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Showing posts from January, 2007

Collection of Jong Sarat

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I spent the whole day at Rizqun yesterday at the Mall in Gadong. No, I am not on leave. I was attending an executive forum on central banks’ reserve management. The speakers were from the World Bank Treasury. It was full of phrases like ‘strategic asset allocation’, ‘standard deviation of volatility’, ‘asset classes’ and ‘efficient frontiers’ – sounds interesting? Ya, if you are into it. Reminds me of finance classes when I did my MBA. At the end of the day, the message was that central banks should not maintain conservative investment policies but should add other asset classes as this will give a higher return at about the same risk level.

Anyway, spend a whole day listening to this, one needs to take a walk to rest one’s brain and being at the Mall, there lots of things to see, if not do. I drop in at Solitude, the Islamic Book specialist cum internet cafĂ© in Brunei. Solitude’s specialties are Arabic and Islamic books, not just the religious kind but also that of more world matters …

Kampung Sungai Bunga

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There are three modern Kampung Ayer resettlement villages - Kampung Sungai Bunga, Kampung Bolkiah A and Kampung Bolkiah B. These three resettlement villages are the ideal (by today's standards at least) of what the houses should look like. No doubt, aesthetically there is much to be desired as the houses each looking like the other becomes rather characterless and aesthetically challenged but at least these houses are safe - unlikely to catch fire and fire is unlikely to spread to other houses as there is now a standard distance between the houses.

Of the three, Kampung Sungai Bunga at Pulau Berambang is the more visible one. If you drive along Jalan Kota Batu, you will find a huge carpark filled with cars but not a single house around the area. If you look closely, all the houses are on the other side of the river bank and the only way to get to those houses is by boat which will probably take around 10 minutes. There are 112 houses, each a four-bedroom house with a police post, c…

A Tutong Wedding

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I was in Kampung Penanjong, Tutong for the wedding ceremony of a relative yesterday afternoon. I haven't attended a wedding in Tutong for quite sometime, so this time round I was watching the ceremony closely. The first thing I noticed was that after the usual 'pusing naga' (the three circles) the groom had to break a couple of bamboo pieces at the entrance of the house before going in to sit at the wedding dais beside the bride.

Later the newly wed couple was taken outside for the 'basuh kaki' (literally 'washing feet') ceremony. Most Bruneians would know that if you attend a wedding ceremony in Tutong, there would be a ceremony where close relatives and friends would be asked to partake in the washing the feet of the groom and bride ceremony. Though in this case, it is not a true cleansing but merely pouring water over the feet of the two of them.

Yesterday, the couple sat with one foot each over the other and a number of people would pour the water over th…

Old Main Roads of Brunei

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For today, not much words are necessary. I thought I will post photographs of the beginning of the various main roads in the main city and towns of Brunei. The first one is obviously Jalan Sultan in the capital. I am not sure what year this is but the Customs Building at the end of the road has been built. Though all the shophouses remain intact as compared to the shophouses of today.


This is Jalan Pretty in Kuala Belait. I am not sure what year this was and judging by the lack of cars, this must have been pretty early in the 1950s when the shophouses have just been completed.


This is Seria as it is being constructed. I have been told that this view is taken from where the Marina Theatre is.

Short History of Brunei Aviation

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According to observers, the first airplane to fly over Brunei was a seaplane spotted over Tutong in 1922. Prior to the second world war, there was no airfield in Brunei. The first runaway was built by the Japanese during the second world war at the current Old Airport Government Complex. After the end of the war, that runaway was improved upon and a proper airport was built. The first commercial air transport in Brunei only began in 1953 with the establishment of air service links connecting Bandar Brunei (Brunei Town) with Anduki in the Belait district. Initial flights were to Malaysia which was to accommodate travellers from Labuan in Sabah and Lutong in Sarawak.

