Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia, Sabah on one side and Sarawak on the other, is one of the worlds wealthiest countries, thanks to their plentiful supply of oil. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of 415,717, approximately 10% of the population of the small country that I hail from, Ireland. With one major city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and the rainforest beyond, Brunei makes a good stopover en route to Melbourne or other destinations, like Sabah, on the Royal Brunei flight network. But what do you do when you get there?
Bandar Seri Begawan for Food Lovers
Before I start, one thing that you must be aware of, is that there is no alcohol for sale in Brunei due to Shariah Law restrictions. Not in any shops, hotels or restaurants. You can bring two bottles of wine in with you, once you declare them at the airport (and they will scan your luggage when you arrive, so do!).
Explore the local food culture, starting with ambuyat. A sticky gloopy substance originating from sago and much beloved by the locals. Ambuyat was something that people would eat when they had no choice, but now, people choose it and they love it. Winding it on chandas, like chopsticks that are joined at the top and used explicitly for the purpose, the ambuyat is dipped in strong tasting sauces, including fermented durian the night that I ate it. Try it at Aminah Arif Restaurant where all the locals go.
Explore the local street food
Head to Gadong Night Market (Pasar Malam Gadong) to try Brunei street food. Similar to Malaysian but with some Brunei flavours too, try the chicken skewers loaded with chicken oysters (aka parsons nose, aka chicken bum) and cooked over fire. So good. You must sample the durian, if in season. You never know, you might be one of the people that adore it. Finish with bananas deep fried in spring roll wrappers and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Breakfast & Afternoon Tea at The Empire
Brunei has one of the worlds most opulent hotels, The Empire. Marble pillars support insanely high ceilings and large windows overlook the sea. They do a terrific breakfast here. I loved the noodle bar, where fresh noodle soups are made to order. I also loved the fried chicken – yes, fried chicken for breakfast – with crisp curry leaves. The Empire also serves a traditional British Afternoon Tea (with an excellent French pastry influence).
Explore the water village
The water village, while a little rickety, is a fascinating place. There are places where you can try traditional snacks, and the locals are very friendly. I met a man preparing to go into the rainforest later that day to collect wild honey. He drives the pegs, photographed, into the tree and climbs to find the wild hives, which are way up into the canopy. Fascinating, and I bet it is delicious.
I visited Sabah & Brunei with the #LoveSabah and #TasteofBrunei campaigns, brought to you by iambassador in partnership with Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. As always, I maintain full editorial control.