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. 


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…).  


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. 


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.