Showing posts from December, 2006

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha

Today is Hari Raya Aidil Adha or Hari Raya Haji as we Bruneians call it. Some also called it Hari Raya Korban which is predominantly used also in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. According to Wiki, it is Eid el-Kbir in Morocco, Egypt and Libya; Tfaska Tamoqqart (see if you can pronounce that) in the Berber language of Jerba; and Tabaski or Tobaski in some parts of Africa; Babbar Sallah in Nigeria and West Africa; "Ciidwayneey" in Somalia and Somali speaking regions of Kenya and Ethiopia. In India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan it is also called Eid ul-Azha, and commonly referred to as Bakr-Eid "Goat Eid" as goat is the major sacrificial animal in those countries. In Bangladesh it is called either Id-ul-Azha or Korbani Id. In Turkey it is often referred to as the Kurban Bayramı or "Sacrifice Feast". Similarly, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania it is referred as Kurban Bajram. In Kazakhstan, it is referred to as Kurban Ait.

In Saudi Arabia…

The Brunei Haj

Alhamdulillah, by the time you read this, Brunei haj pilgrims this year would have done the ukuf yesterday at the Arafah and should be in Mina today after spending the night at Muzalifah. By now, a number would have taken off their ihram as they have either completed the first throwing of the Jumratul Aqabah stone pillar at Mina or for the more adventurous one, they would have done the tawaf and saie haji at Mecca. For the many others who went to Mina, it will be another two days before they will go back to Mecca to complete that. And with that completed, everyone would have performed the full obligations of the hajj and will soon be preparing to return home to Brunei.

What most people don't know is that prior to 1954, to go on haj means that you have to be assisted by the British Resident Office. Prior to the world war, going on haj is a more laissez faire affair. You go on your own and make all the arrangements yourself and it was a very difficult trip. My father in law who went …

More Brunei Words

Another example of the Brunei nationality test. As usual fill in the blanks in the sentences with the words given below. Have fun.


a. jahat ujud
b. kayu manah
c. indada
d. katupang
e. indangan
f. rambat
g. sulap
h. kulimambang
i. lampuh
j. kalakati


1. Setelah diperah santan secukupnya, ................ dibuang ke dalam tong sampah.

2. Dia membersihkan ............... untuk pergi menangkap ikan pada keesokan hari.

3. Nenek memotong buah pinang dengan menggunakan .................

4. Pagi tadi dia berasa .............................

5. Di halaman rumahnya terdapat beberapa ekor ....................

6. Dia memasukan .................... ke dalam masakan itu.

7. Beberapa bulan lepas pembedahan itu, badannya menjadi ...........

8. Awang Hamzah membeli sebuah ................ untuk anak damitnya.

9. Pada musim menuai padi, Mak Lijah sekeluarga tinggal di .............

10. Saya ke rumah Awang Chuchu, tetapi dia ............. dirumahnya.

Brunei's New $500 and $10,000 Banknotes

Starting today, Brunei will have two new currency notes replacing the old $500 and $10,000 notes. When I mentioned this to some people, they laughed. Most of them have not even seen the old $10,000 note, so it does not matter whether there is a new note replacing it or not. While it is true that not many of us will be using those but should you come across one of them, you would realise that these are new notes. The new $500 and $10,000 notes are now on the polymer series leaving only the $1,000 note which remained as non-polymer.

The new $500 has an interesting feature. It is the only note that will not have the picture of our current ruler, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Instead it will be the picture of the late His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien will be on it. This in itself is fairly unique as it is very unusual to have a deceased ruler on a current banknote.

The features on the new notes are as follows (follow the numbering on the notes):-

1. The red motif based…

Sabah and Sarawak

I thought I will turn my attention towards our neighbouring states, Sabah and Sarawak, favourite holiday destinations for Bruneians especially in this month of December. I have written once about Sabah in passing when I was talking about how the name Istana Manggalela in Kuala Belait came about. I was going through my collection of books in the hope of finding something to write about today. In some days, writing comes easy but in other days, it takes a little bit of effort. I came across a book I bought many years ago entitled 'Asal Usul Negeri-Negeri di Malaysia' (the Origins of the States of Malaysia) written by Zakiah Hanum and published in 1989. I bought the book from the Times Bookstore - remember? We used to have a Times Bookstore in Brunei.

