianggeh (Kampung Kianggeh Open Air Market)
Our first stop for the day was the Tamu Kianggeh, Kampung Kianggeh Open Air Market. It's along the way from Jubilee Hotel to the bus station so we decided on dropping here first. Tamu Kianggeh is only about 5 minutes walk from the hotel but it took us 9 minutes because had few stops along the way to take pictures.
Tamu Kianggeh is where fresh local produce are sold and they even have food stalls where you can enjoy the local food for only B$1.00 (Php37.00) such as Nasi Katok (fried chicken, sambal or chili paste & rice), Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and served with chicken, beef or prawn, egg and cucumber slices) and Nasi Daun Silat (rice meals with viand wrapped in palm or banana leaves - counterpart in the Philippines is the Binalot)
We didn't know that there are food stalls in there so we're not able to eat. Aside from that we have some place that we need to be - or rather we want to be. After taking pictures we headed to the main city to find food for breakfast. We passed by the bus station looking for a restaurant or cafe until we found this De Royalle Cafe. To read more about ther marker, please visit: Tamu Kianggeh: Brunei's Cheapest Food & Local Produce

9:22am: Breakfast at De Roy@lle Cafe
It's a holiday in Brunei on our first day and most of the shops, cafes and restaurants were close so we had to walk around to find a place to eat breakfast. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Coffee shop is open but we want something local. A few steps from the CBTL is this local coffee shop called De Roy@lle Cafe.
The ambiance of the cafe is welcoming and homey and we found out that most of the staff there are Filipinos. They were actually surprised that we visited Brunei when not most people do. Well, we really did not plan on coming, we just saw a cheap air fare and decided on going. The coffee at this cafe is good but the food is just okay...too okay that I can't even remember what I ordered. After an hour, we headed to the bus station to get to Brunei National Stadium for the National Day Celebration. 

10:25am: Travel from Bandar Seri to the Brunei National Stadium
When we headed to the bus station there a lot of men waiting for the bus. Some of them are just roaming around and waiting for i don't know what. Just a helpful tip, if you don't want to be stared at when in Brunei, please wear proper clothing and if you want, cover your head as not to attract attention.

We had a hard time getting on a bus since it's a holiday and that the public transportation is limited. Holiday in Brunei is not like the ones here in the Philippines. When they say holiday it means holiday, all shops and malls are closed. There were few coffee shops that were open but other than that nothing. While in the Philippines, when it's a holiday it's when people are in the malls, parks, restaurant, everywhere.
We walked back to the sidewalk and stand there for like an eternity, can't decide if we still want to go through with it or head back to the hotel and think of a plan B. Then all of a sudden, we saw this lady holding a bag of groceries and I know the moment I saw her that she's a Filipina. I saw her at the bus station and I know she's trying to get somewhere too.

I approached her and asked on how we can go to the stadium. And when she said that it's along the way where she's going and she called a friend to pick her up, I grab the opportunity. I asked her if she can talk to her friend (a Filipina also) for us to hitch hike and we're willing to pay for the gas. She's like a heaven sent when she said we can! We're finally on our way to the grand arena!
I thought since they are all Filipinos like us, they will be decent and not asked for too much fare, but i was wrong. The driver, i don't remember her name, asked us for B$5 each when the bus fare is only B$1! Oh well, at least we arrived at our destination. . To have an idea of what to do & don't in Brunei, please visit: Brunei's Darussalam Do's & Dont 

10:35am: Brunei's National Day Celebration
After 10 minutes of traveling, they dropped us off at the nearest street and we just walked our way to the arena. It's not hard to find because of the cars going in and out of the street. We can also hear the music and the cheering of the people.

They were just starting so we were able to watch the parade and had a few pictures with the locals holding their flag. They are shy when we approached them but willing to have their pictures with us taken. I asked them if we can have a flag like what they holding and they gave it to us.

With the flag in our hand we headed to where the big event is happening.  It hasn't started yet but i can see that a lot of people are there. Waiting to have this moment to see their Sultan.
We walked inside the arena and i was amazed at how colorful it was. It's really hot at that time and noisy so we frantically descend the concrete stairs and sit under on the step under a tent , only to be told that tourists are not allowed in there. We've waited until the Sultan arrived and then left. And that's where our real adventure begins. To read more about our adventure, please visit: Negara Brunei Darussalam National Day Celebration

3:00pm: Travel from National Stadium to Bandar Seri Begawan
After almost 3 hours of walking around, we found this bus parked on the road and I felt like it's heaven sent. We asked the driver if it's a public bus and if it's going back to the city, but he just shook his head. We talked or rather begged him and with little English he said it's not leaving until late afternoon, but we can go inside. It felt heaven to finally able to sit and enjoy the cool wind from the bus' air con. And we're glad because we did not wait long enough and the bus left.