If you were to visit the Government's Printing Department at the Old Airport Complex (that's why the area is called the Old Airport Complex as the old Brunei Airport was there), that department now occupies what used to the Brunei Airport Terminal Building including the tower. I remembered when my father was the Dir…

Glimpses of Authority

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Once in a while, I run out of ideas of what to write. Not that there is nothing to write about - there are just too many things about Brunei that no blogs in the world can cover it. So for today I thought I will share with you the views from my office. I took the title of the posting from the links of a recently started blog about the Maktab Sains Class of 1979 which labelled The Daily BR - Glimpses of Authority.

This view is from the 17th floor of the tallest building in Brunei. The position that I am in overlooks the Bandar and Gadong areas. Since there are four of us on that floor, each one of us get a different segment to look at. One of my senior colleague gets a view of the Berakas area, the other gets a view of the Delima area and my other colleague gets a view of the Jalan Kebangsaan area. So I guess I am pretty lucky.


Part of the view is what you can see in the background are the new Legislative Council building on the way to being completed as well as the Immigration/Labour Bu…

Origin of Kampung Keriam

The first school I attended was the Sekolah Melayu Muda Hashim at Bukit Bendera in Tutong. It was on top of a hill and in those days I can see monkeys and squirrels swinging by on the trees behind the school. Most of the students spoke Tutong and I think I caught a few words here and there. After Primary 1, my family moved to Bandar, otherwise I would have been a fluent Tutong speaker. So Tutong does hold a bit of a soft spot for me.

Tutong is actually an interesting district. I wrote a little about it a few weeks ago when I talked about the origin of the Tutong language. Tutong used to be part of the Melanau government in the 14th century before becoming part of the Brunei Sultanate in the 15th century.

Among the many villages in Brunei, the Tutong villages have interesting beginnings. I thought I will focus on the origin of one village in Tutong - Kampung Keriam. This village was occupied since 1920s and became quite developed when the main road was built across it then.

The origin of…

Brunei's Diehard Football Fans

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I am not a diehard football fan. The world does not end when my team doesn't win but I guess when you support teams that are not expected to win most of the time, any win is a bonus but losses are not painful. I supported a couple of fairly unsuccessful teams which I mentioned a couple of posting ago but I didn't realise the extent of English football support in Brunei currently.

When I was on the IM, I was asking one of my 20+ old junior colleagues to clarify a point he brought up the day before on the topic of football rivalry. He mentioned that and I quote 'people in Brunei have cliques based on which football team you support... thus the 'rivalry' that I was talking about.' It seemed that the various cliques tended to tease or pester the other side's supporters after every loss to the point that some people don't turn up for work or social functions beacuse they don't want to face 'the verbal torture' of certain colleagues. Case in point …

Brunei's Street Lamps in 1960

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Out of the blue, I received the following email from a Mike in London who wrote that:-

"Although I have yet to visit Brunei, and I have friends there, thanks for posting the old photos of Brunei - it's a strange world, but I have recently being doing some research into old British streetlights - I told you it was strange - and there on those 1950s/60s photos are some old UK style concrete lamp columns! I suppose in many ways it's not a surprise (Singapore used similar ones), I'm now researching to see if they were imported or made locally!

If you want a fascinating snapshot of 'old' Brunei I recently bought a secondhand copy of the 1960 State of Brunei Annual Report, published by, no-less, the Colonial Office. In the true tradition of bureaucracy it even lists the total numbers of geese and ducks in the country, even if it admits it is a bit hazy as to the number of human deaths because of the complexity of having them reported to the correct authorities! If you…

Made-up Words in Brunei

I was watcing Juara Lagu on TV3 last night when the presenter reminded that the word 'kugiran' is actually a made up word - kumpulan gitar rancak thus the first syllables of the three words making up kugiran. That reminded me when I first heard of the word many years ago about the days of the Beatles who spearheaded the boys band and in the Malay world, we had many other 'kugirans' following suit. Though honestly I cannot recall a single name now.

