In all of my trips to Asia, this was so far memorable. We booked our Manila to Kota Kinabalu promo ticket for 7 months in advance. The long preparation paid off with all the amazing experiences we had in this small and gorgeous country. We never really see everything in Brunei but we are sure to come back especially for a hike.

I decided to write something about Brunei when one of my friends in Morocco asked me “where’s Brunei?”. That moment, I started to tell him the beauty of this country. We’ve been there for just 2 nights but seen how organized the city is. According to the 2019 World Fact Book of United States CIA,  Brunei is one of the countries in the world with a stable economy with crude oil and natural gas production account for approximately 65% of GDP and 95% of exports. An energy-rich sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia, it boasts a well-educated, largely English-speaking population.

We arrived at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 01h30. Money changers were closed. It was too early but we decided to head to Jesselton Point and spent some hours waiting for the boat to Brunei. The Uber ride was too cheap so it was a good idea since we were sharing the cost among 8 friends. So 4 persons per taxi. It was still dark so we decided to look for a place and have coffee or just to hangout. We stayed inside a convenience store but after an hour, we were forced to leave since they needed to clean the store. We took a walk to the big avenue searching for ATM but to no avail, all our cards were not working. Such a dilemma as to how we are going to pay for the tickets. I got a few ringgits with me but I was thinking about my friends. Money changers were still closed. We decided to order some food for the trip so we have something on our way to Labuan. Luckily, one of my friends tried her ATM inside the terminal and it worked. So she withdrew some money and paid boat tickets for 8 persons. Economy tickets for 38 RM per person and 41 RM for First class. Take note that they only have 2 trips to Labuan in a day, 8h00 and 13h30.

02h00. Pillars of Sabah. These beautiful 30 pillars was a ruin from 1992 fire turned into an art showcase carefully painted by 30 selected Sabah artists.
We were forced to leave the convenience store since they needed to clean.
Jesselton Point. Jumping-off point to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and to Labuan.


Finally, after 6 hours of waiting at the Jesselton, we left on board a fastcraft to Labuan and after 3.5 hours, we arrived in Labuan Federal Territory. Labuan is an island off the coast of Sabah is famous for the commercial and financial hub as well as a popular tourist destination. We had more time before we left in Labuan so we took the opportunity to exchange some currency and grab some lunch. At the Terminal Feri Antarabangsa Labuan, while waiting for our ferry, an immigration officer approached and greeted us. We had a nice chat until he asked us how much money do we have. We discovered that we have to prepare cash on hand upon arrival in Serasa. I understand the immigration officer, it was like a show-money to the immigration officer in Serasa. According to the Immigration Officer, we should have at least 50 US$ per day. At first, we were doubtful about it and decided to just prepare. We divided our cash among 8. Our 3 friends don’t have much cash so we gave them some.

Arrived in Labuan with threatening weather. One more boat ride to Brunei.
Labuan to Serasa by ferry. Everybody was exhausted and we just wanted a bed and good food.

On the boat to Serasa, we were handed an entry form, fill it up and part of it was days of stay. Originally, we planned to stay for a night which my 3 friends indicated on their arrival card. I put 2 days on mine. After 2 hours of a ferry ride, we arrived at Serasa in the late afternoon, fall in line at the immigration. So here comes my turn and the immigration officer did ask me how much money do I have, I answered him “I am not certain as to how much but I can count it”, opening my wallet with mixed USD, RM, and PhP bills. No more questions asked and gave my passport. My other friends were also asked to show their cash on hand.

We were so lucky to have good friends in Brunei and picked us up at the ferry terminal. Our 3-storey Airbnb accommodation was too big for 8 persons. It was grand and sparkling clean with a friendly host. After we took a rest, we headed for Bruneian dinner hosted by our good friends Kak Nor, Abg PK and John. They were my best buddies when we hiked in 12 summits in Indonesia. The dinner was superb and healthy. The night tour followed after dinner. My 3 friends were so lucky to have this tour. Little did they know that they were only given 1 day stay in Brunei as transpired on their passport.

Jame’ Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. The largest and one of the national mosque in Brunei was constructed in 1988 and inaugurated in 1994. It can accommodate 5,000 worshipers.

The sauteed kangkong (water spinach) was the star of the night. Always perfect when you have a glass of tea tarik.

Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge a.k.a. Sungai Kebun Bridge is the 2nd longest-single pylon cable-stayed bridge in the world connecting the city center and Sungai Kebun. The construction started in June 2014 and was inaugurated in 2017.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is considered as one of the most lavish and well-ornate mosques in Asia-Pacific. It can accommodate 3,000 worshippers at a time.

We had a glimpse of the well-guarded Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. Designed by Filipino architect Leandro V. Locsin, it holds the Guinness Book  title of “world’s largest residential palace

We had an incredible time during the night tour and blessed to have Kak Nor, Abg PK, and John with us. Dropped by in some of Brunei’s attractions such as Royal Palace, RIPAS Bridge, and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.

Day 2. A Walk In The Woods and Ftour

We woke up early for our whole day trip. Our 3 friends made a big discovery on their passport stamp. They were just given a 1-day stamp so they had to leave before their 24 hours expires. So they left after lunch and 6 of us remained for a day trip. Kak Nor and Abg PK picked us up at the house for an early morning walk at Bukit Shahbandar.

