Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is the largest in the country and was built with the Sultan's cash, so nobody knows the cost of the construction. He built it for his silver jubilee and narrates the story of the Royal Dynasty. The golden domed mosque is surrounded by gardens with trees and flowers. The minarets are wonderfully designed as well as the ceiling if you are lucky enough to visit when the locals are not engaged in prayer.
A sign as seen in the photograph shows the opening times for visitors and the general rules.
At the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque you will find the shoe deposit walkway, a covered entrance way towards the mosque where worshipers deposit their shoes. There are shelves each side which allow the storage of thousand's of pairs of shoes to be retrieved by the owners after prayer.
Two staircases are to be found at the entrance of the Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque but in between them you will see an escalator for the Sultan's private use. Why not---he financed the construction.
You can easily spend 30 minutes wandering through the gardens of the mosque as they have been landscaped and tended with loving care. Enjoy the fountains, the man made pool and the trees and flowers that you will find growing in abundance here.
Unfortunately it was prayer time when we wanted to visit this mosque so we were unable to enter, but it is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific and a top tourist destination. My photographs does not do the place justice as it is built by the river with a ceremonial barge nearby. It was built in 1958 in an artificial lagoon by Kampong Ayer, complete with marble minarets, golden domes and fountains in the courtyards. A marble bridge leads to the reconstruction of a ceremonial barge which was constructed in 1967 to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the coming down of the Koran. There is an elevator to the top of the minaret where there is a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
This mosque, built in 1999, overlooks Kampong Ayer, the water village and serves as the main place of worship for the surrounding inhabitants. Good views of the mosque can be seen from the river. Prayers are conducted 5 times and also offers Islamic services.
Wherever you decide to go on Kampong Ayer speedboats will roar passed you in every directions. From the river bank to the village is around 200 metres, a short ride away. Many of the residents park their cars by the side of the river and catch a river taxi home.
We arranged a taxi to take us to visit a house on the water where we were treated to a tasty snack from the owner. Tasty cakes and a cup of tea were provided. In this particular house the owners rolled up their sleeping mats during the day as they accepted guests like us for an hour or so.
Kampong Ayer is the village built on stilts in the Brunei River that houses 39,000 people. There are actually 42 villages all connected by wooden walkways, with electrical lines dangling from many posts. The 29 kms of footbridges link the 4,200 structures, mostly of which are homes, but there are also restaurants, mosques, schools and even a hospital. Long wooden speedboats serve as water taxis ferrying the population from place to place. The houses have all the modern amenities such as air conditioning, Satellite tv, internet, plumbing and electricity. The water village has been inhabited for 1,300 years and Magellan named it 'Venice of the East when he passed by in 1521.
You can hire a water taxi from the side of the river to take you on a tour.
The Chinese Temple is surrounded by higher buildings but is colourfully painted and has magnificent murals inside as well as three deities. Although it is not high on the list of places to visit it is still worth seeing.
This large building with a huge interior golden dome is where the royal ceremonies are traditionally held. The present Sultan was crowned there in August 1968 but unfortunately special permission is required to enter. Adjoining the building is the old Parliament building but a newer one has been built on the outskirts of the city.
This has the nickname 'Big Mac' because of the resemblance of ketchup oozing from the burger shaped dome. Unfortunately you cannot take photographs of the main exhibits but only of the replica of the coach which was used for the Sultan's coronation. There is a wonderful display of gifts from various heads of state on the upper floor, and on the lower floor there is actually the real carriage that was used along with 150 or more soldiers .
Very impressive, worth a visit.
The Brunei Museum is located a couple of kilometres from the centre, by the bay. Unfortunately it is forbidden to take photos but it houses fine exhibits of Islamic Art, Natural history displays as well as traditional culture and the oil history
This is the official name of the Sultan's residence which means 'palace of the light of faith' which was designed by the Filipino architect Leandro Locsin which captures the Islamic and Malay influences. It was constructed by Ayala International (filipino company) at a cost of $1.4 billion. It was the largest palace ever built and the largest single family residence with 200,000 sq.m. of floor space. Among the statistics is that it has 18 elevators and 51,000 light bulbs as well as several hundred rooms.
Unfortunately it is not open to the public except on Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan when the Sultan distributes over 100,000 gifts to the children of Brunei, usually envelopes containing money.
The Sultan has an amazing car collection that includes more than 150 Rolls Royce's, Custom made Ferraris and Bentleys.
Although you cannot enter the Sultan's Palace you can observe the changing of the guards by looking through the main gate. The guards are rotated every two hours and it is a very simple ceremony as the new ones march to the sentry boxes for their two hour stint.