Made up words are interesting. Indonesians to me are masters of this. I remembered ABRI which stands for Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia and DEPLU - Departemen Luar Negara. When I was in Surabaya, we were taken to one of their tourist attractions called 'Monkasel'. It is actually a real Russian submarine which was bought by the Indonesian Navy and saw action when it fought against the Dutch in the Arafura sea battle freeing West Irian from the Dutch. The submarine has now been turned into a monument and 'Mon…

5 Things Meme

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If you are expecting something about Brunei today, I am sorry. I was tagged by Ms Maurina to do a 5 things meme(?). At first I am not sure what a meme is. I thought of reading the wiki entry on it but when I saw the mile long entry, I thought to myself - hei, I got better things to do than that. So I thought I will just read what everyone's meme is all about. Apparently the idea is to get to know the other side of the people we spend so much time interacting with online. Though honestly speaking that seemed to be so far from what is the official 'meme' explanation in Wiki.

I am supposed to write 5 things and I thought, 5 things ain't that hard but place my fingers on the keyboard - they didn't move. So it is that hard. But after thinking about it, afterall I am more than double or even triple most bloggers' age in Brunei - I should have more things to write. More saltlah katakan. So I thought I will just type what comes to mind. Here they are:

1) I am probably on…

The National Football Scene

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I got an email from the webmaster of Brunei's Manchester United Football Club wishing to exchange links. I checked out their website and found that the club is active and has just recently recruited its 100th member. That does indicate something. At least MU is a winning team and has its fair share of supporters in Brunei. I was wondering whether to reciprocate the link as MU is not exactly my favourite team - I supported two English teams - both of which have not been doing well ever since I supported them - Ipswich Town and Newcastle United. Ipswich attracted me as a small team struggling against the giants and doing well in the 1980s and Newcastle was a giant name who despite having Kevin Keegan in those days never won anything much.

Despite our fondness for English and European soccer and can even discuss the whos, the whys and the whats of them - most of us know next to nothing about our national soccer scene. I remembered someone wrote an entry about Brunei football a couple …

Maal Hijrah 1428

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Tomorrow or rather this evening will be the beginning of the New Islamic Year, the Hijra of 1428. This evening, the celebration will be held at the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah where the doa for the end of the year and the beginning of the new year will be read. I think there is also a presentation that will be done - the Hijra awards to the Tokoh Ugama - those who have contributed the most to the development of Islam in Brunei.

When is the year Hijrah Year 1? The beginning of the new Hijra year took place in the year when Prophet Mohammad SAW migrated to Medina. It was the year of 622. It was in the month of September and the hijrah most likely took place around 9th September 622 when Prophet Muhammad left Mecca and reached Yathrib around the 20th. The first year of Hijrah was not formally declared the first year of Hijra until the year 637, 16 years after it took place. This is when Saidina Umar formalised the Prophet's custom of dating events from the Hijrah, the moment of the esta…

Ahuta Sar Mata Seri Buhana

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When I raided my dad's collection of books last weekend, I found one which I think should be read by those who are very interested in Brunei culture and which I really really hope that Dewan Bahasa will reproduce or reprint or whatever but at least make it available to the public again.

The book is entitled "Ikhtisar Budaya" which was first published by DBP in 1976 and have been reprinted in 1982 and 1986. It's a collection of essays by local historians and sociologists looking at the three aspects of Brunei culture from its customs (adat istiadat), the arts and its belief in animism. Among the essays, the title included the Adat Istiadat, Ciri Gelaran, Adat Menghantara Tanda Tunang, Naubat Diraja, Gulingtangan, Pertukangan Emas dan Perak, Perusahan Bertenun, Peranan Rumah Perkumpulan Dalam Masyarakat, Menangkap Ikan and Ukuran Senjata Besi. The essays are written by practically all the big names in Brunei's history and culture circles such as Pehin Jamil, Dato Ma…

Managing Natural Disasters in Brunei

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Yesterday was another long drive to get to the office. The landslide at Tasek Meradun is not that far from where I live and we found that the road in front of the house is deserted as the police has closed the road heading towards Tasek Meradun from both ends. The driver decided that rather than be caught at the Jalan Gadong jam, we should to go through Sengkurong, Jerudong and the highway and also knowing that the Rimba and the Old Airport junctions will be jammed decided to press on to the Berakas Link Road. Surprisingly reaching the office took less than half an hour. In the evening was another long jam at Gadong and the landslide debris still has not been cleared. I sure hope by the time I post this entry this morning, the road would be passable.

