I am officially a 33 years old lad on 1st of June 2017! As I am getting older, I noticed I’ve become more spiritual and I am drawn to mosques or Islamic architectures. In conjunction with that my birthday coincided with Ramadhan, I thought it would be rejuvenating to perform Tarawikh at the beautiful golden-domed Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Mosque in Brunei! It’s like a symbolic idea of a rebirth.
The feeling is still magical to see fluffy clouds beneath you, as if you dwell on a Celestial Haven (“Kayangan”); despite countless of time boarding a plane. God is Great.
I have been so curious about Brunei, the small little kingdom sandwiched between Sabah and Sarawak which is only known to most ignorant Malaysians (including me!) as the land governed by one of the richest leaders in the world, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and adapts the strict Shariah laws. Based on my reading from blogs as well as Tripadvisor sites, Brunei was described as mundane and “nothing to do” place especially at night. On top of that, most people also were not interested or keen when I told them candidly that I wanted to explore Brunei. However, those descriptions did not deter my affinity towards Brunei – I’ve learned that if I want to do something or aspire to visit some unconventional places now, I do not have to wait for others or suppress my dream just because no one is interested. If I want it, I would do it on my own to achieve it, no? That’s the new Shahrill Ramli in 2017 (,”).
Royal Brunei planes.
I pushed off from my Tamu Hill, Bandar Utama Batang Kali at 3 a.m. and reached KLIA2 circa 4.20 a.m. As my flight was scheduled on 6.30 a.m., I should be at the airport at least before 5.30 a.m. The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Bandar Seri Begawan took around 2 hours and 20 minutes. From the plane’s window panes, I could see vast green landscape of Brunei with the noticeable majestic Nurul Iman Palace and a few religious behemoths, as we were about to touch down. I was welcomed by the chauffeur from my lodging, The Brunei Hotel who was holding the placard emblazoned my name. The elderly man was a friendly person and the journey was a comfortable one. I was charged B$25 dollar (also known as Bruneian Ringgit in Malay!) per journey as per my email conversation with the hotel manager. I’ve learned that the chauffeur lived in Tutong and he had to drive 2 hours to Bandar Seri Begawan for work! It reminded me of my own journey from Batang Kali to UPM. Such a journey to do a “jihad”, no?
The majestic Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Mosque with its 100% pure golden dome. At last, I was here. The vessel was a ceremonial barge named “Bahtera Mahligai” primarily used during the Sultan’s coronation (Perpuspaan).
I felt like I was in Disney’s Aladdin’s Agrabah Palace! You know, Princess Jasmine’s palace? LOL!
Since I arrived early as at 10.00 a.m., I was in doubt whether I could have an early check-in but I was told that there was a room available for me. So, I relaxed for a while and then off to find the Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Mosque. The Brunei Hotel is one strategic hotel at good location as it was situated opposite the Kianggeh River (there is the Tamu Kianggeh) and a walking distance towards Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, less than 15 minutes! The ambiance was nice and you felt the serenity at affordable pricing. You guys can check the website at http://thebruneihotel.com/.
The interior design with the minbar (pulpit). By right, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but I was so tempted to immortalize them for my own memory. Sorry.
I have no idea about this unique stuff. Could this be an incense burner?
It was a spectacular sight seeing the golden-domed mosque! I have been perusing the Google image for ages and now I’ve got the chance to witness the majestic behemoth with my own naked eyes. YES, finally I managed to set my footsteps there!! My first impression was that the mosque reminded me of Aladdin’s Agrabah Palace with the majestic dome and minarets! Haha! By right, one is prohibited to take pictures of the interior designs but I couldn’t resist! The ceiling was somewhat reminded me of Christianity-influence ala cathedral design. Beautiful arch, I have to say! The ablution section was equipped with water taps aligned with beautiful decorations. There was also vast exterior compound around the mosque. Since the mosque was located at a lagoon, there was a big vessel parked facing the front facade of the mosque. It was named as “Bahtera Mahligai” (The Palatial Vessel) and used as ceremonial barge during the Sultan’s coronation! Beautiful culture!
Beautiful interior design of the dome, ala cathedral with its majestic chandelier.
The ablution section.
I went back to my hotel at 11.45 a.m. Rested for a while and then I went to find my way to a ferry terminal to Kampong Ayer which was located along the Kianggeh river opposite my hotel. There were a few small bridges arched across the river and I can’t help but comparing this sight with the ones I saw in Venice with its famous Rialto Bridge on July 2016 (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/the-ramli-siblings-conquering-europe-part-6-milan-rome-venice-italy-the-bricks-bouquets-of-the-birthplace-of-european-renaissance/)!! Why, we even have such view in ASEAN region, y’all! I didn’t charter any water taxis and simply savoured the view from afar. It was sunny and I could see minaret of mosque erected at the far across side. I didn’t bother to charter the water taxi as my intention in Brunei was only to have a layback, spiritual Ramadhan trip.
Kampong Ayer and Kianggeh River. The Eastern Venice?
I then make my way walking towards the Royal Regalia Building which was a 20 minutes walking distance from my hotel. On the way, I encountered the Raja Ayang Mausoleum which was situated at the 4 junction of Elizabeth Road and Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Road. It was a tomb of a female Bruneian family member who was reported to commit incestuous relationship with her brother. The unique part of the legend was that instead of to be stoned until death as per Shariah laws, the couple was banished to live underground, in shelters equipped with rooms for cooking utensils and other necessities as to isolate them from the communities above. You guys can have more reading on the Islamic legend at https://islaminindonesia.com/2016/06/07/the-tomb-of-raja-ayang-in-brunei/.
The Raja Ayang Mausoleum.
