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a butler’s entrance and a private, marbled
swimming pool – all this for the very royal sum
of $8000 a night.
Make sure to take a day to just soak up your
surrounds. Visit the adjoining Country Club and
have a massage and scrub in the day spa; play a
round of golf, take some lessons, or simply hit a
bucket of balls at the driving range; line up for
tenpin bowling in its eight-lane bowling alley;
swim in the indoor pool; play squash, tennis
or badminton, or a
frame of snooker. For
try night golf – the
whole course is lit up.
Otherwise, catch a
new-release movie at the Empire Cinema or
just hang out by one of the beautiful pools and
do absolutely nothing.
If you can drag yourself away from these digs,
it’s worth taking some time to explore Brunei
itself. A short stroll from the city centre, you
can hop in a water taxi to explore the amazing
water village of Kampong Ayer, home to more
than 30,000 people. There are schools, a fire
department, police station, small shops and little
cafes – an intricate network of stilt houses and
buildings all built on water and accessible only
by boat. Named the ‘Venice of the East’ by 16th-
century European explorers, it’s mesmerising.
Gadong Night Market is another must-see.
Divided into two sections with one selling a
dizzying array of fresh fruits and vegetables
and the other housing row upon row of food
vendors, the markets are an intoxicating mix of
sights and smells. There are whole fish cooking
on banana leaves, beef satays sizzling on the
open grill, chicken thighs marinated in exotic
sauces and all manner of weird and wonderful
fried creations. Everything is fresh, cheap and
enticing. Stalls selling drinks in all colours of
the rainbow sit alongside cakes, noodles and
desserts. It’s as vibrant a market as you will find
anywhere in the world and well worth a visit.
Want a cultural fix? Visit the Royal Regalia
Museum. It’s all about the Sultan and it’s
fascinating. See a gold-plated chariot used at
the Sultan’s coronation and follow his life and
that of his family in pictures. Study the royal
family tree – the longest, unbroken monarchic
line in the world, dating back to the first Sultan,
Muhammad Shah, who ruled from 1363 to 1402.
He was the first Muslim ruler of Brunei as a
result of his conversion to Islam for his marriage
to a Johor princess.
Also worth a visit is the Royal Brunei
Museum, which houses antique cannons,
daggers, and treasures unearthed from
An evening trip along the Brunei River aboard
an open wooden boat will take you in search of
that randy little proboscis monkey. On the way,
you will pass the largest residential palace in the
world, Istana Nurul Iman. With 1788 rooms, the
sumptuous structure is the official residence of
His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei.
No trip to Brunei is complete without a visit
to the two main mosques. Non-Muslims may
enter (you may be asked to don one of the black
robes provided), but are not permitted to stand
ABOVE Another of Brunei’s stunningly
designed mosques. TOP RIGHT The golf
course at the Empire Hotel, designed by
Jack Nicklaus. RIGHT The living room
in the Empress Suite at the Empire Hotel.
FAR RIGHT The Emperor Suite has its
own swimming pool, just $14,000 a night!
OPPOSITE PAGE The water village at
“From the moment you step into the impressive, mosaic-
marbled foyer, it is a visual feast... every surface is either
clad in marble or granite, or in beautifully turned wood.”
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