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The Royal Regalia Museum or Bangunan Alat Kebesaran Diraja in Malay is located in the heart of Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. This museum is specifically dedicated to the sultan of Brunei which allows visitors to have a remarkable glimpse of his life, as told through artifacts and photographs.
From the outside, the museum looks dull and not so inviting. Apart from the mosaic-tiled dome sitting on the cup of the original crescent-shaped building, nothing else captured my interest. Nonetheless, I made my way through the main entrance, determined to discover what this museum has to offer. Besides, there is no admission fee, all you have to do is sign your name and nationality in the guest book and that’s it!
At the entrance, I was asked to take my shoes off and leave them on the shoe rack provided for the visitors. Yes, shoes and slippers were not allowed inside and they were quite strict about this. Understandable as some parts of the museum are covered in spotless carpet. So, I gladly oblige and proceeded to walk barefoot on the lavish marble – something that you wouldn’t want to experience because for some reason the floor was relatively cold! Hence, I recommend you to bring or wear socks.
The moment I stepped into the lobby, I felt as though I was transported back in time. Everything was strategically arranged, depicting important events leading to the 1992 silver jubilee celebration. I was magnetically drawn to the Royal Chariot that was used during the parade. It was massive, extravagant and awe-inspiringly impressive – truly fit for a Sultan. Shields and daggers surround the carriage. In front were headless mannequin dressed in traditional attire representing those who witnessed the festivity. While on the other side of the atrium was the equally impressive chariot that was used during the Sultan’s accession to the throne in 1967.
The main exhibition area was divided into several themed halls. Each featuring various exhibits from different royal ceremonies, from the history of the country to the Sultan’s and his family’s life and journeys. I was blown away when I entered the first hallway, I could right away tell that the main gallery was packed with highly expensive and very precious treasures. So it was not surprising to learn that cameras are prohibited in most areas with the exception of the central lobby.
The section of the museum that I preferred the most was the massive collection of gifts given to the Sultan from the different head of states and dignitaries. I was completely enthralled to know how these people solved the conundrum of presenting a gift to the man who already has everything? By the looks of it, I can say that they did a pretty good job! The gifts were made of the most precious materials imaginable like gold, jade, ivory, crystal and silver. Which reflected the profound wealth of the nation’s undisputed leader.
I inquisitively checked which gift was by far the most valuable or the most creative. Well, aside from the treasure chest made of abalone shells given by the former president of the Philippines – Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It’s the elaborate gifts from Jordan and Syria – gold plated national landmarks and diamond encrusted vases that stood out for me.
The exhibit ended up with the reenactment scene of the Silver Jubilee. It was larger than light! Ther’s a scaled down replica of the entrance gates of Istana Nurul Iman, the Sultan’s private residence and a life-size model of the Royal Chariot. Mannequins of the guards in black and red uniform stand in front and behind the chariot, and on the outskirts of the room were life-size photographs of onlookers – people who were actually in the crowd that day. The celebratory mood of the people during the occasion somehow magically radiated in the four walls of the hall. And indeed, it made me feel that I was one with them. Ah..words really can’t do this scene justice.
Also distinctively astonishing were the costumes worn by the Sultan and his two consorts during the Silver Jubilee. Queen Saleha’s costume was decorated with gold and diamonds, while the Sultan’s then second wife, Pengiran Isteri Hajah Mariam’s costume was decorated with gold and pearls. Totally an astonishing display of the country’s immense wealth.
Overall, the museum offers a remarkable snippet of the country’s history and the absolute empire that rules it. It was larger than I imagined and definitely worth a visit.
Getting there: Within walking distance from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque or anywhere in the city center.
Entrance fee: FREE
Visiting hours: The museum is open from 8:30AM-5PM Saturdays-Thursdays and 9AM-5PM on Fridays with a lunch break from 11:30-2:30PM.