Sometimes the origin of place names in Brunei is a mystery. Some we can only guess - Kota Batu must have some stone fort built there somewhere in the past. Muara is fairly natural. Muara is the mouth of the river and of course that's basically where the big mouth of the river entering Brunei is - so Muara became the name.
Gadong most probably comes from the word 'gedung' which means 'warehouse' rather than the colour green which in Brunei Malay is called gadong. In Gadong, there must have been in the past some warehouses and the name became associated with the are Gadong. Some names are beyond imagination on how they came about.
One which I came across recently is Berakas. The Berakas mukim is probably among the most populated in the district of Brunei-Muara. The authorities have actually divided Berakas into Berakas A and Berakas B to distinguish between the two halves of the mukim. In the olden days, say, the late 1940s, Berakas was mostly forest land. The only people who lived here are the kedayans and it was a while before other people started to live here. They first began settling here around the 1950s then when under the first resettlement program, lands were allocated in the Anggerek Desa and the Burung Pingai area. There was only main road, the Jalan Berakas which links the area to the BSB area.
However before there was resettlement, people used to come from the Kampung Air area to gather firewood from the forest in the Berakas area. Imagine it at that time, no houses, no roads, no nothing - just forest. When they collected the woods, they bundled them together. The process of bundling the woods in Brunei Malay is called 'berkas'. So gradually, when people start talking about gathering firewood, they talked about 'memberakas kayu' and et voila! Berakas was born as the place where people come to memberakas kayu or to gather firewood.
Another interesting name is Serasa which is a village in Muara for those who are geographically challenged. Serasa is believed to be named by a group of migrants who arrived at one of the rivers in that village. When they rested to partake their prepared meals of pais-paisan, they took some of the pucuk gajus and pucuk pawas as ulam. When they ate the pucuk-pucuk, they found that the taste to be 'serasa' (serasi/sesuai or in English, suited to their palates). They named the river Serasa and they stayed there. For a while the village was known as Kampung Sebatik as these people actually came from Sebatik Island in Indonesia.
More origins of Brunei place names in future blogs.