Showing posts from August, 2009

Old Airport Road

I was furious the other day for not being able to win this photograph on ebay. I was wondering who else is out there trying to win old photographs of Brunei. I hope that collector is a Brunei and would one day be able to share with us his collection of photographs.

This particular photograph is of the old Brunei Airport. If you don't know where that is, I suggest you walk over to the Government Printing Department at Old Airport Road (where else?). The Government Printing Department now used this old terminal building as its headquarters. It's kinda cool. I remembered in the 1960s when my father was the Director there, his office was at that round old control tower. It was interesting to have a circular office with glasses all the way around.

If you can find your bearing and you can see where that building is now, you would know that the road passing through Ministry of Education, PWD and SPA Buildings on one side and Bomba building and the Government Printing Department buildin…

Brunei's First Letter

This is what the first letter posted from Brunei using Brunei's stamps looked like. This was posted in July 1895 to London. In those days, Brunei was not a member of the Universal Postal Union, so the letter could only be posted to Labuan. Labuan was part of the British Straits Settlement and could post letters anywhere in the world. So if you look at the stamps, there is one Labuan stamp on the envelope. That allowed for the letter to go to London.

This envelope is known as the 'Pead' envelope because it was addressed to Mr. Pead. There were many such envelopes as the person who was given the concession to run Brunei Postal Service by Sultan Hashim, was more interested in getting revenues from sales of stamps outside Brunei. Charles Robertson, obtained the concession by promising to Sultan Hashim that he will provide the postal services for free as long as he can collect all the revenues from sale of stamps outside Brunei. In those days stamps were big businesses. He wante…

Kuih Keria and Changes

We stopped by at my parents' and my mother in law yesterday and got loaded with lots of food. No matter how old you are, parents still dote on you and make sure you get enough to eat, though in my case, clearly way too much. Anyway, one of the delicacies we got was an old favourite of mine, Kuih Keria.

Kuih Keria is both a Brunei and a Malaysian dish. There was a time when I tried to write the origins of many of the Malay delicacies but eventually I gave up. Nobody remembers and worse, it is not even documented unless I can find really old recipe books. However during sungkai, my wife remarked that today's Kuih Keria does not look the same as what she used to make or rather help her mother make many many years ago. My mother in law was a famous kuih maker in Muara Town and sold many kuihs in the local shops then.

According to her, the Kuih Keria in the 1960s were not the doughnut shaped of today. Kuih Keria used to be a figure 8 - two holes. That was interesting. When did it los…

Oil and Islam

This is normally how many international journalists wanted to depict Brunei. Oil and Islam. And the easiest way to get it is to use a photograph of the oil donkey with the Seria Mosque in the background. Watch videos or productions about Brunei, inevitably this scene will come out, taken from many different angles. I have watched so many that the show will surprise me if it does not have this scene.

Oneo of the unknown fact about Brunei is that the oldest mosque still currently being used in Brunei is this mosque, the Masjid Seria. It beat the SOAS Mosque by about 4 years. The first Seria Mosque was built in 1938 by the Muslim residents and the Muslim Workers of the then British Malayan Petroleum Company.

That was replaced by the current mosque when it was built in 1953 at a cost of a quarter million dollars. It was completed on 19th September 1954 and His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali came to officially opene the mosque. This mosque was enlarged in 1984. This is what the mosque looked …

Kuala Belait 1970s

One of my hobbies is collecting postcards. The other day I managed to acquire the above postcard. This postcard is a used one. It was sent by someone in Kuala Belait to someone in Gronigen, Holland and was postmarked sometime June 1981 about 28 years ago. Apparently he had just arrived three days in Kuala Belait and would be in Brunei for only about two more days. The card also says he does not know when he will go back to Yugoslavia. Presumably he is a Yugoslav but now that Yugoslavia has more or less disintegrated, he presumably belonged to one of the states.

Anyway, that's the problem with buying old postcards. I only wanted the photograph in front of it but I get to read the content as well. It does make the postcard more interesting knowing a tiny bit about the person who bought it and sent it to someone. Why did he pick this particular card and not another one?

