Sunday, November 30, 2008

Love Story Movies

I was watching Ayat-Ayat Cinta last night with my better half. She had wanted to watch it at a cinema but we did not have the time. So we decided to get the DVD and watch it at home. I knew it was a love story and I am not always crazy about love stories but you can get hooked and I did with this one. This is the second of two love movies that I got hooked on.

The other one I got hooked on was "PS I Love You". It was the fourth consecutive movies that I watched while flying from Singapore to Dubai on the way to Iran and I did not finish the movie when the plane landed. That was the first time, I watched a movie until the plane docked. I was sitting in the Business Class and the stewards let me watched the movie until the plane stopped. On the way back to Singapore, I completed it.

"PS I Love you" is a very modern western movie. It is about a couple, the lady smart and beautiful and married to an impetuous Irishman. The husband was the centre of her life and when he died, the wife was completely devastated. Her husband was so thoughtful that he prepared ahead by writing letters and asking his mother in law to help him by sending the letters at an appropriate moment of her wife's life. The letters helped her to move on and each letter was always signed the same way, PS I Love You. She was able to move on and turn the finality of death into a new beginning of life for herself. Beautiful sceneries. The movie was mostly filmed in Ireland. This movie was based on a book by the same name.

"Ayat-Ayat Cinta" was also based on a book and that is where the similarity ends. It has been described as an Islamic romance movie with political Islam and Indonesian pesantren (sekolah pondok) ideology. Perhaps I am not that astute. I can see the Islamic romance part but I am not sure about the other bits. Anyway it is about a handsome young Indonesian scholar who studied at Al-Azhar University and attracted four beautiful young ladies.

One of them was the daughter of an important Indonesian scholar which the young man turned down. The second was an Egyptian girl whom he regularly helped but later accused him of raping him partly because he turned down her love. The third was a Coptic Christian living next door to him and studying together who saved him from the gallows and later married him. The fourth was a wealthy German-Arab who married him and later helped him to save the Coptic Christian's life (she was in a coma) so that she could testify for him and later helped him marry her. She was sacrificing her marriage so that she could help her husband. For a time both the wives live with him until the other (the Christian, who later converted) died.

Those are my two love movies of the year. So I would suggest you go out there and get either one of them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ask Bruneiresources

I was on the way from the Trandie Marina Resort, Batang Duri Temburong where we held our ministry's leadership and strategic planning session, when the sms from Cuboiart came through my phone. In Trandie Marina, you cannot receive any call as there was no DST signal. We had to drive a few miles away before you can get any mobile phone reception.

Anyway, on the way to the mosque for the Friday prayer, I had a few sms which arrived the moment my phone was able to receive messages. One of them was Cuboiart's telling me that the cartoon was now in print in Borneo Bulletin. I knew about the cartoon much earlier as I asked Cuboiart whether he can draw me a cartoon which I wanted to keep for myself about BR. When he sent me the cartoon, I laughed my head off and thought to myself, there is no way Borneo Bull was going to accept this as the cartoon was too focused. But Cuboiart tried and there you are. It got printed.

Thanks Cuboiart!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Brunei Data 2009

How many of us realised that the population of Brunei in 2008 was around 398,000 just 2,000 short of the 400,000 population? 276,600 of those people are squeezed in the smallest district of Brunei-Muara and out of that number, 265,100 are Malays (Chinese made up 43,700), 105,300 are below the age of 20.

More than 2,000 of us got married the year before with about 1,900 in front of a Jurunikah. We gave birth to more than 6,000 babies last year but more than 1,100 Bruneians also died last year.

Our unemployment rate last year was a reasonable 3.7%. Our GDP last year was more than $19,000 billion thus making each one of us having a per capita GDP of $49,800. That sounds large, doesn't it? But our growth rate last year was a mere 0.4% and our population grows by around 2.1% - this will mean our per capita GDP will become smaller in the future.

There are 110,000 of our young ones in school last year from kindergarten to universities taught by more than 9,300 teachers and lecturers.

Our people deposited some $12 billion in the banking system. Around $6 billion of these are kept by banks outside Brunei.

If you find all these data interesting, you can find all this and many more of these data from a small booklet issued by the JPKE or you can download the booklet yourself from HERE.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Riot at Bangkok

This AP photograph showing situation at Bangkok Airport is quite scary. More than 4,000 passengers are now stranded there. This new airport handled more than 700 flights a year and last year handled around 40 million passengers! It is the world's 18th busiest airport. My family was supposed to have gone to Bangkok next Monday to visit our niece who is working there at the Brunei Embassy. Since this news came out, we were advised not to go to Bangkok until situation there has improved.

Our Ministry's DPS and the head honcho of PWD plus a few engineers are attending an Engineering Conference in Bangkok at the moment. They were supposed to return back to Brunei this Sunday. He sent me an sms yesterday about the situation and are now finding alternative means of returning home. Our own Royal Brunei Airlines flight to Bangkok was cancelled yesterday. I think the other airports in Thailand are opened, so it may mean a few hours drive away from Bangkok, then only will the visitors may be able to leave Thailand. Let's pray that our Brunei people will be safe during this troubled times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Long Life Education

Last night my better half and I were at our son's annual school concert as well as the graduation ceremony for the Primary 6 of his school. I saw many of these parents with fancy cameras armed with fantastic distance zoom lense or the latest video cameras, all of them no doubt very happy that their primary school children will now be entering into secondary school. Indeed Yayasan as a school has something to be proud too. More than half of their Primary 6 cohort scored 5As in their PSR.

