I was fortunate to have nine days in Brunei in December for an exhibition, and the first thing you notice upon reaching the sites is just the sheer size of this place, as it is a hotel and Country Club complete with golf course attached.
This hotel was obviously designed to make a statement and just a quick stroll around the lobby will do that for you. This hotel does in some parts reminds me of the Al Rasheed, Baghdad. But unlike the Al Rasheed this hotel has many more things going for it. Here the rooms are large and if you have a sea facing room a grand view.
Still adjusting to the new time zone I woke up at around 4am, after milling around at around 5am I decided to take a walk around in the grounds, it took me about thirty minutes just to walk around about a quarter of the grounds to the main entrance.
There are many things that I liked about this hotel, not necessarily in any order, but the shower was nice and powerful it will definitely wake you up in the mornings. There is a good choice of different restaurants on the hotel grounds, although during a busy time for the hotel two of them were closed for a couple of nights Li Fong and Pantai. I also used the gym a couple of the morning, but to note this is located in the Golf Club and the hotel will tell you its fifteen minutes walk away and therefore you will need a buggy to get there, but in reality its only a seven minute walk. The facilities in the gym were good and although the sauna had seen better days, it still worked much better than the steam room which looked a little sad.
I liked the fact that the television allowed you to plug and play your own content, via HDMI interface, for anyone that has looked at the limited Brunean television channels may appreciate bringing some of your own content from home to watch (see photo). Most movies here are heavily censored, so much so that you loose half the jokes from your typical comedy. To put it another way, a movie like 48 Hours would probably last no more than fifteen minutes.
On the negatives, Empire Hotel and Country Club are remote not near anything apart from the sea. On top if you have to go anywhere, you will need to rely on the hotel cars or taxis and to note there are only 50 taxis in the whole of Brunei, yes five zero, then at nights apparently there are only five taxis operating, usually around the airport. So if you are spending any significant time at this hotel you should consider hiring a car for the duration of your stay, because there only seems to be one taxi fare and that is B$30 dollar everywhere I went, but you can hire a car for B$75 a day, on top of this a litre of water is more expensive than a litre of petrol.
I did find some of the hotel staff, awkward in serving but speaking to a couple of people who said that Brunei unlike many of its neighbours doesn’t have many tourists so unlike the Thais and Philippinos, the service industry quite poor, one of the girls serving me was actually shaking as she tried to pour me a coffee one morning; others when they spoke often mumbled away from you, so I struggled to hear what they were saying. Others were great, but this does remind me of first visiting Latvia many years ago, I think some service industry training is required, considering this is the premier hotel in the country. Many of the staff were great, but there were some who really generally struggled to deal with people.
Once you know what to expect I would certainly choose to stay here again, some of the views from the windows are spectacular, although in the distance I am still not sure by what country I could see in the distance. To summarise, a great hotel but on first appearances does in parts looks a bit dated but certainly don’t let this put you off, this is a great hotel with plenty of facilities to offer.
Five things I liked about this hotel
1. Nice powerful showers
2. Afternoon tea is great value
3. Television plug & play, makes it easy to use
4. Complimentary orange juice, reminded me of the orange juice we used to get from the milk man
5. Great views looking over the South China sea
Five things I disliked
1. The location is remote and no public transport
2. The internet was free but very unstable
3. No ATM on the site,
4. Restaurants struggled to cope when busy
5. Service could be very slow when busy
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the north eastern tip of Borneo on the doorstep of one of Asia's oldest rainforests, The Empire Hotel & Country Club is Brunei’s most prestigious beach resort offering unsurpassed 5-star luxury.This palatial resort hotel, which astounds visitors with its spectacular 12 storey marble and gold lobby, is set in its own private 180-hectare (445 acres) estate of manicured gardens and an 18-hole, floodlit Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and Country Club. Each of the hotel’s 522 opulently appointed guest rooms, suites and private villas has a view of the ocean, lagoon, gardens or golf course, while standard throughout the hotel are Imperial king-sized beds made with the finest linens, and over-sized marble bathrooms with walk-in shower, deep soaking tub with gold taps and luxury amenities. The Empire Hotel & Country Club also extends the kingdom’s regal hospitality with an impressive range of international restaurants, spa, world-class golf and sporting activities, and international meeting facilities for top level MICE gatherings, making it a resort ideal for family, romantic or business vacations. The Empire Hotel & Country Club is a member of WORLDHOTELS and recipient of numerous prestigious international awards. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Empire Hotel And Country Club
- Empire Hotel Brunei