backpacking the empire hotel in brunei

Though not quite rags to riches, after spending my first two nights in Brunei at what felt more like a hovel than a hostel I decided to go out with a bang. Given it’s impossible to find a clean/decent/humane room in Bandar Seri Begawan for less than $25-30, Jae (hostel buddy) and I decided to throw down $100 each for none other than the self-proclaimed 7-star Empire Hotel. 

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After waiting thirty minutes for the #57 bus, it showed up at 11:30 AM and informed us it wouldn’t be leaving until 2:30 PM. Only in Brunei does a public bus show up to the station and sit for three hours. A $14 taxi split with a lovely couple later, we arrived. 

Walking up to the front door we were greeted by a bellman as two other staff members opened both doors like it was straight out of a movie. To spare you the details, the lobby is grand, the eight pools are lovely, and there’s a movie theater, bowling alley, and not one but two badminton courts (the racquets and courts are free to use, but you have to purchase your own shuttlecock for $20…).  

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Our room itself was a bit of a letdown compared to the splendor of the rest of the hotel, but after our spot the night before there were no complaints to be made. Shoutout to the complementary mini-bar of sodas and a low fat milk juicebox (?). As it was Ramadan in a dry country, I appreciated the pool bar that served neither food nor drinks. 

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Overall was it worth it? Depends who you ask. Solely due to the fact that the options around town are as expensive and terrible as they are, I was quite content with the cost to benefit. It’s peaceful, opulent, and a nice break from the rest of my least favorite country in Southeast Asia. 

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