The description of the Islamic legend about Raja Ayang, a Bruneian royalty who reportedly committed an incestuous relationship with her brother and doomed to dwell underground, until they died.
Not far from the mausoleum, lies the antiquated Agong Clock at the middle of the 4 junction. It was weird-looking building, like a hook. Based on the reading I did prior to Brunei trip, it was said that clock tower was built to commemorate the visit of Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Malaysian 1st prime minister to Brunei. I walked straight and next, adjacent to the Royal Regalia Building was The Brunei History Center. It was a nice place to peruse all the copies of manuscripts signed by the Brunei Sultans. There were also old books written by the colonists on Brunei and being a bookworm, I have that fetish on old books! There was also a replica of a stela transcribing the genealogy of Bruneian Sultanate. It was interesting!
The Agong Clock. It was said that this small clock tower was built to commemorate the visit of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysian 1st Prime Minister to Brunei.
The Brunei History Center.
The old books which depicted Brunei in writings during the Colonialism era! I have fetish on old books and couldn’t resist to take this picture although by right I wasn’t allowed! Sorry.
The Royal Regalia Building was located majestically at the side of The Brunei History Center. At first I thought I would not make it as I was told that the government sectors would be closed at 2 p.m. due to Ramadhan but luckily there was an entourage of excited and agitated Mainland Chinese at the center. I had to keep all my belongings and telephone at a vault before entering the rooms. It was fascinating seeing the gifts presented by the diplomats around the world for Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and also to see the regalia used in his processions. I’ve learned the word “Perpuspaan” at the center – it means coronation. Apparently, “Perpuspaan” and “Puja” are two essential elements in the coronation. I was intrigued to take photos but then I saw a few sturdy soldiers guarding the corners. Instantaneously I covered my intention with a sheepish smile. Haha, luckily! It was also fascinating to see the photographs of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – since his childhood days until now; I guess he is an apparent testimonial that age only does wonder to a facade, like a wine. Haha! There was also a section dedicated to his first marriage to Princess Saleha (his cousin) but no indication on the marriages to Aisha Mariam and Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim. Now, like any other male royalties around the world, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah also went to Sandhurst Royal Military Academy!
I was tempted to take pictures inside but unfortunately there were soldiers. So all I could take were the majestic regalia exhibited at the open area.
Initially, I thought of having my Iftar at normal restaurant but since the Sungkai (Breaking Fast / Iftar) package was only B$17.90 (and since I was staying with the hotel; I get discount for B$15.00!) and I have some smaller notes which I am sure will not be accepted by the money changer in Malaysia, it would better if I were to get rid off these smaller notes, no? The food was alright and there were not many people, in fact only 3 tables were occupied. So, I was having my own sweet time. Haha! After Iftar, I make my way to Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Mosque to perform Tarawikh. I really enjoyed my Tarawikh there as it started early as at 7.45 p.m. and with air-conditioned environment and “non-draggy” Surah recitation, I was surprised to find that I managed to follow the collective praying (Jemaah) exceeding 15 Rakaats – a far cry to my usual 8 Rakaats of Tarawikh! Haha! It was raining when I make my way out from the mosque.
Affordable pricing of Sungkai/Iftar/Breaking The Fast at The Brunei Hotel.
The night scene of the mosque. I am happy that on my 33rd birthday, I followed my heart to do this spiritual journey to Brunei and taking the advantage of this Ramadhan to even perform Tarawikh here. There’s a symbolic rebirth, in some senses.
The suhoor was around 3.30 a.m. I opted not to order from the hotel instead savouring the Chinese fried rice I bought outside of the hotel for B$3.00. I could conclude that transportation in Brunei was expensive (vouched by various reading in blogs and tourism sites as Bruneian rarely use public transports!) but the food were affordable. I also was quite taken aback when the cashier gave me an exchange of Singapore Dollar for the transaction – which I later found out that Singapore Dollars are transacted as equal in Brunei from one shopkeeper; and this was vouched by a statement in Wikipedia which stated :-
“The Bruneian dollar is managed together with the Singapore Dollar at a 1:1 ratio by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). (Singapore is one of Brunei’s major trading partners.)”.
My flight was scheduled at 9.30 a.m. but I pushed off from The Brunei Hotel at 8.00 a.m. Luckily I went earlier as the Bruneian immigration was taking ages! Air Asia also was a bit delayed but in the end, all ended well. I am glad I did this journey as I was so curious about Brunei and been wanting to visit the Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddien Mosque. For me, Brunei is a haven for tranquility and spirituality; if you are expecting some hooha, funky tourism attraction; Brunei may not be suitable for you and perhaps you might find it mundane. But for people who are seeking serenity and spiritual solace, Brunei is your haven. Definitely, Brunei Darussalam lives to its name, The Abode Of Peace.
This is a mosque at Brunei International Airport but it was labelled as a “surau” (musolla). Wow, a musolla of THIS big??! Amazing. Can’t resist to take picture.
In process of reading this celebrated piece by Harper Lee – “To Kill A Mockingbird”. My company in my 2 hours and 20 minutes Air Asia flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuala Lumpur; and vice versa. Book is such an intellectual company whenever you are to travel.
I purposely wear this T-Shirt which I bought at an Islamic convention in 2013 (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-almightys-serendipity-pray-4-gaza-egypt-syria-rohingya-carnival-concert-of-ikim-fm-bandar-baru-bangi-section-15/); just to enliven the Islamic mood – and my bald head for Ramadhan spirit. On whole, I am glad I did this solo trip on my 33rd birthday. This year I have been challenging myself out of my comfort zone- which is to travel abroad ALONE. I feel empowered by this newfound audacity and I need to venture out more to be more independent. A second time, after Singapore (for this year); I hope I would be doing more solo trips, after this!