No doubt come 2011 (umur panjang), I would love to have my little one in that half too. But then should he not make it, it is not the end of the world. I know a few parents who are not happy because their little one did not make it. I would like to tell them this tale. I remembered one relative a few years ago invited us for a doa kesyukuran and we asked what the occasion was for. She said .. anakku pass .. Not everyone are straight A students but to remember that passing too is an achievement certainly makes me feel humble.

One PhD friend told me that he was not a straight A student. But that has not stopped him from working hard and eventually getting his PhD. Life is certainly long and there are many bridges to be crossed and paths to be walked through. 5A at PSR is a good indicator but not the only indicator. Hard work and perseverance still count and can still make the difference come the day, our little one, grown up, entering into the workforce.

Whatever it is, we as parents do need to work especially hard in getting our young ones to work hard. If they make it to the top of their class at the same time, well done. But if not, we need to make sure that they get through their examinations and be employable at the end of the day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In 1919, Mr. G.E. Cator (this is where Jalan Cator came from and it is not derived from the Malay word for Chess), the British Resident in Brunei wrote in the 1919 Brunei Annual Report about education in Brunei:-

"61. The school at Tutong proved unexpectedly popular and efficient. Tutong children appear to be generally more intelligent than the Bruneis."

I am not trying to generate an inter-district rivalry but it is certainly interesting to note such a comment and coming from an outsider. Of course in those days, there were not many children going to school. Up to 1920s, the British Resident was still arguing that compulsory education would not be popular. In fact, schools in Belait and Tutong only opened the previous year in 1918. And by 1919, the Tutong children impressed the British Resident so much that he put that in his report.

Today we do not have a district education comparison, at least, not in public. I don't know whether such a comparison would still be apt today given the much changing social mobility and social structure. But if there was such a comparison, I wonder whether we could say any district's children would be any much more intelligent than the other districts. Interesting thought that...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Would you pay US$250,000 for this?

I was surprised when I saw this item on e-bay. The note being auctioned is the lower one. Someone in Malaysia is auctioning this note for US$250,000!

His description of the note is this:-

"Brunei 1967 sultan P-1 $1 dollar note with obverse colour missing and appeared on reverse variety.the obverse colour is missing on obverse side and appeared on reverse side of the note,probably the obverse side colour is printed on reverse side and reserve side colour is printed on observe side of the note paper by the printer.i compare both of the normal and variety notes together showing on the pictures below,top(normal)bottom(variety),what you see is what you get,judge it by yourself.i think it is certainly very unique and rare.the note is in superb extra fine condition,uncirculated note,both notes will sell can give me an offer for this item,any offer is welcomed.i accept paypal only and will ship worldwide,local bidder can personally self collect from me,cash and carry is included.thank you for viewing.goodluck and happy buying."

This maybe rare but whether it's worth US$250,000 certainly depends on how deep your pocket is and your willingness to spend your money on this. What I do know is that back in the 1960s and 1970s, quality control was not as precise as it is today. I asked a former Secretary of the Brunei Currency Board as I have with me a bunch of $10 notes and the colours ranged from red to pink. He said that with different shipments, sometimes come different range of colours. Similarly to the $1 note above is certainly due to imperfections at printing.

However since notes are printed in sheets, if this note is printed imperfectly, then there is a whole sheet of these notes with the same imperfection at least. So it is possible that there are other notes out there with the same imperfection. If you do have US$250,000 to spare - all the best to you.

PS. By late evening, this particular item was taken out from the auction by ebay. Not only was the auction taken out by ebay, the auctioner seemed to have been taken out by ebay as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Customer Service

Over the last week, I have been spending my lunch times at motorcar dealers' showrooms. I have a 7 year old Mitsubishi Pajero with low mileage of about 129,000 km only. I only used the car at weekends and mostly in the country. I have not been to Miri or Limbang since 2001 I think. Anyway, as I grow heavier, it is getting harder to get into it (too high) and since I also have a policy of not keeping cars beyond its seventh year, it is time to let go. I have opted for a mid range SUV rather than the full blown version and I have finally settled on this beauty. It is not the top range as my driver says I should get a Lexus at least for 'my ranking' his words not mine. I told him that rankings don't put food on the table as a Lexus cost almost $40,000 more.

I am not talking about cars today but rather about customer service. The young lady that helped me get my Honda is named Anis Suhailah and I have to admit both my wife and I found her extremely courteous, friendly and should definitely be a role model for customer service in Brunei. I have grown up in Brunei not expecting much from Brunei salespersons but I definitely have to say that with her kind of behaviour entering into the Brunei sales services, I think things are looking up for Brunei.

I thought Anis would be the one and only. I was surprised to find a few more. Over at The Mall in Gadong, there were these stalls that opened up in what used to be the ice skating rink. I don't have the name for this guy but he sells computers there. I was having a quick look at a laptop which I did not buy but even then he was very courteous and helpful and even wished me well when I left the stall. I was very impressed and one day when I do want to buy a laptop, I probably might pop back to that stall because I know he will be helpful.