The postcard depicts Kuala Belait in the 1970s. You can tell even by looking at the cars. Though there is not much ch…

Management Lessons

Monday's Non Sequitir cartoon had us in stitches yesterday. We have too many that sometimes we just moved from one committee meeting to another committee meeting. Committees solved problems if used rightly. But it is also a place some used for distributing blame and to slow down decisions. Used wrongly as the above cartoon can doom an organisation. Management Lesson number 1 - committees must be used right.

One of my facebook friends posted this yesterday which I thought is also relevant to today's management. Management Lesson number 2:-

One fine day, a bus driver went to the bus garage, started his bus, and drove off along the route. No problems for the first few stops - a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well.

At the next stop, however, a big hulk of a guy got on. Six feet eight, built like a wrestler, arms hanging down to the ground. He glared at the driver and said, "Big John doesn't pay!" and sat down at the back.

The driver was fiv…

Sooka chetha

Lately I have been reading a lot of materials about the origins of the Malays. This is very interesting but unfortunately most of the materials do not cover us here in Brunei except in passing. Though it is interesting to note where was the centre of the Malay centre - some writers argue that it was the west of Borneo (code name for Brunei) and some say it was Malacca and some say it was somewhere in Indonesia. The jury is still out.

One interesting article that I read recently was written by William Marsden entitled 'On the traces of the Hindu Language and Literature Extant amongst the Malays'. The title sounds interesting and modern. Except that it is not modern. This article was published in a book in, believe it or not, published in 1798. More than 211 years ago.

The article is readable, the English of 200 years ago is easier to read. I read Chaucer for my English Literature A Level in the early 1980s, and I remembered how difficult it was to read Chaucer.

The article pointed…

40 years of Bandar Seri Begawan

I posted this earlier. This is Bandar Seri Begawan or Brunei Town from the air around end of 1960s and early 1970s.

40 years later. This is Bandar Seri Begawan as it is today. Many more buildings in the background.

This photograph is courtesy of my adventurer friend. Thank you Tuan Sheikh.

Brunei $25 1992

Every now and then, I come across this $25 paper money. Recently my sister managed to get a few pieces for me. I had a few but my stocks dwindled down when I left MOF one and a half year ago. It is legal tender. However whenever this note turned up, many recipients would keep it as a souvenir. So it is disappearing. A few Hari Raya ago, I used the notes to give to some of my close family. It's just nice. Not too low like $10 or too high like $50. $25 is just nice. I wish the Currency Board would bring back this $25 note into circulation.

This $25 note was issued to commemorate His Majesty's 25th Anniversary of ascending the throne in 1992. His Majesty ascended the throne in 1967 when his father, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin Saadul Khairi Waddien abdicated the throne.

On the front of the note, you can see the royal chariot which was used by His Majesty during his coronation as the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in 1968. The chariot is the master show at the Roy…

Selamat Berpuasa

Selamat Berpuasa kepada Semua Pembaca Daily BR!

New Moon Sighting 2009

Last year I was at the Bukit Shahbandar Moon Sighting Tower. This year I could not make it but I was also warned in advance that the chances of sighting the hilal was, not to put a finer word, next to impossible. The moonset occurs before the sunset. So the new moon was below the horizon at the time of the sighting.

According to which produced the chart above, there were only a few places in the world where the new moon can be sighted, so if there is anyone out there who saw the new moon, it would indeed be a special gift for them. Anyway, I wish everyone to have a Happy Ramadhan starting tomorrow. Don't forget the Terawih Prayers start tonight.


I saw this on ebay and put up a price for this. Unfortunately I did not put up a price too high and the bidder who waited till last minute bought this for $31. Since I can't own the actual physical photograph, I am borrowing the image so that Bruneians out there can see what Brunei looked like in the late 1960s / 1…

Houses for the Needy

Yesterday together with my colleague, the PS at PMO, we visited the sites and progress of 19 houses that are currently under construction under the Fakir/Daif Housing Assistance Scheme financed by the Brunei Islamic Council and built by PWD. My colleague visited 9 houses in Brunei/Muara and Temburong Districts. I covered 10 houses in Tutong and Belait Districts. Altogether there are 38 houses under construction currently.

The houses are more or less of similar design. However they are being built in all over the places. The ones I visited were in Penanjong, Sungai Kelugus, Sungai Mungkom, Telisai, Keramut, Tumpuan Ugas, Danau and Mumong. Most of these houses will be ready for the recipients to move in before Hari Raya but a number unfortunately will only be ready after that.