I will concentrate on the origins of the names of Sabah and Sarawak only even though all 13 Malaysian states are mentioned in the book. Sabah was originally known as Api-Api (Fire) because in the 16th century, a map described Sabah a…

Bunga Telur

Someone asked what is the origin of the bunga telur - the token gift that is given to guests who come to wedding ceremonies. The giving of bunga telur was actually originally a throwback to the Hindu culture which influenced the cultures in Southeast Asia. The egg represent or symbolise a fertile union between the couple as the egg is the symbol of fertility. In some sense, by giving away eggs, it was hoped that the newly wed couple will also be blessed with fertility and thus have their own children in the future.

In the beginning, the boiled eggs would be given out as gifts without any other gifts. Slowly it evolved for the practise of giving the eggs wrapped in paper and then that evolved to placing the eggs in small egg baskets or holders - and hence became known as bunga telur. The eggs were even given wrapped in handkerchiefs and the handkerchiefs became the bunga telur. Over time, the baskets or the holders for the eggs became more elaborate. I remembered in the late 1970s and e…

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah the First

Merry Christmas to readers who are celebrating it out there. I remembered when I was studying in UK and USA, the Christmas/New Year holidays mean that no shops are open for about a week and that one better stock up for that week if one wants to eat something else other than Christmas puddings. For today I thought I will write something about how Christmas cards led me to discover something about Brunei.

When I was studying in England, I had a very good English friend. He is a pure vegetarian and would take me to the supermarkets and tell me which food product contained animal derivatives. I knew about animal derivatives sources in most Enzymes (the E in food ingredients) long before most people. In my second year in England, he invited me to spend a Christmas evening with his family. It was an interesting occassion as my friend was a mature student and his family were quite elderly. We had candlelight dinner and I know enough now how Christmas is celebrated. I still keep in touch with …

Questions to ask before saying yes

Today is Sunday. I am rushing off this entry as my wife, my little boy and I have to rush later today to Sungai Liang for my cousin's wedding. Sundays are the Brunei wedding days and with many marriages especially in December, I thought I will share an article on the New York Times entitled 'Marriage is not built on surprises'. For those thinking about marriage, you might want to ponder and see whether you and your partner have discussed things thoroughly and not just look at each other with lovey dovey eyes. You and your partner once married will be spending the rest of you life together and you might want to clear certain things before you start on your marriage.

Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear…

Hooked on Credit Cards

The other day I received one of those 'if you don't pay, we will take you to court and by the way your card is now cancelled' letter from a local bank. What I did not realise was that a credit card, which I signed up more than a year ago with the bank because the MD practically shoved the application form under my nose when I was their guest of honour for launching one of their products, had an annual fee due. All this while, I have never bothered much with the monthly statements as I never used the card but apparently about 2 months ago, the annual $100 fee was due. I didn't pay that until the subsequent month when a late fee and some other charges were also imposed. Anyway since it is still my fault, I paid all that but despite that the letter came. I thought that was very prompt of their credit control system and if all banks had this kind of control, there would be less people in debt.

A couple of days ago, another local bank gave me their platinum card which was re…

Brunei Words

Sometimes Brunei words are so obscure or we hardly used them that other than our elders, most younger Bruneians would be stumped. My friend showed me an example of a Brunei nationality test which I thought I will reproduce here for everyone to have a look. It looks hard at first, but it isn't really. You take a look.

Question (loosely translated) - use the following words to complete the sentences below:-

a. barambit
b. damal
c. tajulayak
d. zaman kuratu
e. malimbak
f. paspan
g. rabah rimpah
h. sindat
i. tabasan
j. mangunjar

1. Sungguh berseri pengantin itu, terutama setelah memakai ............................. di lengan.
2. Kanak-kanak itu ............................. kerana berlari di atas lantai simen yang basah.
3. Sambil menunggu waktu pekerjaan dimulakan, pekerja-pekerja itu mengadakan perlawanan ..........................
4. Ibu menggunakan ................................... untuk memasak nasi.
5. Letih saya ................................ orang itu tetapi tidak juga terjumpa.
6. Pada .…

Exam Day!

It's exam day for quite a number of government officers. The last time the figure exceeded more than 1,000 civil servants with the majority coming from Division 2 and a few holdovers from Division 1. For those not in the civil service yet, you must have heard about the dreaded 'exam' word that most civil servants have to undergo nowadays. What makes this one harder is that you don't have classes to attend apart from a few briefings given by both the Public Service Department (JPA) or given by the Treasury Department - and the syallabus is huge.