At a few more stalls, we found a few more salespersons who automatically says 'apa dapat kamu bantu' etc. Was it us that are only looking for good sales services or is there a general change in the Brunei sales scene? I sincerely hope that is the latter. Remember my story a couple of weeks ago about a cleaner at TAP whom TAP eventually rehired at a different salary scale? She was the epitome of customer service when I first met her. I think she has many competitors now. But this augurs well for Brunei.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Ghostly Tale

I arranged for all the senior people from Minister to Directors for a breakout executive session next week. We will be staying at Batang Duri for an overnight stay for a team building session as well as leadership and strategic planning session. Since the announcement, I have heard a number of stories about Belalong which I have to tell the story tellers that we are not going to Belalong but only to Batang Duri. That spoiled the fun as nobody has come up with stories about Batang Duri. Anyway, I heard this story the other day as part of a too many spooky tales this week and I thought I will tell it here as it is the most interesting I heard.

There was this elderly couple, husband and wife driving quite late at night. It was drizzling. While driving they saw a young lady standing on the roadside and they debated whether to stop and help her. The wife against but the husband was sympathetic. Since it was the husband who was driving, he stopped.

The lady got in and they asked where she wanted to go. She said a name of a place further down the road. Both husband and wife was surprised but should not be really, there was nothing in the place that the young lady wanted to go other than a graveyard. Since she was already in the car, all they can do was drive.

As they get nearer the place, the wife got more nervous. She was scolding her husband in a hushed tone for picking the young lady up. As they get nearer, there was a bad smell emanating in the car and it got progressively worse. She dare not turn around. The wife was beside herself being scared and she started to speak to her husband about her fears and the bad smell and who actually is sitting in the back seat. The husband laughed and told her not to worry about the smell. He had been having stomach trouble and had been releasing his gas!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Maharaja Sultan Brunei

One of the problems with Brunei History is that it is an ancient state. An ancient state with complete records is okay. It is an ancient state with incomplete record. For instance, according to Chinese records, Brunei as a country had been sending tributes and keeping diplomatic relations with China as far back as the year 515. We have no idea who the kings were and what the country looked like then. We are not even sure where the capital was, other than the Chinese records saying it is at the mouth of the current Brunei river.

The current sultanate lineage was based on the Batu Tersilah on which was carved the description to the lineage. But we know that it was completed by Khatib Haji Abdul Latif during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin (1795-1804AD) and (1804-1807AD) which historically is quite recent. The possibility of Brunei Sultans missing from the list is very real as that tablet is not as accurate as we hoped it to be. The first obvious missing Sultan was Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan who died in Nanjing China. Even his son Xia Wang, who was said to take over the throne after the death of his father is not included in the genealogical list.

I was reading a 1996 Beriga, which is a publication produced by Dewan Bahasa, written by Haji Mohamad Salim, a curator at the Brunei Museums. In his article, he was describing about his research on tombstones or batu nisan belonging to the Sultans of Brunei. Out of the 29 listed, with the exception of Sultan Sharif Ali and Sultan Bolkiah, the 3rd and 5th Sultan, only tombstones belonging to the most recents Sultsn had been found. I read another article on Brunei Museums Journal, another tomb was discovered described as KB2. The remnants of the tomb was huge but we do not know whose it was.

The Beriga article described one other tombstone found which is the photograph above. That was inscribed to belong to Maharaja Sultan Brunei. But there was no mention of the date of hs death or his proper name. According to a Chinese researcher, this tombstone came from Quanzhou China and had similarities to the Islamic graves in Quanzhou. The researcher believe the tombstone dated around early 1300s. If that is so, then the Sultans of Brunei embraced Islam much earlier than the official history of Brunei which placed the conversion of Awang Alak Betatar as Sultan Muhammad in 1376 and not to mention push the lineage of the current Sultanate by almost another century older. Interesting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wild Pet Animals

Last Sunday while I was competing in the colouring competition during the World Town Planning Day, my 8 year old son called me. He was excited about a 'mickey mouse' which he had just bought at his school's fair and he wanted me to get him a cage complete with drinking water etc. I was quite surprised as I hadn't heard him say anything about pets, let alone mouse, over the last few days. Normally he would have said something and I would know something is up. Apparently the school's fair had been going on over the last few days and many of his friends had each bought a mouse to bring him. That guy selling him is certainly making a killing.

Anyway I duly stopped at a petshop on the way home and got him a cage with the full works, bedding, bottle and food and the whole lot cost almost twenty times the cost of the $5 mouse. Got the cage home and my son was excited seeing this mouse in the cage. Over the next few days, the mouse got more adventurous to the point that we can see it running in that running wheel thing in the cage. Last night while we were watching television, we saw the mouse had managed to overcome its cage and started to explore around the area outside its cage.

That got a little bit too adventurous for us and the mouse had to go out. We had to find him a new box as clearly this cage is clearly not going to hold him. Then our maid discovered that this small rodent has teeth as she was bitten by it when she tried to grab hold of the mouse. This is certainly a dilemma. It is not yet but getting there, that the mickey mouse is not certainly as tame as the seller makes it out to be.

