Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Empire Hotel & Country Club

In my recent trip to Brunei, I had the chance to stay at the The Empire Hotel & Country Club due to hotel rates in the city or near the place where I will work is more expensive than usual as there is an ongoing convention in town. From the airport, I arranged for a saloon transfer from the hotel pegged at BND35 one way. The hotel is around 15 minutes away from the airport and upon entry on its estates, I was surprised on its vast size and came to realize later that the property is considered a resort.
The airport transfer had me dropped off at the main atrium, where the check-in counters are located. Later, I realized that rooms are scattered across different wings (or buildings) - Lagoon, Waterfall, Seaview buildings, as well as East and West Wings of the Atrium building. There are also standalone Villas scattered throughout the property.
gong at the drop-off/pick-up lobby

Check-in was a breeze, despite arriving past 10AM and guaranteed time for check-in is at 2PM. The room was already available and I was led back to the driveway to ride a buggy.
room keys and map provided during check-in
Did I say buggy? Yes, it's actually more like an extended golf cart. This is their mode of transportation specially on long distances within the property. You can ask for a buggy pickup from all lobbies of all buildings whenever you need it.
My room is located in Lagoon building. I was surprised that it is actually just behind the atrium building and a short walking distance away from where I checked in.
Lagoon North entrance
I opted for the Business Executive Package from the hotel, BND225+ per night, which included stay in a superior room, breakfast for 1 person and internet access throughout the stay. The superior room had a king bed and supposedly is the most basic type they have in the hotel. I was surprised on how big the room was (60sqm) as I expected it to be basic. Complete bedding and furnishings, ample closet and drawer space for my stuffs, nicely sized working desk which I have used a lot throughout the stay, a balcony where I stay to unwind at times and a big spacious bathroom.

It was surprising however that the TV is a bit dated (CRT/tube type) but it was okay and had a good selection of channels to keep me entertained at dull times.
The spacious bathroom was also a big plus. Nice to see that the tub and shower is separated and the marbled flooring, counters and walls were looks very luxurious. They also provided the usual toiletries like shampoo, shower gel, conditioner. lotion, toothbrushes and some cottons.
toiletries provided
shower room separated from the toilet
marbled countertop
Even the balcony area is spacious! The room is overviewing the buildings nearby and have a small glimpse of the beach down below the hill.

view from the room

Another thing, my room had its own wifi router. A big plus, specially for me who have quite a few devices that needs to connect. Internet connection was purely wireless and up to 5 devices is allowed to register to their system per room account.
After settling and resting a few minutes in the room, I immediately went out and explored the area nearby.
ceiling at the Lagoon building

the atrium of Lagoon building

some tables and chairs lagoon side

swimming pool at Lagoon building
 way going to the Atrium
back entrance going to the shops and atrium

Seaview building


near the shops

majestic pillars and architecture at the atrium

On my 3rd day, I also got a chance to explore the area further, down to the beach side, after my engagement with a customer that day that ended a bit early.

fountains near the swimming pool
swimming pool over looking the beach

salt water pool

beach side

lonely bench

other areas near the pool and beach side
dolphin statues on the hill
Marine Centre 

E-Kids Club

posting of daily activities within the property
On my 4th day, I also passed by the Country Club which is located at the other end of the compound, near the entrance gate.

ceiling at the country club

stairs leading down to The Bunker
play area at the Clubhouse
During my fifth and final day, and before taking a flight, I also managed to squeezed time to watch a movie at the in-house Cineplex.
entrance to cinema
lobby area of the cinema

Movies were priced at BND7. I was alone throughout the duration of the whole movie. Did I mention it was a horror movie I watched?
What about food and beverage outlets? The property has got a lot! Included breakfast is served at Atrium Café located at level 3 of the Atrium, where I eat daily every morning during my stay. The restaurant is very well visible when looking down from the atrium.
The buffet spread is complete, with noodle station, egg station, congee and soup station, fruits, deserts, cereals, pastries, meat salads, etc. You name it! They sure has got something for everyone's taste. I got different items daily during breakfast.
second day
third day
fourth day
fifth day
For dinner during my 2nd night, I had a chance to dine at Spaghettini. The place is a bit formal and it is advised that people wear something more than shorts when dining here. The restaurant is open daily for dinner, except on Tuesdays.

Spaghettini is accessible near the check-in counters via a flight of stairs leading up one level (level 6) or an elevator.

The place is quiet and cozy and very nice. Servers and waiters are very friendly and eager to serve the dining guests, making sure they have a pleasant experience.

 my table setup
bread and spreads

my food for the night - crispy skin salmon, parmentier salad, sautéed shitake, pineapple salsa, sea urchin essence!
For the third night, I went to Li Gong, located on a building near Waterfall building. The restaurant is open from Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner on certain days, they have All You Can Eat offerings.

entrance to Li Gong restaurant

inside the restaurant

As it was Tuesday night, I took advantage of their All You Can Eat Menu (BND22+) where I get to choose 5 viands from a menu, aside from soup, rice and desert. After finishing the items, then I can order again more. I had a really full meal and I didn't get to finish what I ordered.

deep fried squid with salt & pepper

stir fried prawns with dried chili

sautéed sliced beef with spicy pepper in oyster sauce

steamed fish fillet with garlic sauce
cheng du chicken

all together now!
buchi and honeydew sago
On my fourth night, as I went to the Country Club, I also dined at the in-house restaurant - Bunker Bistro. The restaurant daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The bar at the bistro. No they don't serve alcohol drinks here!

inside the restaurant

golf carts parked outside

tables setups alfresco

the greens


For dinner, I had cheese burger (served with fries) and for desert :chocolate marble, served with passion fruit sauce minty ice cream.
For lunch on my fifth and final day, I had ordered food from the Pool Deck.

my lunch - shepherd pie and roast beef sandwich, both served with light salads at the side

For dinner, before finally heading to the airport, I had the seafood buffet served at Marine Centre, in lieu of Pantai restaurant which is currently under renovation. The buffet is only served during Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Buffet is priced at BND46+ per person.

They had a wide variety of food, but I was dismayed as I expected more seafood. There were cold seafood (like oysters, clams, crabs and prawns) and small variety of sushi. On the other end are grilled selections like beef, prawns and chicken. Other than that, regular food meat, vegetable and soup items were available.

inside the restaurant

first plate

second plate

third plate 

final (desert) plate

The Empire Hotel & Country Club is a destination of its own. In fact locals and tourist do day tours here during spare time. The resort offers endless number of activities and one cannot be bored as there are activities in-house both inland and out in the water for everyone for kids and adults alike.

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