The General Orders and Service Regulations paper (more popularly known as G.O. as the paper is based on the General Orders 1961 and all the service regulations issued since then to now) was originally a part of the Administrative Service examinations set way back from the late 1950s when the Administrative Service was first formed by the then British led government. The admininstrative service formed the backbone of the governmen…

The Tutong Language

Last night I was reading a 1993 Beriga - a publication of Dewan Bahasa Pustaka Brunei - which contained an article about the folks in Tutong or better known as Orang Tutong. Most Bruneians recognise that among all the various Malay groups in Brunei, Orang Melayu Tutong has an interesting language only known to Tutongians. I used to know a little bit of the language when I was staying in Tutong and attended my Primary 1 school in Bukit Bendera in 1969.

The article in fact described or to use a better word theorise about the beginning of the Orang Tutong which in itself is very interesting as well as the history of the language. According to a chart done by a linguistic expert Robert Blust, the Tutong Language belong to a family of the Northern Sarawak language which is a part of the Austronesia language. Austronesia language comprises all the Malay, Indonesian languages stretching from the Madagascar to the Pacific Islands and from Taiwan to Easter Island. The Tutong language is part of…

The Boats of Brunei

When I was a young boy in the 1970s, my father was the District Officer in Temburong. Unlike today where you can drive easily to Bangar through Limbang, in those days, the road was not as accessible and there are two rivers that one has to cross using ferries. Today you still have to cross one of the river using a ferry but it is not as bad as the road has improved tremendously. We went back by boat once every week or every two weeks back to Bandar.

Being on the water at least twice a week on the journey to and fro Bangar, the boatmen always talked about boats etc. It was a fascinating insight into another aspect of Brunei which we don't normally get to hear. In those days, boats were using 'injin sigal'. It took me quite sometime to figure out that the early boat engines were made by a company called Seagull and hence 'injin sigal' (seagull engines). So much so that by the early 1980s, the then Director of Marine Department was nicknamed Dato Ahmad Sigal to differe…

Wedding Costs Again

The smell of marriage is in the air. I attended a wedding for a daughter of a senior colleague yesterday at the Rizqun which must have cost a fair bit. After that I rushed off to my uncle's for my cousin's nikah and menghantar berian ceremony. The marriage ceremony will be next Sunday. And there one of my aunties told me that her daughter, another cousin, will be having a besuruh ceremony at the end of the year and I thought it will end there when my youngest aunty told me that in January, her second daughter, another cousin will be engaged too. In total it looks like despite just attending a cousin's wedding a couple of weeks ago, another one end of the month, there will be another two whose ceremonies have just started. If I was to add the number of invitation cards for the other weddings which I was invited but could not attend, the number of invitations for this month is indeed one of the highest.

I am glad I am not my uncles and my aunties as the cost of all these can …

December Blues

This is the month of December. Two years ago when I was the head honcho of the retirement agency fund, this is the month that would see the most number of fund members coming to see me appealing if their long term retirement fund can be taken out - if not the whole amount but just a little to cover their children's school expenses and other odds and ends. I would have to explain that their retirement funds are for retirement and that they are not allowed to withdraw other than for purposes which are allowed under the law governing that fund. For most of the fund members, their retirement fund seemed to be the only savings that they have.

December can be a distressing month for many people - the cost of outfitting a child for government school despite the fact that there is no monthly fees and free text books, can still be about a $100 a child - made up of school uniforms, shoes, bags, workbooks etc. If you have more than one child, then those expenses will certainly add up. If your…

The Colours of Brunei Money

Without looking into your wallet or your purse, tell me what are the colours of the Brunei money? We see the notes so often that sometimes we forget the colours but instinctively we know what the colours are. It's blue for $1, green for $5, red for $10, light green for $50 and I am not sure how to describe the $100. There are of course $500, $1,000 and $10,000 notes as well but of the latter, that's seldom seen. A guest blogger wrote about the Brunei Currency Gallery and the Brunei money sometimes in September. [For the blog, link here and for the temporary Brunei Currency and Monetary Board's website, link here.]

How did the colour of the notes come about? In the past, Brunei's money were made up of many things, other than just coins issued by the various Sultans but also coins of the other other countries of which coins from the Chinese Empire made up the bulk of it. We also used among others shells, strips of irons and even small cannons. However by the mid 19th cent…

The Brunei Haversack

Sometimes we take things for granted. Take 'takiding' which is the basket that were used to carry things in Brunei Darussalam. It is not used very much or at all nowadays but everyone knows what it looks like and what it is. It was previously used mostly in farms when farm produce or fruits are picked, they are kept in the 'takiding' carried all the time at the farmer's back.