The hills on the left hand side of Jalan Tutong heading towards Bandar at the area are prone to landslide. The authorities have done much to contain the hillside all these years judging by the amount of work they have done over the last 10…

Old Muara Revisited

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Does anyone remember the old Jin Tong's filling station at the end of the shophouses in Muara? It's no longer there as the Port has expanded right up to the edge of the shophouses. My better half told me that the late Jin Tong used to have another shop in front of Customs in Bandar. Anyway, I received an e-mail from a Muara resident or to be exact a Serasa resident when I posted the picture of old Muara and a couple of other old Brunei photographs. I liked the informal writing style. I have already received permission from the sender to reproduce the email and here it is (with some slight editing and removal of some sensitive material as requested):-

Firstly sorry for the intrusion, but I'd just like to thank you for posting the early pic of Muara town. I have never seen any photo older than that of Muara town. My family and I live in Seasa, so Muara is very close by and somewhere which I often go to. Anyway, my dad hail from Serasa. So I showed him the pic of the old Muara…

Old Brunei Coins

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I think a number of postings had been made about Brunei money on this site as well as promoting the Brunei Currency and Monetary Board Gallery where visitors can come and see for themselves Brunei's currency throughout the ages where among others in the past, Bruneians were using miniature cannons and metal strips as forms of currencies. The cannons were not too bad as there are many other cultures that used other forms of currencies but I thought strips of metal takes the cake especially when it was used only last century (19th century).

Basically in Brunei, the old money before the usage of the Straits Settlement currency were used in Brunei, can be divided roughly into four chronological period or four forms. The first was the Chinese coins - this was no doubt in use since the earliest contact between Brunei and China. This was initially called Pitis as that term is a very ancient one. However with the introduction of the local Pitis, the Chinese coins were more commonly called …

Smart Girls Finish Last?

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Yesterday, I only managed a cursory glance at the Bulletin and because of that, a string of articles which I thought was ironic caught my eye. Somehow I found them related to each other and in some sense can make one fairly caught in a bind as to which one we should follow.

The first was an article by our infamous Ignatius entitled thought yesterday's Weekend Bulletin Smart Girls Finish Last. Stephens talked about how Brunei women now well educated and well positioned are finding it increasingly hard to find a life partner. This is based on observations that many women now holding middle ranking positions, well educated and capable yet incapable in finding husbands. According to Stephens, there are many of these instances in Brunei. The article blamed men. A quote from a businesswoman - "Brunei men like submissive women. They easily get intimidated. They demand dominance. But this day and age that is getting not so easy." This phenomena is not limited to Brunei but is a w…

Main Mosques in Brunei through the Ages

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Brunei has been a Muslim country for about 500 years now. You would have thought that there would be lots of old mosques in Brunei. But the oldest I think are no more than 50 years old and most of the older ones have been demolished. Even then the older ones are not much older than say 80 or 90 years old. This is because practically all our older mosques are constructed out of timber so none has actually survived till today.

One of the biggest mosques we had was during the reign of the third Sultan, Sultan Sharif Ali. In 1578, Alonso Beltran, a Spanish traveller described it as one of five storeyed tall on the water but that maybe a slightly wrong description as the technology to build 5 storeyed buildings in the 15th century on water was not yet available in Brunei. Most likely it had five roofs to represent the five pillars of Islam (see artist's impression - figure 1). This mosque was unfortunately destroyed by the Spanish in June that same year.

Subsequent mosques on the water t…

Brunei's Churchill Museum and Stamps

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I wanted to write about the Churchill Museum today and searched for a photo of the museum. That's when I discovered I don't have a single photo of the museum. I will have to ask my dad later on today if he has one in his collection.