I remembered when I was in England, near Christmas time, there were always adverts from the RSPCA about not getting a pet for Christmas gift. RSPCA had to del with thousands of pets abandoned after Christmas. We have not yet reached the level that RSPCA had to face in UK but there would be many of us wondering what to do with our little mice which our children bought during school's fair when we no longer see it as cute and cuddly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beef vs Rice

About a couple of months ago, I was at MIPR for discussion on our paddy productions. Paddy or padi in Malay is now an important topic since His Majesty's decision that we should not be dependent on other countries for our rice supplies. Why am I involved? Production of paddy requires two things - huge tracts of lands and enormous and copious amount of water. Without these two items, you cannot hope to grow rice.

Anyway, during the meeting, the Agriculture Director gave us a little handbook containing all the agricultural statistics that you ever wanted to know about agriculture. For instance do you know that we produced about 229,648 stalks of cut flowers in 2007? Did you know that only comprised 18.54% of Brunei needs and we needed to import another 1,009,192 stalks of flowers over the same period. Where did all those flowers go? We also grew 4,372 tons of fruits over the same period which is not enough to meet our needs. But that unfortunately means that we imported an additional 18,694 tons. Anyway, you get statistics like that.

For today, I wanted to highlight the statistics of our livestocks industry. We are pretty much okay in chickens only relying on a small scale from ouside both for our chickens as well as our chicken industry. But we are totally dependent on beef from outside as well as goat. Can we make us be self sufficient in beef? I doubt very much as you require a really large tract of land for cattle farming. The one that we used to own in Australia was a few times Brunei size. I guess we have to resign ourselves to being importers of beef and goat meat.

Someone raised that same argument about rice as the tract of land required is also large. Yes and no. With rice you can increase production by increasing the number of harvesting. So with the right paddy, and the right conditions, you don't need as much as land as cattles. The amount of land needed is certainly large but with commercial farming, it can be worked out. Though growing rice requires water. And that even in Brunei's heavy rain weather needs to be maintained properly. Dams and barrages needed to be built where the rivers are and heavy water infrastructure needed to be built. Can we get full sufficiency? Based on the current projections, we certainly can in a few years time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Visit to Nanjing (Post Travel Tales)

On the last day when we were in Nanjing, we managed to squeeze in a vist to the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum where this one housed the tomb of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, I was convinced, was the last Emperor of China to meet Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan before he died in 1408.

This place has been recommended as a 'must see' place in Nanjing. Anyway what I did not realise was this tomb area was huge, and when I mean huge, I mean really really huge. The mausoleum lies at the foot of Purple Mountain. It took more than 20 years to complete and the original wall of the mausoleum was more than 22.5 kilometers long. They don't talk about meters here but kilometers.

What I wanted to see was the tomb but we were very disappointed. The tomb was under renovation when we visited and the whole place was closed. The next one we wanted to see was the Divine Path. Along the divine path, there were many statutes there similar to the ones guarding the path to Makam Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan but on a much larger scale. There were 6 kinds and 12 pairs of animals guarding the divine path to the tomb. Beyond the statutes is a pair of decorative columns called huabiao in Chinese. Four pairs of ministers and generals have been standing there for centuries to accompany the Emperor in his afterlife.

It was raining quite heavily when we got there and I just wanted to take one photo and go back to the car. But the Chinese driver signal to me to go on the path and he will wait at the other end. So I did that and I managed to see all the statutes after about a few kilometers walk. By the time we got to the end of that path, I was so tired and there were no cars. Apparently the cars could not go in. After a long wait and a few incomprehensible phone calls, the driver came running and asked me to walk back the few kilometers back as he could not get in. Luckily enough along the way, he managed to persuade a Chinese policeman to give us a lift.

The policeman sent us to the wrong carpark (this place, I realised afterwards has a few car parks - it is huge) and when he tried to turn around we found the car going down a few steps. So he has to let us go out. After waiting for so long, that policeman (bless him) actually went round searching for the right carpark and then he came back and called us to get back in the car. He was a really kind man and the most helpful Chinese man in China that I have met. My colleague took that photo that looks as if I have been 'arrested' but the problem is that everyone was smiling! He was actually trying to squeeze me into his small car.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SMS Results

I love Cuboiart. His cartoon is succint and really really straight to the point. This one came out yesterday on Borneo Bulletin. How do you copy sms results?

With MOE's recent service of getting sending sms to parents to get exam results, many parents are now able to get their children's results much faster. The only downside to this is that you don't know anyone else's results. Which is good. But being kiasu parents, there is always this nagging curiousity of how well your child did against other children. Not to mention, one of my colleagues was saying that there is also a downside to sms results. His heart goes kabak-kabak everytime the sms signal was heard.

Congratulations to all who passed their PSR!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Therapautic Colouring

Today's entry is more or less my diary entry for the day. This morning, we were at Town and Country Planning Department for this year's celebration of World Town Planning Day. What is it? WTPD is a day that celebrates planning to boost awareness and change the public's perception of planning. It is actually held on November 8th. Who knew?

For my TCP colleagues, did you know that historically World Town Planning Day was founded in Argentina by Professor Carlos MarĂ­a della Paolera in 1949? He also founded the Instituto Superior de Urbanismo at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. His aim was to "advance public and professional interest in planning both locally and abroad" and create "a special day to recognise and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities."

