I was supposed to fly to Batam that weekend but my flight got cancelled a week before. This was supposed to be a visa run trip, and I was responsible in planning and drafting the whole trip for two. I didn’t have any backup plan and I had to consider the time and budget that we had set aside for this trip; places like Thailand, Cambodia etc were a far cry. So I thought, why not Brunei? It’s near, underhyped, and different. After doing some digging through the internet, I found out that there’s nothing much to do in Brunei for a short period of time. So we tweaked and included Miri (Sarawak) into our plan, it turned out to be better.
We didn’t even spend a night in Brunei, we were only passing through for a few hours just for a couple of stamps. Is it possible to do visa run without spending a night? Apparently, yes!
Our flight departed at 0645 from Kuala Lumpur and we landed in Brunei International Airport 2 hours later. The airport was almost empty. We went to the entrance and got into a cab to head straight to the town because neither of us carry any Brunei dollar. Our cab ride from the airport to Bandar Seri Begawan took less than half an hour, costing us $30 (pretty expensive after converting to MYR). It was a nice ride to the city; no traffic, peaceful and quiet. I didn’t see a lot of cars, or even people.
Our first destination was the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in Brunei and the Dome (Kubah) is coated with gold. Make no mistake about it because this mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques I’ve ever seen. It looks incredible from far, and it even look more magical upfront. The architecture and the grandeur of this mosque speak the symbol of how great Brunei is as an Islamic state.
Brunei takes it seriously on Friday prayer business closure ruling. I did my trip on Friday and I only had a couple of hours to grab my lunch before all the shops closed for Friday prayer. I was told that all business will resume at 2.30pm. So we had our lunch and waited outside the restaurant by the Brunei river while enjoying a scenic view of the biggest Malay Water Village in the world. There were a lot of boats passing and crossing by, bringing people to and fro before the Friday prayer started. During the prayer, the whole place turned into a ghost town.
Bandar Seri Begawan is a vibrant yet peaceful city. It’s so quiet and serene, but rich with traditional sentiments and opulence. My 5-hour trip was enjoyable although I didn’t do much. Having a glimpse of the city was enough to make me want to come back again for a longer visit.
There are a few interesting things you can do if you have more time, touring the city is just one of the many. For other activities and places to visit, you can click here to find out more.
From Brunei, we left to Miri, Sarawak (one of the states in the Borneo island, Malaysia) with an express bus. Price is BND18 per pax for one way. You can travel with taxi but it will cost you close to BND100 or maybe more depending how lucky you are. We left at 2.30pm and the journey took around 3 hours through small towns. I took the liberty to hibernate since spending hours in Brunei doing nothing made me mentally exhausted.
We reached the Immigration not long after. The checkpoint is small and outdated but a lot of cars were coming in and out from Brunei – Malaysia. It was a smooth journey, the visa run was flawless and we were so thrilled that the worrying and tiring phase was finally over. Knowing that the quick Brunei trip was going to cost us our time and energy, I booked a well-deservied 2-night stay at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri. Not the greatest hotel but definitely value for money. I settled in for the sea view room for only RM250 a night.
So what did I do in Miri? NOTHING! This wasn’t an adventurous trip (although I considered crossing through Brunei for a visa run to be adventurous) but we just wanted to have some relaxing time over the weekend after the visa run; enjoying some dip in the pool and indulging ourselves with some sumptuous seafood buffet before heading back to Kuala Lumpur.
Miri is just like Kuala Lumpur, minus all the tall buildings and LRT. The city is filled with shopping malls and hotels. The beach is fine, but not really worth flying there just for that. The hotel where I stayed was great despite the negative reviews I read online. To me it was satisfying enough. Maybe because I’m not much of a choosy and picky traveller. My bed was comfortable, the food was amazing but yes I have to admit that the interior is pretty outdated but the view I had from my room made my stay so worthwhile.