3:15pm: Lunch (Seri Mama's Chicken)
After about 15 minutes, we arrived at the city proper and bought our lunch at Seri Mama Restaurant. It consisted only of rice and chicken with sambal (chili sauce) in a paper bag. The driver said it's good and it's cheap for only B$1 but we didn't find it delicious. The chicken is oily and the the chili sauce really has a strong smell, almost like it stinks. We ate it at the hotel because we wanted to rest after a long walk but regretted it after we at, the room really stinks! After we ate, we rested and slept until we had enough energy to continue our exploration.

5:00pm: Walk from Jubilee Hotel to Church of our Lady of Assumption
Even though we walked for hours on that day, we walked again to the only Catholic Church in Bandar Seri to attend a mass. We need to be there before the mass schedule on a Sunday afternoon, which is at exactly 5:30pm because they close the door as soon as the mass starts. We have enough time so we still had a few stops to take photos. 
We also passed by the Lapau Dewan Majilis, Pusat Belia Youth Center & Hostel, Radisson Hotel and the famous hawkers center in Brunei, the Tamu Selera. We decided on eating in this hawker after the mass. For more information about the church and the mass schedule, please visit: Our Lady of Assumption Church: The Only Catholic Church in Bandar Seri Begawan

7:00pm: Tamu Selera
After an hour, we walked back to the hawkers center to have dinner. It's still early so there's not much people around yet. It's popular with tourists and locals so it tends to get crowded late at night. The place is what you expected of hawkers, not that clean, flies flying around and it's a bit noisy. We had a hard time ordering because the menu only has local dishes and we don't know what they are. For a guide on how to get there, please visit: How to Get to Tamu Selera?

So we just looked around to see what other people ordered and pointed to the staff that we want the same. I know that Nasi is rice and Katok is chicken so we ordered it. we also ordered some vegetable balls, forgot what it's called and didn't like it. Well at least we tried to eat their local food. To know more about the center, please visit: Tamu Selera: Brunei's Malaysian & Indonesian Food Center

7:50pm: Walk from Tamu Selera to  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
We did not stay longer at the hawkers because people started to gather. We just paid and walked back, the destination this time is the very beautiful Mosque, Omar Ali Saifuddien. We walked to the same path only this time, we had the chance to take pictures of the Brunei History Center. We were not able to explore this building because it was closed on a Sunday. I just took a couple of pictures from outside.

8:34pm: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

I saw a glimpse of this mosque when the driver picked us up from the airport and pointed it to us. I wanted to check it out right at that moment because it really looks amazing, but we really are tired and sleepy. Now, I have the chance to feast my eyes on this mosque and while taking photos, I told my self that the images that I took must retain in my memories.
When I saw this mosque up close it's like love at first sight. Like falling in love to a person the moment I first laid my eyes on him. This mosque is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in South East Asia. Aside from that, it's also the tallest building in Bandar Seri Begawan. Story said that the top storey of the Islamic Bank of Brunei was ordered to be removed because it towers the mosque. No building shall exceeds its marble minaret. To read more about the mosque, please visit: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque: One of the Most Beautiful Mosques in South East Asia

9:22pm: Walk from the Mosque to Jollibee for a Snack
My friend's boyfriend loves Jollibee and she had to take pictures of her with Jollibee on the background and send it to him. So after a couple more pictures with the Mosque we walked to the fast food. It's along the way to the hotel so it's not a hassle. We also need something cool because it's really hot even though it's already late at night.
She actually wants to eat there but me and my other friend were against i because we can always eat there anytime when we're back in Manila. We told her that we need to eat or at least try to eat in the local restaurants to have a taste of their authentic food. Aside from that, it's a little bit expensive compare to the prices in Manila so after a couple of pictures and got our sundae, we walked back to the hotel.

9:50: Back to the Hotel to Rest & Sleep
After all the stress and exhaustion, we're back to the hotel to rest and recharge for another day of adventures.  

For more of our (mis) adventure in Brunei, please visit:
Brunei Darussalam Day 2: Royal Regalia | Tasek Lama Recreational Park| Kampung Ayer | Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Brunei Darussalam Day 3: 45-Minute Free Viewing of the City | Istana Nurul Iman|Brunei Arts & Handicrafts Training Centre | Malay Technological Museum | The Empire Hotel & Country Club | Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque


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