That said, WTPD fell into decline after Professor della Paolera died, except in Turkey, which observed it alone for 20 years. It was revived in 1995 by the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISoCaRP), and has been promoted steadily ever since. By its 50th Anniversary in 1999, it was marked in about 30 countries all over the world.

TCP had held a two day seminar last week. Today was more for fun. We had the walkathon after a strenous warm up and aerobic exercies. As usual I 'won' the walkathon after taking a shortcut. The rest of the activities were fun including a colouring contest which the minister said everyone present should take part. I won that too by getting 90 points beating the Deputy Minister by 1 point and the Minister by 5 points. If someone from TCP is reading this, can I have the scan of my colouring?

Strangely, I found colouring was therapautic and when I got home last night, I asked my son where his old colouring books were. We found a Bob the Builder and we coloured those.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who is your Wali?

I was helping out my sister yesterday. She will be getting married sometime next year and she had all these forms from Religious Affairs that she had to fill in. Most people would know that she needs a 'wali'. I am not sure how to translate it. The closest I can came up with is 'guardian'. Anyway I was quite intrigued to discover that in her form, there is a list of 40 people or groups of people who can be my sister's wali. I didn't realise the wali list was so long. The first few are easy as the list goes on, you would be hard pressed to find these people. These are in order of precedent. Read the list and imagine who they are:-

1. Bapa
2. Datuk (bapa kepada bapa)
3. Saudara lelaki seibu sebapa
4. Saudari lelaki sebapa
5. Anak lelaki dari saudara lelaki seibu sebapa
6. anak lelaki dari saudara lelaki sebapa
7. Anak kepada anak dari saudara lelaki seibu sebapa
8. Anak kepada anak dari saudara lelaki sebapa dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
9. Bapa saudara seibu sebapa sebelah bapa
10. Bapa saudara sebapa sebelah bapa
11. Anak lelaki dari bapa sauara seibu sebapa sebelah bapa (sepupu lelaki seibu sebapa)
12. Anak lelaki dari bapa saudara sebapa sebelah bapa (sepupu lelaki sebapa)
13. Anak kepada anak lelaki dari bapa saudara sebapa sebelah bapa (sepupu lelaki sebapa)
14. Anak kepada anak lelaki dari bapa saudara sebapa sebelah bapa, dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
15. Bapa saudara bapa seibu sebapa
16. Bapa saudara bapa sebapa
17. Anak kepada saudara bapa seibu sebapa
18. Anak bapa saudara bapa sebapa
19. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara bapa seibu sebapa
20. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara bapa sebapa, dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
21. Bapa saudara datuk sebapa
22. Bapa saudara datuk sebapa
23. Anak bapa saudara datuk seibu sebapa
24. Anak bapa saudara datuk sebapa
25. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara datuk seibu sebapa
26. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara datuk sebapa dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
27. Bapa saudara bapa datuk seibu sebapa
28. Bapa saudara bapa datuk sebapa
29. Anak bapa saudara bapa datuk seibu sebapa
30. Anak bapa saudara bapa datuk sebapa
31. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara bapa datuk seibu sebapa
32. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara sebapa dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
33. Bapa saudara datuk datuk seibu sebapa
34. Bapa saudara datuk datuk sebapa
35. Anak bapa saudara datuk datuk seibu sebapa
36. Anak bapa saudara datuk datuk sebapa
37. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara datuk datuk seibu sebapa
38. Anak kepada anak bapa saudara datuk datuk sebapa dan begitulah sehingga ke bawah
39. Tuan budak (hamba) yang dimerdekakan
40. Sultan

Now, the quiz. Tell me who no 38 is.

[note: image is from David Cheok]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kuala Belait and Seria

I have to go to Kuala Belait today for the Hari Perkhidmatan Awam there. A speech and then give out 92 certificates to retired civil servants. Despite Kuala Belait being only 60 odd miles away, a distance most other non-Bruneians would consider as spitting distance, I find it far. My grandfather was working in Kuala Belait when I was very young and we as a family goes down there every week or so if I remember and everytime we go there, it would take us well over an hour before we get there. I have always remembered KB as being really really far. Even now, when we get there under an hour, my brain still tells me that we are now in KB, very far away from Bandar Seri Begawan.

Here are two old photos of Seria and Kuala Belait in the early 1950s. Imagine the changes or non-changes of today:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brunei's Escalating Prices

When I was still in school, I used to wait for a Lat cartoon in the Straits Times. Lat did not draw everyday but the moment his cartoon comes out, I would know what it was. Even silent cartoons without words would still make me smile.

Today I don't have to wait for Lat. We have our very own Lat in the form of cuboiart. Mr. Cuboiart gets my vote for being Mr Lat of Brunei. Yesterday's cartoon in BB was a classic. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows what the cartoon is all about. Prices go up because some other prices went up. In this case, price of oil. This economic phenomenon of sticky prices is interesting. But it is sticky going downwards but has not much resistance going upwards. The only announcement so far is the airlines lowering their extra high fuel surcharge.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The sultan who died in China (continuation)

When I wrote the article on Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan who died in China, unfortunately I did not have any Brunei reference articles with me. So I concentrated the article on the actual discovery of the tomb and its subsequent restoration. Now that I am back in Brunei, I am able to continue to do further research on the matter. The simplest read is the History of Brunei in Brief written by Pehin Jamil, the Principal of the Brunei History Centre.

When Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan died, what happened to his heir Xiawang? Xiawang was only 4 years old and he spent a further year in China before returning back to Brunei. When he went back he was accompanied by a Chinese official by the name of Chang Chien and a guide by the name of Chow Heng. Sultan Ahmad carried out all the official duties and it was recorded that Sultan Ahmad was the second sultan. However it has been postulated that Xiawang died before reaching adolescent and therefore never made it to the throne. According to historians, there are a number of other kings or sultans of Brunei who were not mentioned in the salasilah and hence Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was one of them.

I remembered coming across one writing which stated the possibility that Ma Je Na Ka Na was not a Muslim. However according to Chinese records, Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was provided with meals that normally consisted of food prepared according to the Ta-Min-Hui-Tien (Ming's Code of Rules and Laws) which conssisted of two sheeps, four geese, eight chickens, 20 bottles of water, one picul of rice, 30 katis of noodles, four kinds of fruits and various vegetables and condiments. No pork was served.

Another postulation on how the name of Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was derived. The name was in fact on a tombstone in Brunei. At the Jalan Residency cemetery, one grave was discovered to belong to the daughter of Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan. The name on the gravestone was Rokayah binti Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan ibnu Muhammad Shah Al-Sultan. This makes Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan, the son of Sultan Muhammad Shah, the first Brunei Sultan. The gravestone was dated 826 Hijra (around 1422 AD about 14 years after Sultan Abdul Majid died in Nanjing, China).

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Brunei Sultan who died in China

[Note: My article below was published on Brunei Times yesterday.]

ABOUT 50 years ago, on May 12th 1958, villagers at the Village of Yinxi at Yu Hua Tai District, a few kilometres away from the city of Nanjing in China discovered a relic in a nearby forest near a hill.

It was a giant tortoise with a giant tablet on its back. This discovery however was not that unusual. The City of Nanjing was the capital of many of China's dynasties including the modern government before the capital was moved to Beijing in 1949. So it is not surprising that historical relics were discovered every now and then. The tortoise too was not unusual.

In ancient China, the tortoise was a sacred animal. Followers of the philosopher Confucius considered it one of the four spiritually endowed creatures, along with the unicorn, phoenix, and dragon. In Taoist philosophy, the tortoise symbolises the universe. Its domed shell represents the heavens, and its flat underside, the earth.

In Chinese mythology, the tortoise is one of the four celestial animals that rule the four directions. Known as the Dark Warrior, the tortoise rules the North, including the northern part of the sky.

However when experts first read the texts carved on the tablet, they were shocked to discover that the tablet was describing the tomb of a king from a foreign country, who died while visiting China in 1408.

More relics were soon discovered in the area. These were the statutes that are usually placed on both sides of the path leading to a tomb. There were four warrior statues, two tigers, two cows, two horses and two column plinths, some broken but generally all well preserved. Finally the tomb itself was discovered at the base of a hill. When Chinese historians completely deciphered the tablet, it tells of a fascinating tale.

It was the story of a visit by a King called Ma Je Ka Na from the Kingdom of Poli. It seemed that in August of the sixth year of the Reign of Yongjie of the Ming Dynasty (1408), that King visited China with a delegation of 150 people including his wife, brothers, sons and entourage.

When the delegation arrived in China's Fujian Province, the then Chinese Emperor Chengzu immediately sent officials to greet them and ordered that wherever the delegation arrived a banquet should be hosted. After a long journey of friendship and feasts, the delegation finally arrived in Nanjing, capital of the Ming Dynasty, and was warmly welcomed by Emperor Chengzu.

Unfortunately, the King fell ill in Nanjing, where the Emperor ordered his imperial doctors to treat and take good care of him. It was said that the King was very grateful and told his wife that his people should never forget China's kindness. The King was buried on Shizi Hill outside the Andemen with the burial rites normally offered to kings. According to history, Poli was one of the ancient names of Brunei. As far back as the 14th century, the King and his envoys had been visiting China. That visit in 1408 comes after a series of other visits.

According to Chinese records, in 1370, Shen Chi, a magistrate and Zhang Jingshi, an Imperial Supervisor from Fujian Province went to Brunei.

In 1371, Yisima, an envoy of Brunei visited China. This visit was followed by another group of envoys from Brunei in 1394, an envoy named Alibochen in 1405 and another group of envoys in 1406 before the visit by the King himself in 1408.

Friendly exchanges between the two nations have a long history dating back over 2,000 years ago. As early as China's Western Han Dynasty, the two countries have already exchanged trade in goods.

In China's Tang Dynasty, official exchanges between the governments of the two countries started. With the advancement of navigation technology in China's Song and Yuan Dynasties, exchanges of envoys and commercial ships became more frequent between the two countries.

In fact according to Chinese records of the Liang Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty, Brunei had been sending her envoys to China and had also been receiving envoys from China. The earliest records stated that in the years 517AD, 521AD and 631AD, Brunei had sent her envoys to China. In 977AD, China sent her envoys to Brunei.

Since the discovery, the mausoleum has been constantly repaired and well maintained. According to the Chinese records, in 1958 and 1959, all the stone figures were uprighted and all the broken stone carvings repaired. The first path was laid and the surroundings of the tomb area improved.

