Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital and largest city of Brunei Darussalam. With a population of 140,000 people, the capital is home to almost half of all Bruneians living in the urban area. Residents bask in a warm tropical climate all year round with an annual average temperature ranging from 22°C to 33°C. The driest month in the city is March, while the wettest months are from October through December, although there is rain throughout the year.
The capital city by the banks of Brunei River has a long history. Records reveal that as early as the 8th century, people have settled around the area where the Brunei Museum stands at present. The name was given only much recently in 1970. “Bandar” means “town” while “Seri (or Sri) Begawan” is an honorable title given to monarchs but specifically referring to Omar Ali Saifuddien, the sultan’s late father. In 2007, the city underwent expansion from being only 12.87 km2 to 100.36 km2 as decreed by the sultan.
Bandar Seri Begawan is the center of trade, commerce, religion, education and tourism. Tourists arrive at the Brunei International Airport en route to several attractions nearby. The most interesting places of culture, such as mosques, museums and historical sites are found in the capital city.
The grandest, most important and most spectacular mosque in the country and clearly one of the most stunning in the world is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. From the outside, travelers marvel at the golden dome and from the inside, they marvel at the sheer beauty of the interiors. Words fall short in describing the marble walls and exquisite carpeting. Perhaps this is the only mosque that has an elevator and several tunnels that the sultan uses to visit several areas in town. The biggest mosque in Brunei, however, is the Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, also known as Kiarong Mosque.
One of the most important historical sites found in the city is the Lapau or Royal Ceremonial Hall in Jalan. It is here where royal and traditional ceremonies take place including the crowning of the sultan on August 1, 1968. Inside the Lapau are exquisite gold decorations, which is why anyone visiting the hall needs an official permit. This used to be the home of Brunei’s legislative assembly and now stands as the symbol of the country’s constitutional history.
Another notable historical site is the Royal Mausoleum, locally known as Makam Di-Raja. Located away from the city, the Royal Mausoleum houses the remains of four past sultans, which are Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddin, Ahmad Tajuddin Ibnu Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam, Muhammad Jamalul Alam Ibnu Sultan Hashim, and Hashim Jalilul Alam Putera Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien. The mausoleum and graveyard are reserved for members of the royal families.
The leading city museums are the Brunei Museum, Brunei History Center and Royal Regalia Building. The Brunei Museum is the main repository of the country’s treasures, fine art pieces and natural history. It features the Islamic Art Gallery, Traditional Culture Gallery, Archeology and History Exhibition, Natural History Gallery, and a gallery on the History and Technology of Brunei Darussalam’s Petroleum. Officially inaugurated in 1972, the museum is located on an archeological site about 5 km from capital city.
These are just a few of the many exciting attractions that make Bandar Seri Begawan truly special and unique in Southeast Asia. People come here and immediately get the signal that this tiny sultanate is a wealthy nation. The city is filled with sparkling fountains, golden domes and towers, and exquisitely designed structures.