But what I do have are three Brunei first day covers depicting Churchill. The authorities clearly adored him in those days - the first first day cover was issued in 1966 to commemorate his death in 1965,the second first day cover issued in 1973 was to commemorate the museum andthe third first day cover issued in 1974 was to commemorate his 100th birthday anniversary.The Churchill Museum was an interesting anachronism in Brunei in those days. Churchill if you remember was the British Prime Minister during the Second World War and was remembered for leading Britain during the war. His famous sign was the two finger v shaped signifying V for victory. But later on that gesture became known as the peace symbol - I think it must have been brought on by t…

The Golf Spirit at the Empire

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What I am about to narrate here is something that if it happened to someone else, I would have dismissed it and probably said that that person's brain needs a bit of a check up. I have heard many stories at the Empire and the RBGCC in Jerudong and have smiled everytime I hear those stories. But this time you read and decide.

I am writing this immediately after I just got back from the Empire playing night golf. Ever since I started using a cane before the fasting month, I have not played golf that much. It was only last week that my cousin in law persuaded me to play a full 18 hole course at the RBA golf club. This afternoon, I was having lunch with my former retirement agency's investment manager and a Singaporean bank colleague when the subject of golf cropped up. They said why not play golf tonight - it has been ages since I last played at the Empire and I thought why not.

So we met at 6.30 pm at the Empire and after all 3 of us did the Maghrib prayer at the Club house, we st…

57 Reasons Why I Like Living in Brunei

I found this interesting list entitled "57 Reasons Why I Like Living in Brunei" on the internet written by who I gather to be an American by the name of Steve Ryan. It was written 10 years ago in 1997 and some references are slightly out of date. It gave a different perspective to Brunei Darussalam:-

1. Everybody drives on the wrong side of the road but head-on collisions are very rare.

2. If you wake up in a grouchy mood, it passes quickly when you see all the middle-aged businessmen marching around wearing black fezzes, bright green/purple/yellow/blue primary-colored pajamas, and gold-embroidered skirts.

3. You get an automatic wakeup call every morning from the muezzin at the mosque, even if you forget to set your alarm.

4. Peaceful. Only the military has any guns, and they never shoot them.

5. It's really a change to live in a country where the one guy worth more than $30 billion is a decent, polite, college-educated human being who is genuinely concerned about the welfar…

Gadong Wet Market by Bruneian

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The Gadong Wet Market is situated near the famous Mall Gadong. It is a one stop shopping center for chefs and the likes. Loads and loads of raw material for them here, waiting to be processed.

Anakbrunei, zadm and I went there on Sunday to do a 50mm outing. It's a perfect place for it.
The fish mongers were a little bit shy at first. We can hear them shouting "nah kana gambar tia, ada mukamu arah Pelita ni" to the ones we took pictures. Translation: Your pictures will be published in Pelita Brunei (a weekly local newspaper published by the government).

Everytime we took a snap, they always asked where we are from, "Dari Media Permatakah?" (Are you from Media Permata?) - another local daily published Malay newspaper. Anakbrunei told them "inda, dari Majalah Juran" (no, I am not, I am from Juran magazine) - Juran is a magazine published by our neighbouring country specializing on fishing.
As we ventured deeper into the market, things got more welcoming. T…

Kampung Ayer: Heritage of Brunei Darussalam

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I was going through a number of books in my collection searching for old Brunei photographs over the last few days. I have been scanning a number of them and to date I have about a 100 or more of them. I have made a small selection available in my previous postings. The oldest of them is as usual - that of Kampung Ayer. I did not realise that one of the earliest photographs of Brunei was that of an 1880 photograph of Kampung Ayer. Of course compared to the likes of photographs produced by David Cheok and AnakBrunei, the ones that I have are not as clear or as artistically done. I will try to upload these and make them available to everyone.

While doing that, one of the interesting books I found was this booklet which I had quite forgotten. The booklet entitled "Kampong Ayer The Water Village Heritage of Brunei Darussalam" was produced by the Home Affairs Ministry in 2000. It actually came in an album sized box comprising of this booklet, a big map of Kampung Ayer and a VCD. I…