The magnificent Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is an imposing presence in the centre of Bruneis bustling capital, Bandar Seri Begawan
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Deep-blue lagoons and a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus overlook the South China Sea in the 445-acre grounds of Bruneis luxury Empire Hotel and Country Club

Visitors can enjoy the broad range of fresh tropical fruit, vegetables and juices available in the country


Beautiful Brunei

29 APRIL 2004
Brunei's full name (Brunei Darussalam) means "abode of peace". Now this sleeping beauty, located between the South China Sea and Malaysia's rainforest, is more than happy to have that peace disturbed. With some 100 miles of sandy beaches and national parks teeming with wildlife, Brunei is set to become a holiday destination to rival its tropical neighbours.

Brunei lies on the north-west coast of Borneo, between the Malaysian Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak. Wealthy from abundant supplies of oil and gas, until now Brunei and its people have felt neither the need nor the desire to attract tourists and as a result the country has remained a well-kept secret. But that's all changing.

Keen to become a holiday haven rather than just a stop-off on the way to Australia, Singapore or Thailand, Brunei is actively wooing visitors with the prospect of tropical beaches, longboat trips into the jungle and the opportunity for a rare glimpse into authentic village life. Another draw is that Brunei is an easy country to travel around: there's little poverty (it is unusual to find a household without a car) and crime is virtually unknown.

Beautiful beaches
Chilling out is a pleasure on one of Brunei's uncrowded beaches. Families should head for Muara Beach on the north coast with its good stretch of sand, food stalls, children's playground and modern facilities. Other lovely beaches are: Serasa, just along from Muara town, where you can sail, windsurf, water-ski and fish; Pantai Seri Kenangan (which means, aptly, "unforgettable beach") in Tutong, where a new holiday resort is being established; and Tungku Beach along the Muara-Tutong coastal road.

Natural wonders
One of Brunei's biggest attractions are its nature reserves and parks. It's best to hire a car to get to them, as there is no railway, the bus service stops running at 6pm and taxis can be pricey. To get to Ulu Temburong, one of the most popular and most beautiful reserves, the only way is by boat.

The journey is a great introduction to the rainforest. You're likely to see numerous bird species including the head-turning hornbill, as well as gibbon and exotic flying lizards. If you're lucky, you might even see monkeys dropping from the trees into the river for a cooling swim or hear them laughing at you as you try to keep dry in the traditional longboats that transport you from Batang Duri.

After the boat docks, there's a spectacular one-hour climb up to a canopy walkway via two hanging bridges and a plankway. It's well worth the effort, as the views are breathtaking and eating a picnic of fresh local dishes in such stunning surroundings is close to heaven on earth.


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