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Brunei was once was a large empire that encompassed the southwest portion of the Philippines and the entire island of Borneo. It is now among the smallest countries in the world, but has maintained its majestic glory and is still one of the richest nations in Southeast Asia.
The earliest recorded history of the country can be found in documents discussing China’s trade with Puni during the Tang Dynasty in the 6th century AD. Brunei was initially a part of Java’s Majapahit Empire. Its glory days were in the 15th to the 17th centuries, when it encompassed the southern Philippines and Borneo’s northwestern coastal areas.
James Brooke, a British imperialist and adventurer, helped the sultan resolve the rebellion caused by inland tribes in 1838, rewarding him with power over a section of Sarawak. Brooke appointed himself as a “Raja” and eliminated the pirates of Borneo, promoted peace, and deliberately forcing treaties with the sultan, causing Brunei to be divided in half by 1890.
Brunei became a protectorate of Britain in 1888, but in 1929 it regained rights to its land when oil was discovered. The country flourished when offshore oil fields were developed in the 1960s. By 1984, the 29th Sultan, Sultan Sir Hassanai Bolkiah, led Brunei to independence from the British. A US $350-million palace was built in celebration of his success.
In 1998, Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the son of the sultan was declared heir to the throne. As the 30th sultan from his family, amendments to the constitution were finally made in 2004 to allow the first parliamentary elections in Brunei.
Brunei’s culture is very similar to other Malay cultures, but it is also influenced by the country’s diverse population – two-thirds are Malays, and the remaining residents are Indians, Chinese, and indigenous Kedazans, Dusuns, and Dayaks. Bruneians are very family-oriented and welcoming.
Sharia, the religious law and moral code of Islam, is followed, which prohibits the public consumption and sale of alcohol. There are no official clubs or pubs in the country, and the Western style of nightlife is limited. For entertainment, cinemas are showing the latest Hollywood films. There are restaurants, shopping and drinking across the border in Malaysia.
Historians believe there was a forerunner to the present Brunei Sultanate which the Chinese called Po-ni. Chinese and Arabic records indicate that this ancient trading kingdom existed at the mouth of the Brunei River as early as the seventh or eighth century A.D. This early kingdom was apparently conquered by the Sumatran empire of Srivijaya in the early ninth century and later controlled northern Borneo and the Philippines. It was subjugated briefly by the Java-based Majapahit Empire but soon regained its independence and once again rose to prominence.
The Brunei Empire had its golden age from the 15th to the 17th centuries, when its control extended over the entire island of Borneo and north into the Philippines. Brunei was particularly powerful under the fifth sultan, Bolkiah (1473-1521), who was famed for his sea exploits and even briefly captured Manila; and under the ninth sultan, Hassan (1605-19), who fully developed an elaborate Royal Court structure, elements of which remain.
After Sultan Hassan, Brunei entered a period of decline, due to internal battles over royal succession as well as the rising influences of European colonial powers in the region, that, among other things, disrupted traditional trading patterns, destroying the economic base of Brunei and many other Southeast Asia sultanates. In 1839, the English adventurer James Brooke arrived in Borneo and helped the Sultan put down a rebellion. As a reward, he became governor and later "Rajah" of Sarawak in northwest Borneo and gradually expanded the territory under his control.
Meanwhile, the British North Borneo Company was expanding its control over territory in northeast Borneo. In 1888, Brunei became a protectorate of the British Government, retaining internal independence but with British control over external affairs. In 1906, Brunei accepted a further measure of British control when executive power was transferred to a British resident, who advised the ruler on all matters except those concerning local custom and religion.
In 1959, a new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state, while its foreign affairs, security, and defence remained the responsibility of the United Kingdom. An attempt in 1962 to introduce a partially elected legislative body with limited powers was abandoned after the opposition political party, Partai Rakyat Brunei, launched an armed uprising, which the government put down with the help of British forces. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the government also resisted pressures to join neighbouring Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed Malaysia. The Sultan eventually decided that Brunei would remain an independent state.
In 1967, Sultan Omar abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Hassanal Bolkiah, who became the 29th ruler. The former Sultan remained as Defense Minister and assumed the royal title Seri Begawan. In 1970, the national capital, Brunei Town, was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in his honour. The Seri Begawan died in 1986.
On January 4, 1979, Brunei and the United Kingdom signed a new treaty of friendship and cooperation. On January 1, 1984, Brunei Darussalam became a fully independent state.
Since gaining independence from the British in 1984, Brunei has continued to strive forward, becoming a member of some regional and international organisations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
Also, thanks to the extensive oilfields, first discovered in 1929, the people enjoy plenty of benefits, such as practically free healthcare, a well-established state education system and even a housing scheme dedicated to providing citizens with affordable homes.
More than the benefits, though, Brunei’s modern infrastructure makes it unmistakably a 21st Century destination.
There are plenty of hotels in the capital, as well as numerous options for shopping and leisure. Sports activities are also a common past time in Brunei, so there’s little difficulty in finding one to participate.
Despite the urban sophistication, there is nothing like walking through an air-conditioned mall looking for a place to eat lunch, and then trekking through the depths of the rainforest less than a couple of hours later!
Brunei now enjoys a healthy economy and political stability, which is largely thanks to the abundant oil and gas reserves, allowing people to enjoy a comfortable way of life.
The tourists who come from Singapore will have to travel there by plane. They can take a flight at the Changi Airport. The ticket price is around $385-$600, depending on the seasons. Peak seasons like a public holiday and school holiday season will surely hike the price. Once they have arrived, they can take a taxi and head straight to their hotel.
Nestled in rural shrubs of Tutong and famous for its dark colour and rich wildlife, Tasek Merimbun is certainly a sight to behold. Some sources say the lake gets its colour from the waters of two rivers – Sungai Meluncur and Sungai Bang Oncom – as they flow through the forests and pour into the lake. Another explanation is based on a phenomenon caused by ‘tannin’ that comes from leaves falling into the water. Whatever the reason, Tasek Merimbun is deserving of its title as the ‘Black Beauty of Brunei’.
Open to the public; this natural oasis boasts views of a watery landscape riddled with adorable lily pads that float atop it. The lake is surrounded by the Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park with a wooden bridge that crosses over the lake connecting both sides of the park. On these islands are traces of historical memorabilia that is evidence to Tasek Merimbun being one of the earliest sites of settlements in the Tutong area.
Eat like a local and feast on the sights and delectable dishes from the popular Gadong Night Market that’s located right smack in the bustling district of Brunei-Muara. Open daily from 3 pm to 12 am, the market is a plethora of flavours, from the sweet, and sometimes spicy, local Malayan food to tantalising localised Western cuisine — a stroll from stall to stall to try out the many dishes on offer.
StarLodge is a 4-star resort-style hotel that defines outstanding service and hospitality. It is the brand’s mission and commitment to providing comfortable living at an affordable price.
Surrounded by greenery and boasting 100 spacious rooms, it also features its very own StarSplash Pool with fun and interactive water features within a courtyard setting, providing an oasis of fun for our guests. For in-house dining, MoMo Restaurant, Kitaro Lodge and Starz Lounge all offer extensive menus catering to a wide selection of local, western and Japanese dishes and beverages.