Behind the bustling Tamu Kianggeh in Bandar Seri Begawan, lies a quiet road that would lead you to Kg Subok. Take a 10-minute trip down this lane and you will arrive at the entrance to Bukit SiPatir. A convenient spot for hikers of Bandar Seri Begawan, the hiking trails at Bukit SiPatir is the newest addition to the hiking spots in Brunei. Although it has only been opened for a year, on weekends the number of visitors can be as low as 500 and reach up to 2,000 people per day.
A good hiking spot for people of all ages, a regular hiker of Bukit SiPatir explains why: “I’ve tried hiking at Tasek Lama and Shahbandar, I think Bukit SiPatir is suitable for all, because of the pacing of the elevation. It doesn’t constantly lead upwards, but occasionally leads down too making it easier as compared to the other two places which can be quite challenging.” She also advised new hikers and newcomers to keep going, even if just once a week, and like herself, constantly try to improve yourself.
Managed by the community of Kg Subok, the place present a supportive community. With solar-powered lights funded with the generous donations of the people of Subok, pre-dawn, late-afternoon, and night hikers benefit from the lighted trails of Bukit SiPatir. Big black plastic bags are also provided to allow people to dispose of their trash as they follow the routes, keeping the place clean.
At the entrance to Bukit SiPatir, a map is posted just underneath the sign “Bukit SiPatir”, illustrating the various connective routes and mountains. Going down the rocky path leads to a small parking space and a few vendors as well as another track leading down to the starting base to the actual hike to reach the peak of Bukit SiPatir. But before venturing straight ahead, take note of the sign posted with the label “Keselamatan” with several contact numbers on it.
Omar bin Hj Ali, one of the volunteers that are part of the ‘Keselamatan (Safety) Team’, explained their team’s purpose, “people come here at any time of the day, and sometimes, even at night. If anyone needs help we’re the ones who usually handle it – they can contact any one of us regardless of the time of the day. We’re just volunteers here, it’s kind of like our contribution to this place and its people”.
Similar to other forest walking and hiking trails, you can hear the constant sound of the forest; insects and crickets chirping as you go, remaining unseen to the eyes in the dense greenery. At Bukit SiPatir, there are two ways to start your hike: through the ‘Kebun Buah’ which would take you longer to reach the peak, or the trail that’s just up ahead, which is not only shorter, but also allows an early detour to the peak of Bukit Belakang Marang, a serene and tranquil spot, perfect for a short break to catch your breath.
The trail directly up ahead offers a cool shade, with tall trees on the sides of the trail providing a green foliage arching overhead, sheltering you from the sun. The yellow simpur flowers and the purples of karamunting thrive along the trails.
Occasionally the path splits offering two options. Although in a few minutes both converge, one path is shorter but requires a bit of a climb. The longer path is more of a walk than a hike up the trail. If you love a good short challenge, opt for the shorter one! Do keep in mind though that not all paths lead back to the main trail of Bukit SiPatir; signs are posted to inform visitors that the optional route would lead you away from the place, so unless you are familiar with it, you are advised to keep to the main route.
Once you reach the peak, it really is a change of scenery. On one side, you can see the Temburong Bridge, a few fishing spots on the Brunei River down below, speed boats speeding across the silent undisturbed river, parting the waves as it goes past jetties and houses of Kg Ayer. On the other side, the view shows Kg Subok wedged between two thick expanses of forest, a white line surrounded by greenery.
However, it is not just the change of scenery that contributes to the charm of the peak. On the way up, some people joked that the scene at the peak is like a wedding, due to the number of people up there as well as them taking pictures. True to these words, exiting to open air space, you’ll see a lot of people gathered at one place, the very opposite to the quiet peak of Bukit Belakang Marang. Families and friends are clustered together here, people from the older generations accompanied by their children and grandchildren, resting together on benches under trees that the locals referred to as “pokok jati”. The hubbub of friendly chatter all around you creates an unexpectedly calming, familiar atmosphere, a welcome contrast to the rest of the quiet hike.
The “Kebun Buah” trail is more open-aired, sunny, and bright, a contrast to the other path. With plenty of fruit trees along the trail such as rambutan, jagus, karamunting, and more, during the fruit season this path is quite merry. This trail also provides rest huts, and we passed once which was still a work in progress. Moreover, you can find people selling drinks to help keep hikers hydrated. One of them is Hjh Aisah, a fit and healthy 73-year-old. “I’ve been coming here for almost a month already in the morning and afternoons, bringing bottled drinks up a little at a time, accompanied by my family,” she said.
While this particular trail seems easy and a breeze of a walk, the main highlight is the “Cabaran Curam”. With ropes to aid people to climb up or down, it is a steep and mostly vertical path, perfect for those who love a good challenge. Do take extra care if you choose to accept it though!
A mother and son suggest to go along the orchard trail first, “the path is much longer but it makes for an easier hike. It’s easier to handle going down the other way.” Our guide for the day, Hassan, said that “if you go slow, it can take up to two hours, but otherwise, you can make a whole round trip for much less time”. The preference then could be because some prefer a shorter trip down and due to the cover as the close trees provide protection from the heat as the day grows hot.
The balance then between the various trails, the challenges, the rewarding experience and the fantastic view, with the addition of the helpful and generous community that frequents Bukit SiPatir, makes the place a friendly place for all types of hikers and nature lovers. Hop on down there with your family and friends if you fancy yourself a good exercise!