On my way from Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia I decided to take a brief stop into Brunei. I have met people who had been to Brunei before and they warned me that it was a bit boring, and man were they right. I was lucky enough to make some connections to people in Brunei who really took care of me, and so I had a great time, but that is irrespective of the country itself.
To begin, it is a small, devoutly Muslim, country. Now, Malaysia and Indonesia are fantastic countries and Muslim, but Brunei is only the latter. The Sultan does not allow Muslims to consume alcohol and limits what activities you can do in the country. Even normal things, like seeing a movie, are not possible either because of the Sultan, or because the country is too small (the capital has less than 30,000 people in it).
I walked around the city (it took 20 minutes), saw the national soccer stadium (my high school’s football stadium is bigger and nicer), and went to the national mosque shown below. After being bored out of my mind I was thankfully saved by a friend of a friend who took me to one of two places in the country you may legally drink, the yacht club. The other is the Army Headquarters, but I didn’t get any invites there.
It was a lot of fun and reminded me of how expat life can be. Lots of families, and a close-knit community. They were incredibly nice to show me around and welcome me as one of their own, and I hope to return the favor to them one day. They certainly made the most of where they were, and it seemed like it wasn’t a bad place to be based as an expat.
Bandar Seri Begawan (I spent 1 day here, 0 would be appropriate)
Overall, this is a decent little community for expats, but for travelers, I would avoid it. There are much better places to visit nearby. Yes the people were nice, it is developed, and plenty safe, but in a world with so many places to see and little time to do it, keep Brunei on your skip list.
If you do have to go, though, try to see the jungles in the eastern part of the country, east of the river, as those are supposed to be nice. Just research it before you go to make sure it is worth the effort.
Country level of difficulty – 2/10 (but research more if you decide to go to the rainforest)