Among other facilities, there are three royal guest suites, 12 apartment suites for His Majesty's children, an audience room, clinic, multi-sports complex, helipad and underground parking for cars. This is on record, public information - because very few could actually have seen all, or even part of the istana! A special conference room is dedicated to the meetings of the Pehin, or titled persons. The Privy Council also meets here in its own conference room. The Sultan takes his official audiences at the palace which is also used for all state functions of the government of Brunei.
The palace is not open to the public except at the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri the festival at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when His Majesty throws open the doors to meet his subjects. Guests are given food, mementos and small packets containing money. An estimated , visitors come every year to visit the istana and receive a gift from his eminence over this three-day period. For the record, Hari Raya is on right now - so if you're planning on visiting Brunei soon, time your visit such that you get the chance to wish the royal family "Selamat Hari Raya" during Istana Nurul Iman's open house - while you need to check this out to make sure, we think the 3-day Open House this year starts on July 29, Obviously with Istana Nurul Iman being possibly the highest security zone in all of Brunei, visitors are not encouraged - all we could see of it from the river was its glistening dome, and from the road in front of it we saw high ornate wrought iron gates emblazoned with the Sultan's coat of arms and the long stately driveway leading into his magical home!
Our driver brought us here and we thought we're just gonna drive past it to see how big the area is but he stopped in front of the main gate and asked us to stay in the car. He went to the guard and we were given permission to take a picture in front of the gate and also get a picture with the guard.
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Was told that no tourist is allowed to go in so that's pretty much it. If you go to the front entrance you just see 2 sets of gates and a large archway and gardens but go to the back of the palace on the water and you have a better view.
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As planned they wanted security and privacy. In fact buy a post card and you get to see what the palace really looks like. The palace is only open 3 days per year so for the rest of the time all that can be seen is the main gate, a glimpse of the roof line and a jetty from the river. Some tours will take you around the administrative area the palace staff housing, the Sultans school he attended and his airport but they are not that compelling viewing.
One can only stay outside the gates to view the Palace. Actually one can only see little of the Palace and the grounds because of the trees inside. Nevertheless, one can see that this is really a house for the royalty.
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There's not much to do in Brunei. If you plan to visit Brunei, make sure that you timed it during the Hari Raya holiday when the palace is open. It was a memorable experience to meet the royal family that is if you do not mind lining up for hours for a few seconds of meet and greet. There was plenty of food to feed everyone and the best part is they give a souvenir after the visit..
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