By 1975, the tomb area was afforested and beautified as well as repairs to all the stone figures including replacement of missing parts. By 2004, a tablet pavilion, an arched gate, the tomb and an altar were rebuilt. The Hall of Friendship between China and Brunei were completed as well.

The China-Brunei Friendship Hall completed in 2006, was inaugurated by Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Masna very recently. Now, the mausoleum and the hall have become famous tourist attractions in Nanjing and are seen as testimony of China-Brunei traditional friendship.

Who was that King of Brunei who died in Nanjing? According to the Brunei History Centre, even though the King was not mentioned in the Brunei Salasilah, that King called Ma Je Ka Na and described as Maharaja Karna by the Chinese was in fact Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan. He reigned in Brunei from 1402 to 1408. In the genealogical table produced by the Brunei History Centre, Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was placed in between the first Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad and the second Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Ahmad.

According to the Chinese historical records, Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan left a son called Xiawang (Si-Awang?) who was on record visiting China in 1412 together with his mother and wife.

In 1415, Xiawang described as the King of Brunei sent 29 envoys to China. His uncle, Mamu (Mahmud?) visited China in 1417 as well as another two uncles, Zuxumayi (Ismail?) in 1421 and Shanaruoye in 1425.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Padian and Pengalu 1954

Old Brunei photograph. This means I am back in good old Brunei. This photograph comes from the Brunei Annual Report of 1954. So this photograph was taken when the town wharf was still active with padians and pengalus selling their wares.

I remembered writing about the Pengalu when I was in Moscow. Some of my Golden Legacy articles were written when I travelled abroad. It fulfills my evenings especially when you are in a country where the only thing to watch on TV is CNN and in some cases CNN with BBC. Moscow was not exactly a place you can go out easily all by yourself. But neither is their internet charges friendly so you can't surf the net when you stay in. Mine cost around US$45 per whole day session. My recent stay in Nanjing was 60 Yuan a day so that makes it around $15 our money a day which is reasonable. Singapore's Hyatt Hotel charges around $35 a day.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Farewell from Nanjing

The 4th UN World Urban Forum is winding down. Today will be the last day. While it has been an interesting place for practioners from around the world (more than 5,000) to come and talk and listen to other people, I can't help but think how advanced Brunei is compared to some of the problems I have been listening to. I know there are many things to be done and much expectation to fulfill but seriously we are still better than say three quarters of the world. But then everyone wants the best and that is something that my colleagues and I working to fulfill.

The Nanjing International Expo where the Forum is held is about 40 minutes drive from our hotel which is in the city centre. My views of Nanjing are limited to what I can see from my hotel room and what I can see on the drive to the Expo. I can't see much on the drive back as it is already in the evening (we finished at 6.30 pm everyday).

From what I can gather, it is much better than the other cities in China. The place is clean and green. It actually won a UN-Habitat award. It transformed its main Qinghuai river into one of the most beautiful tourist spots currently. Haze unfortunately is a problem they cannot seem to solve. Dust is another. The main roads are always wet. The authorities here sprayed the roads everyday to keep the dust down. Nanjing especially is full of historical treasure trove but unfortunately other than the visit to the Brunei Heritage Park, we have not had the time to visit other places. Last night we manage to see the Qinghuai River and the night stalls around the place. It was beautiful.

As always I did make a point to search for my favourite shopping place - shopping for old currency notes. In Manila, I found it at San Juan. In Nanjing, I found it at Chao Tian Gong. Though haggling the prices is a bit hard as she can't seem to talk any other language despite selling currencies around the world and other than Ni Hau, I don't know any other Mandarin despite having a grandmother originating from Xiamen. The calculator is always a good universal tool for bargaining and I managed to get some nice notes. Unfortunately the 1st and 2nd series of renmimbi yuan remained way beyond my price range. In China, currently they are using the 5th renmimbi yuan series of the 2nd edition (just in case you are wondering). More of the money in future in my other blog

It's almost time to pack up and go home. Our bags of course are much heavier, not because of shopping (we did not buy anything as the shopping centre in our hotel sells only international goods at twice the Singapore price) but heavy because of the materials and books we bought and are given throughout the forum. We learnt a few stuffs and hope to put them into practise. On that note, goodbye from Nanjing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Tomb of King of Poli

About 50 years ago, villagers at the Village of Yinxi at Yu Hua Tai District, a few kilometers away from the city of Nanjing discovered an relic in a forest near a hill. It is a giant tortoise with a giant tablet on its back. This discovery however was not that unusual. The City of Nanjing was the capital of many of China's dynasties including the modern government before the capital was moved to Beijing in 1949. So it is not surprising that historical relics were discovered every now and then.

However when historians read the tablet, they were shocked to discover that the tablet was describing the tomb of a king from another country, the King of Poli who died in China in 1408. More relics were discovered and the tomb itself was discovered. Work was started for the whole site since 1958 and improvements have been made.

