Thursday, March 2, 2017

Visiting Brunei Darussalam

I went to Brunei Darussalam last February 24-27 to participate to the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge 2017. This is the second time I ran outside the country. The first one was last year’s Standard Chartered Marathon in Hongkong. I was accompanied by a very good friend  Oliver Enot and two equally nice buddies from Manila JDV and JP.

The Beach Bunch Trail Challenge is one of the runs I considered as having a better technical organization. Following a successful attempt of the run last year, this year’s Beach Bunch Trail Challenge is accredited by the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in Europe and Hongkong’s Asia Trail Master. I took the 30-kilometer category and finished it with an unofficial time of 4 hours and 26 minutes.

The route was made up of 60 percent pavement and 40 percent beach lines, my first time running a beach trail. In an unprecedented case I suffered extreme pain in my left knee which I thought was brought by the accumulated force I exerted in running the fine sand of Beraka Trail. It is very hard running in a beach trail.  The extremely hot weather in Brunei added another physical strain but was complimented very well with the sufficient hydration stations provided by the organizers. All in all, my second international run gave me a different perspective in enduring running at a varied trail features.

Meanwhile, Brunei is a beautiful country. It is a sovereign state nestled on the north coast in the island of Borneo and a prominent neighbour of the Philippines. It is the only independent state in Borneo, the remainder of which being occupied by the nations of Indonesia and Malaysia. For several years it lived up to its position as the “Abode of Peace.” It is evident that the economic growth of Brunei is one of the bests in Southeast Asia being attributed to the country’s oil industry. Infrastructure development can be seen all throughout the city. The people in Brunei also exhibited extraordinary level of discipline, resulting to very minimal crime rate. This is what I usually observed for countries who had long been a British protectorate.

Prior to the actual event our team took advantage of touring around the city for purposes of seeing for ourselves the prevailing destinations that Brunei could offer. As an Islamic country with rich economy, the best mosque structures are found in Brunei. These are also their best assets in terms of tourism.

The most dominant of all the mosques we visited is the  Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It is an Islamic mosque located in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei. It is one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific region and is also considered a major historical site of Brunei.

Omar Ali Saifuddien is the 28th Sultan of Brunei and that the mosque is christened after him because it was built and constructed during his time that serves as an example of modern Islamic Architecture.

A famous identity of Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque is that its main dome is covered with pure gold. It stands 52 meters high and can be seen from almost everywhere in Bandar Seri Bawagan. The main minaret is the mosque’s tallest feature. In a unique way it mixes Renaissance and Italian architectural style (Wikipedia).

The second mosque we saw along the highway was the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. We just spotted it while on our way to Jerudong from Begawan. The structure is really eye-catching as it is Brunei’s largest mosque and its four minarets are visible from the highway standing tall over other neighbouring structures.

The last mosque that we visited is the Masjid Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam located in Kampung Jerudong, which is just walking distance from Starlodge Hotel. The mosque is painted white with several green strokes in its external facets, making it very attractive especially in the evening when it is blended with the assorted light colors. 

The mosques in Brunei are not just places of worships but are also the premier tourist destinations. With the country having only a total of 5,765 square kilometres land area, or 2 Davao Cities being fused together, there are no other tourist destinations it can offer other than beautiful buildings in Begawan and  other areas outside the commercial center. Here are some pictures of some structures I saw in Brunei out of that 3-day visit.

Among the many ASEAN countries Brunei might be a silent target in terms of tourism  but visiting it for learning purposes and to internalize Islam religion can be a loftier option. Also, this is a place of peace and for the peace-loving individuals, that is why staying here for 3 days or more can be very valuable.

FEW NOTES: Nightlife in Brunei can be boring for night persons. Drinking liquor there is a major offense which can be penalized by fine of 2,000 dollars.