We all know that it is made out of bamboo but not much more beyond that. According to one article I read in the Berita Muzium, one villager in 1996 described that the art of weaving bamboo into baskets was a Kedayan speciality and for the Kedayans in the Brunei/Muara District, it originated from two villages - Sengkurong and Tanjung Nangka as they formed the majority of the villagers. According to the Kulapis Village Head, another village, Mulaut was also another village where the art of weaving took place and the 'technology' was later transferred to the Kulapis villagers.

There were al…

A Thousand Year Old Brunei Town at Limau Manis

Sometime in July when I wrote about the Antiquities and Teasure Trove (Ancient Monuments and Historical Sites) Order that listed all the protected places in Brunei, one of the places was the Limau Manis River Site. At that time, I didn't know why it was included and one Indiana Jones commented that there is a book about it. I was too busy then to look for the book but yesterday I met with the head honcho of museums and we talked a bit about the KB2 site at Kota Batu (said to be the site of the Makam of Sultan Sharif Ali). KB2 is a newly found site near the Museum. Naturally the subject moved on to the Limau Manis site which he said is around 500 years older than those at Kota Batu and that copies of the book describing the site was still available.

After the meeting, I asked my driver to get the book from the Museums publications unit entitled "Sungai Limau Manis - Tapak Arkeologi Abad Ke 10-13 Masihi" loosely translated as "Limau Manis River - 10th to 13th Century A…

The Traditional Kuehs of Brunei

According to my gym instructor friend, one of the questions that he had to study for the Brunei nationality exam was - 'what is the difference between the wet cakes (kueh basah) and dry cakes (kueh kering)?' - and - 'name the two types'. This former is a rather tough question to answer and to find the definitive list of Brunei kuehs without knowing where to look is also equally tough. I wrote a little bit about Brunei kuehs a while ago (link here) but since I now have a book with me describing the list of Brunei kuehs, I thought I will revisit the subject.

Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka published a book entitled the Traditional Cakes of Brunei - in Malay in 1986 (which has ran out) and reprinted it in English very recently. I got my copy from s@s (thanks s@s!) very recently. The book contained all the traditional cakes or kuehs of Brunei and divided them into wet and dry ones. So you would automatically know which one is which. By the way - the answer to what is the differenc…

The Origin of Burong Pingai

The early Bruneians used to live on the water and most Bruneians can trace their origins there. For instance, my great grandfather used to live in Kampung Saba but when he married my great grandmother, they stayed at her village in Kampung Pandai Besi. Ask many Bruneians and their story would be more or less the same. How did I get to dry land? In my case it was my grandfather who joined the Royal Brunei Police Force and was posted to Panaga in Seria where he was a Sergeant Major when the station defended itself against the rebellion. Our family had never returned to the waters ever since my grandfather made a living on dry land.

One kampung which kept their identity despite moving to dry land was Kampung Burong Pingai. I think this is the only Kampung which has both the water version Kampung Burong Pingai Ayer and the dryland version Kampung Burong Pingai Berakas. The migration took place around the mid 1950s when several families moved inland from the water village. Kampung Burong Pi…

The Marathon

Just got back to work this morning and found that my in-tray is not only full but overflowing and my diary is pepppered with appointments and meetings. I am also covering for my colleague who is on leave for the next 2 weeks and with the reshuffling of our directors, I also have to cover for one of them until we find his replacement - so altogether, with mine, that's 3 persons' work that I had to do. So apologies for those expecting to read a new entry about something factual about Brunei this morning - I am doing work marathon today with work way up to my neck and can't reallly think of much outside work this morning.

And since I just got back to Brunei yesterday afternoon, I can't join in the comments for Brunei's biggest event - the Brunei Marathon. My family and I were on the road early yesterday morning heading towards KLIA when the Brunei Marathon was held. The Brunei Marathon from what I have read had many problems - that's what most of the major bloggers…

A Bruneian in Kuala Lumpur

Spend a long enough time in any one place, you will always see something interesting. One of the interesting shops I saw along Jalan Pudu (or was it the Jalan before that?) in Kuala Lumpur was this shop selling coffins. That's pretty unusual - of course when compared to Brunei - but what interest me more is not that shop but the shop next to it. It was a fastfood restaurant. My uncle was zooming a little bit fast and I wasn't able to catch a photo of it. Imagine the conversation you would be having after passing by the coffin seller on your way to the restaurant and being reminded of your mortality - "...maybe I will just drink water instead of this fat ladden fastfood stuffs - maybe I just want to live that much longer..."

Another thing I learned is just how bad KL is trafficwise during rushhour. I know some Malaysian MPs have described certain parts of KL as the next Patpong but I can assure them that the whole traffic system in KL have almost matched if not exceede…

The 2006 IMF Report on Brunei

In my entry on Brunei and the IMF, I promised that I will inform readers when the 2006 IMF report on Brunei will be released - yesterday IMF has finally released the summary report and it is now available on their website on this link. The 2006 statistical data for Brunei is available on the same website on this link.

