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Beautiful Brunei

April 28, 2004
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Vibrant village life

It's worth taking one of various guided tours.

Perhaps the most interesting is to the uniqueKampung Ayer (literally "water village") onthe Brunei River. This group of stilt houses ishome to 30,000 inhabitants. Here you'll beinvited to the village's "show home" whereyour host proffers sweet tea and cakes. Thestilt houses were built before rainforest areaswere cleared for more orthodox housing, butmany of them are bang up-to-date, withsatellite TV and internet connections.

Communities in the village each have theirown chief, schools, police station, fire stationand waterbus stops. This is your last chanceto see a rapidly disappearing lifestyle. In a bidto modernise the country's image, theauthorities have decreed that if a house fallsempty, it may not be be reoccupied.

Finally, don't miss the Jerudong Park Playground in the Brunei Muara region, a funfair and adventure park in tropical gardens that makes for an entertaining evening with rollercoasters,traditional bumper cars, shooting galleries and boat rides.

On a day when Brunei's heat and humidity drop a little, take the opportunity to browse around the local markets and breathe in the heady fragrance of the lemongrass and spices on sale. Other souvenirs to snap up include exquisite raffiawork.

Brunei, a Muslim country, banned alcohol in 1991. That means no wine or ice-cold beer with your restaurant meal. But non-Muslim visitors over 17years old can "import" their own to drink in their hotel room and, even if this opportunity doesn't present itself, tall, iced glasses ofmelon and mango cocktails are the ultimate in refreshment.

Fabulous food and drink 

Street and restaurant food in Brunei is delicious, mainly ricebased Malay and Chinesecuisine. In the bustling capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, you're likely to come across excellentIndian, Italian and Japanese restaurants, too.

Serenity spas

Spas are an integral part of Brunei's many new hotels. The finest is at the Empire Hotel andCountry Club, which offers La Prairie treatments, an indoor swimming pool, hot tub and modern gym. Its 445 acres also include an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. And the best news? Despite the Empire's splendour, it has a flexible attitude towards drop-in diners, and families are especially welcome.

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The spectacular Empire Hotel and Country Club offers waterside rooms, suites and villas with stunning views out over the surrounding landscape
Among the many natural pleasures to be enjoyed in Brunei's forest reserves is a refreshing dip in a rock pool complete with waterfall...
A trek up into the forest canopy at theUlu Temburong Park makes for an unforgettable experience

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