Bandar Seri Begawan & Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
I was quite excited after I secured my flights to Bandar Seri Begawan, capital city of the Sultanate of Brunei. It is one of these small forgotten countries some of us had heard of before, barely knowing where it exactly is. Often, we just heard of a few things like, a mosque with a dome covered with pure gold? Even the Sultan’s toilets are made of gold? Whoa, I really had to see that. The mosque, anyway.
But Bandar Seri Begawan isn’t all about that mosque. The best way to start the day is to have a stroll at the market, not far from the river. Its pleasant little market under big umbrellas and all kinds of vegetables, fish, potted plants and other things are sold. Perfect to get a first glimpse of life in mysterious Brunei.
Bandar Seri Begawan was built on the banks of the Brunei River, and first started as a village, like the one of Kampong Ayer, the “Water Village” that we can see today.
After recovering from the bombings of WWII, Bandar Seri Begawan started its development and various palaces and mosques were built. The most famous of them – and by far! – is the Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. It has even become the number one landmark in Brunei.
When I first saw it, I didn’t really know what to think. Its a bit like a lavish mountain of Italian marble and gold put in the middle of muddy swamps close to the river. It’s not extremely big, but its architecture is for sure beautiful.
In any case, I highly recommend having a walk around the mosque at sunset! The orange glow of the sunset will make the gold dome shine even more.
Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures inside, otherwise I would have made another panorama there!
A Cool Photo Spot
In case you are looking for a way to take less ordinary photos of Bandar Seri Begawan and its main monument, you can obtain a quite unusual angle from the Sungei Kedayan Bridge, north of the mosque. At sunset, the light is very special. This viewpoint is great to get an overview of the majestic mosque surrounded by villages on stilts built over the swamps and the river just like Kampong Ayer.
I couldn’t help noticing this contrast again. Marble and gold on one side, rustic villages with wooden houses over the mud on the other side…
It is maybe this very contrast that contributes to make Bandar Seri Begawan such an exotic destination for a westerner like me. It is definitely an interesting destination for the traveller in search for an authentic corner of South East Asia.