The Empire Hotel and Country Club - Brunei

posted Feb 11, 2011, 8:48 PM by Darren Cannell   [ updated Feb 12, 2011, 2:30 PM ]
When you drive up to this place which has its own clover leaf off of the highway and the long undulating grounds leading up, you expect big things.  We parked and hopped out to check in and the lobby is the grandest that I have ever been in.  When you get to the bottom after taking 3 separate escalators it is reminiscent of a cruise ship; heavily decorated and lots of bright gold and granite. Check in was painless and the bellboy lead us to building 2 which was quite a little stroll.  We were on lobby level which is on the 5th floor.  The doors are quite elegant with huge brass knobs and a very heavy wood door that swings open.  I purchased this one week Getaway from Interval International and according to the pictures and the literature that I received I was supposed to get platform beds that looked rather Napoleon and Josephine in the photos, so I was rather disappointed to find normal beds in our two adjoining rooms.  The rooms are larger than your average hotel room and they have a sort of separated area for changing where the closest is and a marble topped suitcase table.  This was a nice touch for a hotel room and this is where the extra comes in.  Also there is a nice little area that is marble topped for making coffee and tea a place to put the gorgeous solid silver ice bucket on, which by the way miraculously got filled up every night without asking.  The porcelain teacups have a JP symbol on them which I have a sneaking suspicion that these are the initials of the Sultan’s brother who built this hotel with the countries money???  There are silver spoons to go along with the cups.  Personally I have never been to a 5 star hotel with real silver spoons in the rooms, so that was a nice touch.

The bellboy that took us to our room was not a 5 or a 6 or a 7 star bellboy.  I have been in 3 star hotel rooms and the bellboy that delivered us to our room made us feel comfortable by describing everything from the TV remote to the wakeup call.  This Empire bellboy dropped off our bags and split without a word.  The Empire touts itself anywhere from 6-7 star depending on what you are reading.  On our GPS it states 7 star in parentheses after the name of the hotel.  Personally I would give it a tired 5 to 6 star.  The bellboy receives a one star.  He did not even tell us about the remote control drapes or how to make reservations or anything.  There is a bedside device for world-wide times, closing and opening drapes, lights, room service you name it, but not a back rub.

The bathroom is worth mentioning because it is perhaps bordering on a 7 star worthy place.  It is large at about 20 feet by 11 feet.  It is marbled up and has a comfortable tub that fills up ever so quickly.  It has a separate overly large shower with a powerful shower head and a separate glassed off area for the toilet and bidet.  The bathroom has a knob on the wall for volume and speakers in the ceiling but the music or whatever it was did not work.  I did love the bathroom and it comes complete with two robes per bathroom and nice smelling products to use.  The taps and fixtures were expensive and tasteful and the toilet seat was the heaviest I have ever encountered so obviously of good quality.  The 5 foot square window over the bathtub was wonderful because we had a direct South China Sea view and it all was quite tranquil.  Have you ever heard of 3-ply toilet paper?  Neither have I but the Empire Hotel bathrooms have 3 ply, which automatically elevates its standing in my mind.

The room itself needs some attention.  I am guessing that the rooms that we were in (2510 and 2509) are on the list of ‘needing to be refurbished’.  The furniture which is of good quality and of a dark cherry wood to match the lovely door are in need of being replaced.  All of the tops are damaged except for the large desk which has a glass top.  If there were glass tops or marble tops like the tea service or suitcase table then they would have been protected and in no need of replacement.  The footstool fabric which matches the bed skirts is very nice material but it was stained.  The carpet although very nice and expensive is in need of a good cleaning or replacement because there were many stains.  The two chairs by the large windows and sliding door out to the balcony are of a granny like color and design but they were very comfortable because they were feather stuffed.  There are marble tiles that surround the carpet and cover the perimeter of the room, this is a lovely shade and compliments the wood tones.