Yesterday was also the first time I have actually met the recipients face to face. The secretariat obviously knows them as they were ones who interviewed the recipients sometime last year. Some of the would be recip…

Makkah Tower

TradeArabia News Service in Manama, Bahrain reported the following news yesterday:


Al Salam, Brunei Bank JV to manage Makkah tower
Manama: Tue, 18 Aug 2009

Nabeel Ebrahim Al Tattan

Bahrain-based Al Salam Bank, a leading Shari’ah compliant institution and Perbadanan Tabung Amanah Islam Brunei (TAIB), a leading Islamic financial institution, have entered into a strategic partnership on Burj Al Safwa Tower in Makkah.

Al Salam agreed to sell 50 per cent of its 18 years leasehold interest to TAIB through a 50:50 joint venture. The JV will soon appoint a leading hotel operator to manage the Tower as a five-star hotel.

"We at Al Salam Bank-Bahrain are honored to establish a strategic partnership with TAIB and for TAIB’s trust in our bank,” said Nabeel Ebrahim Al Tattan, executive vice president and head of Mena.

“We are confident that our partnership will add value to both organisations’ stakeholders,” he added.

“Al Salam acquired the leasehold interest in Burj Al Safwa in summer 2008 …

Houses, Houses and More Houses

It was a late night again last night. The night before was MOD 5 MCYS 0. Last night was making sure the seating arrangements and all other arrangements are okay for today's ceremony. Just in case there is any last minute thing.

This morning, His Majesty will be handing 70 lucky land owners with their own land titles and 38 people the plaque to their own houses at the Parit Community hall. The 70 land title recipients are those whose land holding original held under the temporary occupation of land, had build houses on it, had lived on it for at least 5 years and has no other land. The 38 people are the remained of Phase 1 of the housing for indigenous scheme at Lumapas.

Usually His Majesty will also visit other places while on the way to visit the houses. Today will be the Ideal Multifeed Farm, the Bayu Ilham Company both at Jalan Bengkurong as well as the Sengkurong Post Office and new Sengkurong library.

For those wondering when the houses are going to be ready, some statistics of …


We need goals alright. The Minister and I were at the Track and Field Stadium last night watching our MOD team beat the MCYS team at the inter-ministry football final. The scoreline was a very flattering 5-0 in our favour!

The MOD team played well as a team and we were especially proud of a number of players who were unselfish and worked hard as individuals winning balls and not giving up. Not to mention a number of them took part that morning in the gruelling 40 km bicycle expedition organised by our ministry in commemoration of HM's 63rd Birthday. Well done everyone!

The MCYS team had skills, that much we can see. However luck was not on their side in the first half when MOD scored two goals. They worked hard and even hit the post and the bar. Had those two gone in, we would have a much harder game. But as it is in football, it was the MOD team that scored three more in the second half. Bad luck but the scoreline was certainly flattering to MOD. The game was not a one sided affair…

Brunei's Water Supply

The Minister and us went round again yesterday to see the water supplies as part of our regular inspection. Because of the shift in wind directions, we have been quite lucky to receive the rains instead of the rain dropping out at sea. We have been lucky too that with the winds blowing the other directions, we don't get the smog from the end of the Borneo Island. However once the winds shitt directons to us from the south, my worry is that the haze will come back with a vengance.

Has the water supply improved with the rains?

Not really. This is a photograph of the Mengkubau Dam. Mengkubau supply the areas immediately surrounding it as far as Muara. The brown stain in that water intake tower is the amount of water that has been taken away from Mengkubau and has not been replaced by any rain.

We also visited the Tutong Barrrage. The barrage is a barrier in the middle of the river so that the fresh water flowing from the hills out to the seas are trapped behind the barrage. So the water…

Which is correct? Brunei or Berunai?

Someone asked on the comment box which I copied Nazri: kn betanya, kenapa nama ejaan Brunei B.R.U.N.E.I? Sedangkan sebutannya BRUNAI? nda pernah ku tejumpa mana-mana ejaan yang berakhir dengan E.I disebut "ai".

Nazri brought up an interesting point. When did 'Brunei' became Brunei?