The hills have basic exercise equipment and facilities such as the stone trails that massages your foot, a small playground, and hiking trails. The refreshing morning breeze and singing birds were a great compliment to the natural landscape as we reached the 9th hills, the last one. Few minutes of silence and we descent to the entry point of Shahbandar. Close to the gate, we encountered some monkeys cleaning themselves and their babies. Never give them food for they tend to be aggressive. It was Ramadhan so they only open place to buy food was MacDonalds so we ordered some for lunch so our 3 friends can eat before they left. After we dropped them at the Serasa Terminal, we had a great time walking around Bandar Seri Begawan especially at the food complex where people buy food for their ftour. You can just buy there but eating in public is not allowed since it was Ramadhan.

It was a great walk around Empire Brunei Hotel before we headed to Bukit Shahbandar.

Bukit Shahbandar pebble trail. Brunei is blessed to have this kind of nature trails. Right in the middle of the city.

Oh those tired toes and dying nails! 🙂

After we dropped our 3 friends at Serasa, we had the chance to check the famous Gadong Night Market located at Simpang 37, Bandar Seri Begawan. This place is a food lover’s haven. Here, you can buy all the food you can imagine. Just by looking at it, they are all delicious. From meat skewers, fruit shakes, noodles, sweet treats, fresh fruits, and vegetables, it’s a perfect place to shop for cooked food or even fresh ones.

Looking for their next target area. Gadong Night Market.
One of the interesting facts I learned from my Bruneian friends was that citizens don’t pay personal income tax.
Juicy and meaty lamb barbecue for 1.5 BN$ per stick.
Fresh tropical fruits straight from the farms in the outskirts of Bandar Seri Begawan.

Watermelon and durian
Dragon fruit or pitahaya is a fruit from a certain cactus genus Hylocereus. It comes from different flesh colors like white or yellow and tastes juicy but not too sweet. It’s widely farm in most parts of Southeast Asia.
This was my favorite. Martabak.

Martabak, as seen in this photo, is a pan-fried cake commonly prepared in Southeast Asian countries and in the Arabian Peninsula. It is usually filled with chocolate sprinkles, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, condensed milk or chocolate spread. You just have to decide which filling you want.

Making martabak requires skills in layering, filling and flipping. This girl is a professional martabak maker.

The most exciting part of the trip was dinner ftour. That was my first time to have ftour. I was in Indonesia during Ramadhan but never had ftour. A few years had gone by, the atmosphere was still embedded in my mind. The energy and excitement before the breaking of the fast, while they serve all the food in one big table, was intense. Mouth-watering dishes. People are looking at the clock every now and then while others are trying to distract their attention by chatting to their family and friends. The bell rang and it was like a market. A huge feast and food are filling the table from time to time. That was a good wrap for the day.

Cosmos leaves, sliced carrots and cucumber for starter. My first time to tried cosmos leaves.

Terima kasih Abg PK and Kak Nor for the hearty dinner! It was a pleasure to meet your kids as well.

Tamarillo fruit juice. Local fruit in Southeast Asia, I am always fascinated with this unique taste and flavor of this fruit. Sweet and full of aroma. I got to taste this in one of our climbing expeditions in Java and from then on, it became one of my favorite.

Ambuyat, seen as a white starchy dish in a bowl, is the national dish of Brunei. It is sourced from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It requires tedious preparation from the collection, processing, and, cooking. Tastes bland and are normally dipped in any sauces using chopsticks or just eat it like that. It’s really sticky so you have to be careful. Sometimes known as linut and is a local delicacy in some Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah, and the federal territory of Labuan.


Two days’ visa stamp was almost over and we left Serasa at 08h30 onboard Seri Mutiara Express ferry. Ticket cost: 17 BN$. Cheaper if you book a roundtrip ticket for 29 BN$. You can book a ticket by Whatsapp at +673 8731299 or +6012 8438998. The ferry was comfortable and offers basic snacks. We had ample time to shop and dine at Labuan so my friends took advantage of the duty-free shopping. We never did since we’re not into shopping. We just had lunch in an eatery and took a walk at the park. We arrived in KK City on time and immediately transferred to our hostel just a few meters away from Jesselton.

Clean and comfortable ferry from Serasa to Labuan for 17 BN$ per person.
Simple, delicious and affordable meals just in front of the Labuan Ferry Terminal.

While waiting for our ferry schedule, we had plenty of time to relax at Labuan public square.

We had arrived at Jesselton Point.
Walking to our hostel a few meters away from Jesselton.

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I live my life everyday celebrating. An easy go lucky guy. Always hungry for adventure and learning different cultures. If I'm not at the summit, I'm at the sea. Traveling is my way of life. Deeply in love with mountaineering, swimming, skinny dipping, island hopping, fishing, and cycling. Loves good food, beer, music, and good human conversation. At home, I used to cook, do yoga, and meditate. A coffee lover. Stay most of my time at the outdoors, breathing the cold air, tasting the saltiness of sea breeze, watch the waves swiftly caressing the sand, listen to the flowing water of the river, pitch my tent or hang my hammock and sleep under 5 billion stars. I hate manicured places (resorts). Adores sunrise and sunset which gives me extraordinary energy.