Monday, April 02, 2007

Jong Batu - Brunei's Rocky Ship

Even though I can swim (preferably on waters where I can see the bottom), I avoided doing anything on water. I have had my fair share of water travel. When I was a little boy, my father was the Temburong DO and we travelled about twice a week to and fro Bangar. I have even gone on the sea cruise with the Japanese SSEAYP program and a few other boat trips. But never ever on the water taxis. All the ships and boats I have used so far are covered but the water taxis are more like convertibles.

Last Tuesday I had to go on the mutu tambang (the water taxis plying on the Kampong Ayer waters) for the first time in my life. It was a case of desperation. I was writing an article for a newspaper which needed a photograph of Jong Batu. I had some in my collection but they all belonged to other people and it would not be good form to use photographs without permission. Desperate times called for desperate measures and it had to be the mutu tambang. I gingerly stepped onto one and then zoomed off to Jong Batu.


Jong Batu for those who do not know it is the supposed vessel which turned into rock when Nakhoda Manis refused to acknowledge his mother after a long journey away. The whole ship turned into rock when she prayed for him to be punished. I wrote about the similarities between the Brunei tale with the Malaysian Si-Tanggang and Indonesian Malin Kundang in a November entry.


Jong Batu is a very small rocky island at the end of the Brunei River about 10 to 15 minutes boat ride. It's located exactly behind the Nurul Iman Palace and because of its location, a light buoy was built on it so that mariners can be warned not to hit it at night. From far, it does not look like an upturned vessel but the closer you got to it and when you start circling it, the rock's uncanny resemblance to a ship is very startling. I could not help but think it's a real ship which actually turned into stone. If you can't see it, think of a ship which had fallen sideways. That's what the rocky island resembled and I am not surprised how the tale of Nakhoda Manis started.


If you look carefully, you can see the deck of the ship sideways and the bow of the ship.


Market this right, you can turn this into a tourist centre of its own right. And with the view of the Istana Nurul Iman on the opposite side of the Jong Batu, this is like having two birds with one visit.

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