I will ignore the old Chinese reports which used various names such as Poli and Poni and concentrates on the word closer in sound to Brunei. Though the final word that the Chinese used was 'Boni' which in fact until today is still being used as the signage at Sultan Majid Hassan's tomb in China. This is the cover of my second book currently on sale which shows the sign of King of Boni:-

Going back further in time, most of the Dutch and Spanish documents spelt Brunei as 'Borney' or 'Borneo'. One letter from the Sultan of Brunei to Governor Tello in Manila reported the use of 'Burney'.

Most European old maps dating to the 17th and 18th century would refer to B…

Brunei-Philippines Rice Cooperation

You don't often find our beloved Sultan's image or even Brunei's images on other countries' stamps. The ones that I have come across so far are 4 - the image of our Sultan on a Korean stamp to commemorate Brunei-Korea relationship, the image of the dome of SOAS Mosque on a Japanese stamp to commemorate the ASEAN-Japan relationship, the image of the State Secretariat building on the other 9 ASEAN countries' stamps to commemorate 40th anniversary of ASEAN and the image of the Brunei flag on a UN stamp.

This Philippines stamp is the latest of all the world's stamps which has an image of His Majesty. This 7 peso stamp is a special issue to mark the agricultural cooperation forged between the Philippines and Brunei. Featured are portraits of Philippine President Macapagal Arroyo and His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. The issue is offered as a block of 4. Get it while you can. It will cost more than the 7 peso in the future.

The Haze according to Cuboiart

Every now and then when I read the Borneo Bulletin, I would be smiling and there are times when I would be chuckling and if it is really hillarious, laughing out loud. If I do that, that would mean that I have come across cartoons written or rather drawn or created by Cuboiart, Brunei's finest satirical cartoonist.

These two cartoons are about the haze that we are facing at the moment especially open burning. Sometimes people don't seem to care that we have dry weather. Our neighbours did it the other day. The small woods behind his house caught fire after his burning of his rubbish at the back of his house went haywire. Luckily the fire was controllable, otherwise I would hate to think what would have happened.

Despite the rain, water levels have continued to come down at the Tutong River. The Water people had to release some water from the Benutan Dam to raise the water level at Tutong River. The rains have all fallen down the coasts and not much has landed where it is needed …


I was at the opening ceremony of BRIDEX's conference yesterday and listened to General Ul Haqq of Pakistan giving the keynote address. I have not been to BRIDEX before and neither have I been to the new exhibition centre. My comments? I was very impressed with the organisation of the conference and the exhibition halls and no doubt this will be a much better site to hold exhibitions and other what nots in the future.

Jane's which as many of readers know, is one of the most respected sources of information and analysis on theglobal defence industry, has been appointed to co-organise yesterday's conference and workshops. Jane's will also publish the Show Daily magazines.

This morning His Majesty will officially open BRIDEX 2009.

What is BRIDEX 2009?

Just in case you are still wondering, BRIDEX stands for the Brunei International Defence Exhibition. BRIDEX is the premier defence & security event in South East Asia. BRIDEX 2009 taking place from 12 to 15 August 2009 is hel…

Issues in The Golden Warisan Volume 2

Today I thought I will spend a bit of time answering Tun Teja who raised these issues with my new book, The Golden Warisan Volume 2 (which is available for sale now):-

Q1. loving ur new book mr BR. i have some qs though, how come sultan muhammad ali in ur makam d luba article ada haji to his name but in ur civil war artcle, nada.. im curious raja dulu2 ada naik haji? n how? ..i tot raja yg baru2 sja yg naik haji starting smja II or sultan ahmad tajuddin, no?

Answer: I have not been very consistent with the usage of haji etc and remember these are articles which are written weekly and sometimes inconsistencies like this arise. Naik haji is not an issue as ordinary people naik haji either through overland route or through trading vessels. Obviously it takes longer (in the early 1900s, my late father in law took 6 months to go and come back from haj). Remember Islam reached Brunei from both routes by the 14th centuries. Sultan Muhammad Ali was reigning around 300 years later.

Q2. n abt awg …

My Sunday

I have a confession to make. I did not go to a single wedding invitation yesterday. My apologies to the 5 families who invited us. My son wanted to go visit the museum and I thought why not. We have not gone out for a while and when my son expressed interest in museums, I am not one to disappoint. I try to visit Brunei's museums every so often even if there is nothing new to see. I always managed to find something interesting. But that's me.

