Serdang, Brunei

Photo: Mangrove Paradise Resort
Photo: Mangrove Paradise Resort

Southeast Asia might be your favorite region in the world. Years ago, you started your travels in Thailand. Since then, you’ve eaten your way through Vietnam and Laos. You found the temples in Cambodia. You beach hopped between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. You recently explored Myanmar. But what about Brunei?

Brunei is an often-overlooked, rarely visited corner of Southeast Asia. It sits on the north coast of Borneo and is surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. The small country is known for its rich oilfields, huge palace, elaborate mosques, and rainforest-filled national parks. The sultan’s strict laws deter many from traveling to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, though. But those who venture here find a beautiful country with welcoming people.

Since you don’t know what to expect in Bandar, you decide to stay outside of the city when you arrive in Brunei. The Mangrove Paradise Resort is just 12 miles away along the Brunei River. In a nod to the area’s water villages, the resort’s chalets were built upon stilts over the water. Low green loungers sit on your balcony, from which you have a view of the water and passing fishing boats. Inside the sliding glass door, the simple room has a wooden floor, bright wallpaper, and a queen-size bed. While the modern bathroom even includes a rainfall shower. Now that you feel comfortable, it’s time to venture out.

After exploring each day—first the royal museum and around the sultan’s palace, then the nearby water villages and islands—you return to the resort to relax by one of the pools late in the afternoon. The air along the river is cool and refreshing compared to the stifling humidity just slightly inland. Next, you move to Z’yan, the restaurant overlooking the water. It serves traditional dishes like tom yum soup and salted egg-yolk crab. While you’ll definitely end the evening back on your balcony to watch stars fill the dark sky. It may have taken you a while, but you’ve finally conquered Brunei.

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