The lighting is great, they are everywhere.  The moulding on the ceiling and walls is nice and the overly large baseboards bring the room together.  The wall paper is peeling is some areas and the headboards are rather insignificant given the grandeur of the room.  I personally would not have picked them they are too sedate.  They are also stained and in need of cleaning or replacement.  The balcony is nice and large with two seats and a table, it is a nice place to sit or read but the balconies are in desperate need of cleaning.  They are filthy and need to be swept and washed.  I strongly feel that a competent hotel manager could get to the bottom of all of this neglect and get this easily and quickly back up to 6-7 star standards

There are 7 restaurants on site and we did not visit any of them due to the ridiculous pricing.  20 dollars for appetizers, they better be darn good.  We did not even look at the prices of the entrees.  Because the Empire is 10-15 minutes from anything they seemed to have jacked the prices up because they know that they have you.  If you have a rental car then it is smooth sailing and you can leave the property whenever you want to visit restaurant prices that don’t rape your wallet.  The hotel states in the literature that outside food is strictly not to be brought into the hotel, which is another attempt to gouge you.  I am a girl that does not follow rules when they are unfair or ridiculous.  This rule falls under both of the above and so therefore I broke the rule; tha is how I roll.  There are small refrigerators in the rooms so we purchased yogurt and bread and peanut butter and granola for snacks and breakfasts and then we did not have to leave the hotel until supper time. 

Drinks at the pool at the Empire are reasonable at around 5-6 dollars, keep in mind that this is a ‘mocktail’.  No alcohol is served or sold in Brunei.  As a foreigner you can enter into the country with one bottle of wine that you can consume in the privacy of your hotel room only.  If you enter into the country with drugs you will be put to death.  I hate what drugs have done to too many of the youth in Canada so this one does not bother me so much.

There is a kid’s club which is pretty good and the first 3 hours in free and then they charge 5 dollars per hour after this.  Dax enjoyed the water slide there and the games.  He also liked the girl in charge called Koi.  The pool at the main part of the hotel was large and relaxing.  There were plenty of lounge chairs and at times it felt like we were the only ones at this huge sprawling hotel.  A comment on the lounge chairs; they are not comfortable for reading because they do not sit up far enough.  I would not have picked them for any resort unless they have at least 5 to 6 different heights.

The grounds are huge and extensive and there are many places to hide and take the sun or the shade.  You can be closer to the beach where you can swim but there are apparently jellyfish.  The water here can be rough and it is not of the Caribbean colors but it is still pretty.  The manmade beaches are of white sand but it looks like a hurricane has come in and robbed the beaches of much needed sand because the blue plastic is showing in many places.  It is nothing that a few truck loads of sand could not fix though.  In the fake lake and manmade beach area they do have an algae problem in the water.  I was not going in there the bottom was covered with algae and some attention needs to be placed on this.   Another thing that is in desperate need of work is the wooden boardwalk; it is bordering on being dangerous with screws coming up and huge splinters of wood just waiting to become a huge pain in your foot.  If I was the manager I would have replaced those boards about two years ago, so I am not sure what they are waiting for (perhaps a lawsuit)?

The fitness area is located in the Country Club which is a different building.  It was an excellent facility and we visited it often.  There were also badminton courts and basketball and more swimming pools etc.

Internet is supposed to be free and wireless in the massive lobby but we could not find it so we opted to purchase the daily or 24 hour usage in our room at 30 Brunei dollars.  You can also purchase one hour plans at 5 dollars.  They also have a weekly package at 150 dollars but we only stayed 5 nights.

I first started to get interested in Brunei when this hotel came up as a Getaway for under 800 dollars for the week with Interval International.  I started investigating where Brunei is located in the world.  Like most Canadians I was really not sure where it was, was it in the Middle East or was it in Asia?  After some research of where this country resides and what it has to offer, we decided to venture to Brunei and stay at this posh hotel.  This hotel does need some work and repair; perhaps it just needs a competent manager to get it up to its original and intended grandeur.  If you are expecting a 4.5 to 5 star hotel then you will not be disappointed.  If you are expecting a 6 to a 7 star hotel, then stay at home or you will be disappointed.  Once again this 7 star status can easily be attained by a bit or work, some employee training and good people in key management positions.  Hire me and I would even get the Empire Hotel back to a place where it deserves to be.