Today the tomb is part of a huge park devoted to the tomb of the King of Poli who has now been recognised as Sultan Majid Hassan of Brunei. The whole place has been restored. The tortoise with its huge tablet is now housed properly under a huge roofed structure and the path to the tomb is now lined properly with the original statutes that were placed to guard the tomb. The path to the tomb at the side of the hill can be seen with the statutes lining up the path:-

My colleagues and I managed to snatch some time off our forum to visit the park yesterday morning. It was a worthwhile visit and really brought into perspective just how old Brunei's history was. HRH Princess Masna was here last month to officially open the Brunei Heritage Park. HRH Prince Mohamed was here a few years ago to see the site for himself.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Turkish Muslims of Western Thrace

Greetings from Nanjing, host of the 4th UN World Habitat Forum which I attended the opening ceremony this morning and two sessions on housings in the afternoon. The opening ceremony was fun with a number of performances in between the speeches. Something which we have not or maybe will not be able to do back in Brunei.

I walked through the exhibitions or rather quickly walked past most of the exhibits stopping only at the stalls which had documents which is of interest to my work such as UNHabitat etc. One Chinese stopped me to take a photograph with me. This is not unusual, I have this knack of people wanting to take a photo with me. I have a bunch of photographs in Iran when a group of Iranian students stopped me to have a photograph with me. In Vietnam too. Must be my superplus++ size... Anyway, among the stalls, I was quite surprised to see one particular stall which was highlighting the plight of the Muslim Turks in Greece.

The stall claimed that the Muslim Turks in Greece have been discriminated by the Greek Government and that their mosques built on wakaf lands had their lands taken by the government. From what I can gather, the Turks were allowed to stay in Greece under the Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1920s where Greeks were also allowed to stay in Turkey. The Turks numbering between 80,000 to 120,000 depending on whose statistics you read, stay in an area called Western Thrace thus they are known as Turkish of Western Thrace. The Greeks argued that the agreement talked about Muslim minority and not about Turkish minority and hence the argument.

I don't know enough about the politics of the place to make an educated judgment. However judging by the mosques that are involved in the leaflet issued by the Turks include mosque such as the Cinar Mosque built in 1775, the Central Mosque built in 1608, the Tabakhane Mosque built in 1530, Kara Mehmet Mosque built in 1406 and the Kayali Mosque built in 1730 do show that the Muslims have been there for a long time.

Though recently, the European Court of Human Rights (March 2008), Greece had been convicted because of their actions. So the Turks have been proven to be right. I'll stop there.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Greetings from Nanjing

Greetings from the 46th Floor of my hotel in Nanjing. Finally got here this afternoon. I was a bit apprehensive coming to a place where our embassy representative is not around (and yes, I appreciate what my colleagues at MOFAT do). Anyway, got off the plane and walked out on what turned out to be a very modern airport and at the immigration counters saw special lanes for us participants of the 4th United Nations World Urban Forum organised by UN Habitat.

No hassle, the officer smiled, chopped my passport and return it as quickly. The bags came out efficiently. The customs officers just look at us walking through the green lane. The hotel reps were waiting and we were told to register for the Forum right at the airport and got our passes already. 40 minutes car ride to hotel, whizzed to my room and here I am typing this just a few minutes later. I have certainly been underestimating the Chinese here.

Communication will be a problem though as the drivers don't speak English. Walking outside too will be a problem. The haze here reminded me of our 1999 haze in Brunei. Really bad. The whole place looked as if it is going to rain anytime. Can't see the sky. But temperature is not too bad at about 19 celsius. Looking out, Nanjing is just as big as the other Chinese cities. Google said it is numbered 16th.

What's here in Nanjing? What most people don't know is that Nanjing used to be the capital of China before it moved to Beijing. Our beloved country paid tributes to the Emperor of China and sent the tributes to China in the 15th century. In fact, Nanjing has the Makam of Sultan Majid Hassan, currently unnumbered but if numbered will be the 2nd Sultan of Brunei. He reigned from 1402 to 1406. The Chinese called him Majekana and he died while visiting China then ruled by Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty. I hope to get the opportunity to visit the Makam and will tell you all about it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Congratulations to UBD Graduates

[Photo courtesy of Ranz]

My heartiest congratulations to all those who graduated from UBD last Thursday. And my hearties congratulations too to His Royal Highness Prince Malik for getting his BA Education Studies yesterday. He got a 2nd Class Upper too. I was there to watch it and I have to admit I thought at first it will not be as exciting as I did not have a single family member graduating. But watching all the excitement and everyone having a good time, it does remind me of the time when I graduated many years ago. Apparently a graduation ceremony is still as enjoyable even when there is no family member graduating. Prince Malik enjoyed it more. His siblings were there to watch him.

Among us there were two main discussion topics. One is about the government and the economy's capability to absorb such a number of graduates. Yesterday was the largest ever graduating from UBD which including the diploma holders number more than a thousand. That's a thousand people with newly minted degrees and diplomas. That's at least a thousand job at Divisions 2 and 3 for the government and for the economy. That is a large number. Factor in those coming from overseas....

The other discussion topic was that about 80% of those who graduated yesterday were ladies. Good for the ladies. But what happened to the men? What happened to our boys? I am not one to speculate but something needs tweaking somewhere....

During the graduation ceremony, we were seated next to the musicians. The music provided a nice background. I thought it was recorded but apparently the music was courtesy of live performers. And they played on and on and on.... But I think they played a tad too loud that the announcer had to compete with the music.

Anyway, my entries over the last few days have been quite erratic. It's going to get worse. I am off to Nanjing by the time you read this and it will be about a week before I get back.

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