I will not say much about the IMF report but suffice for readers to click on the two links above and read for yourself what is the economic outlook for Brunei. For those too lazy to read the full report, here is a short summary.

The Government has continued to reap benefits from the high oil and gas prices and this still continue to dominate the economy. The government has saved those windfall profits for future use. Expenditure has remained constant despite the higher income from the high energy prices. And on the monetary front, situations have improved slightly with lending to businesses strengthened and lower private loans. IMF expected the growth in GDP around ½% prev…

Airconditioning System in Government Buildings

On Monday morning at our international airport, my better half and I went to get two baggage trolleys - there were only two left - and we found out why there were these two left. There was something wrong with the braking system with both and we had great difficulty pushing the trolleys towards the check in area. These trolleys are relatively new. The older ones have been kept aside and you can see them stacked under Gate 7 and Gate 8 whenever you dine at the Airport's restaurant. I have been told that these 'older ones' are much better than the new ones but are not used because they needed maintenance work. However money is available to buy new ones but not available to repair old ones, so that's why you can find new trolleys at the airport and older ones being kept aside. This is one of those things which we in government seemed to be pretty good at. Though I noticed the airport had finally managed to get its aircond in working order.

I was at my uncle's the night…

Are we in recession?

In a previous entry about Kedai Tutup, a number of commentators, especially those in the private sector argued that there is an economic problem. I argued that problems in one particular sector does not mean that the overall economy is in trouble. But then again after sitting immersed in the jacuzzi in the Times Square swimming pool, my mind starts wondering again and I have to rethink my earlier position and reevaluate the situation from the point of view of an impartial economist.

Actually it's very hard to tell if a country is in recession or not especially if there are no high-frequency indicators like in Brunei.

Technically speaking, a recession is called that when we have two straight quarters of negative GDP growth. And the calculation must be done by using the seasonally-adjusted quarter-on-quarter growth rates. The problem is that our statistics do not show current quarterly GDP data. JPKE is currently in the process of developing quarterly data and until then we cannot rea…

Brunei's New Export

I read in the New Straits Times (December 5, 2006) the report of one parliamentary debate on the situation of Bukit Bintang in KL. According to the paper, last week, one Malaysian MP described the place as becoming like the infamous Patpong area in Bangkok.

Yesterday, Bukit Bintang was described as a vice den. One MP said pimps ruled in Bukit Bitang and were blatantly offering p* to passers by. According to him ".. he recounted being approached by a transvestite from Brunei who told him that Malaysian laws were more lenient on soliciting than in his own country. To the amusement of fellow MPs, Yusop said, " He (the transvestite) said one could be whipped in Brunei for soliciting. He said all he had to face here was a fine." .."

There are many ways we can read into this news article. If the Malaysian Parliament opreate the same way as the British Parliament, if I am not mistaken the MP's speech is protected by parliamentary privilege and these members of Parliame…

Where are we heading?

A couple of people asked me to comment on John Perry's resignation. In fact I have already heard about it a couple of months back and I started composing something which I thought I may want to post one day should the announcement came. So I prepared a long entry about it and about the economy etc. Last night, I started to think - put us in his position, would we have done any better? Would we have done thing any differently? We might and again we might not. Would we be able to change anything? And given all that, do I really really really want to post something? What good would it do? So I decided Naah.... and I deleted it not without regret. I think it would be best for all of us to look ahead rather than look back. We have to move on. I saw s@s has written a more succint post which I thought is more reflective of what a Bruneian would be thinking about the whole thing. Go and read it here. (Thanks s@s).

Sometime in September, I posted an entry about a book written by a Harvard P…

Brunei and the International Monetary Fund

I was reading the BB (again!) about two recent articles - one appeared sometime during the week when I was away in Korea and the other one on Saturday about the IMF report. I was in the office about 20 minutes after arriving at the airport and I imed (instant messaged) my officer for not informing me about the release of the 2006 IMF report as I had left instructions for me to be informed when it was going to be released. He told me that the BB report about the IMF was not this year's IMF report. He said that this was last year's! So, this year's report had not been released yet. But he argued that even if anybody was to read it, nobody would knew what the context of the IMF's report was and let alone realise what year it was. So I thought I will spend a bit of time today to do a little education about the role of IMF and how that affects Brunei.

Have you ever had the experience when the ATM spat your card out with the screen flashing "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS". Su…