We went to the Royal Regalia Museum. I haven't been to this one for a good two or three years. When we got there, it has not changed at all. The same no camera, no shoes etc. Sorry, one thing has changed, it has lockers for keeping your bags (and cameras) in. I have often been irked by this no camera rule in museums. I know the reasons behind it. First, the possibility of the photographs being exploited commercially and second, flashes (very bright light) can destroy what the museums are trying to preserve. But anyway, the Royal Regalia…

The Brunei Time Line

[Note: My article below was published in Brunei Times about a month ago and was actually based on my blog entry about 2 years ago.]

[This sketch of Kampong Ayer was published in the Illustrated London News on 27 June 1857.]

Prior to the 1960s, Bruneians have their own concept of time. A number of our elderly Bruneians, when you asked them do not know exactly when they were born. Sometime some do not even have birth certificates to prove that they were born in whatever years. Even though it was in the 1920s that births in Brunei first started to be registered, it was after the Second World War that many births were officially registered and birth certificates were issued. But there are still a number who do not have birth certificates to prove what year they were born.

Some of our elderly folks then were not literate in the ways of the British to register their children. There are many cases in the civil service where the elderly siblings are still working but the younger ones have reach…

Water is precious

The haze did it. We have been having El Nino for a couple of months now. Not many of us in Brunei realised it because we have been blessed with rains occasionally falling on us. But over the past few days, the haze has been getting visible or rather has made things not so visible that we now realised, aha, we have dry weather.

We visited all the water dams yesterday to see for ourselves for their conditions and water levels. Brunei has three dams. One is the Mengkubau Dam in Mentiri, the Tasek Dam in Bandar and the Benutan Dam in Tutong. Currently under construction is the Kagu Dam in Labi. We still have two more dams in the pipelines, one in Ulu Tutong and the other in Ulu Belait. There is in fact a fourth dam which is in operation which is in Imang. However this one is used for water supply for agriculture in Wasan and the surrounding areas.

All the dams' water level despite the lack of rain recently were okay. The Mengkubau Dam showed the most decline of about 0.8 meter but the w…

Laila Rice Cookbook

When I attended the Padi Laila harvesting ceremony the other day, every guest was given a souvenir bag. Inside the bag, among other things, were an apron with the Padi Laila stitched to it and a recipe book entitled "Hidangan Beras Laila - Dishes from Beras Laila".

The book contains recipes and I have to admit, beautiful photographs for 30 of Brunei's delicacies:-

Nasi Ayam Laila Bersambal
Nasi Briyani Laila
Nasi Kebuli Ayam Laila
Nasi Hujan Panas Laila
Nasi Goreng Belutak
Nasi Goreng 5 Ulam
Bubur Laila Misteri
Nasi Gulung Laila
Sotong Sumbat Laila Berempah
Bingka Dadak
Bebola Nasi Laila
Lapis Talam Laila
Katu Mayang
Nasi Kuning Laila
Pulut Bakar
Si Bujang
Seri Muka

Most of these dishes were selling like hot cakes during the ceremony. I bought some and they taste the same as whatever rice they used before Laila. I bought the rice too and had it the other day, to me it looked and tasted more like the special 'be…

Brunei Memories

Yesterday, the printers called and told me to collect the second batch of books and everything else will be in the remaining third batch. So today, I will be spending my after office hours getting 500 copies of my book entitled "The Golden Warisan Volume 2" into the bookshops. I have to send the books to the bookshops' store rooms. Since my first book, nowadays I know where Best Eastern and Bismi hide their stocks. So hopefully by Thursday or latest Friday, "The Golden Warisan Volume 2" will be available at all the Best Eastern and Bismi bookshops throughout the country.

I was reading the news about my colleague, the PS at PMO launching Malai Yunos cartoon book and I was wondering whether I should do a proper launch. But my first book was never launched properly and it sold itself out and I had to do a reprint, so I guess the second one should do okay, hopefully. Anyway, each book retails for $15 and you get 52 articles for that price.


However, today I want…

Harvesting Laila

Information Department's photograph of His Majesty harvesting Laila padi yesterday.

This is a very nice photograph from the Brunei Times of His Majesty harvesting Laila padi yesterday with a very delighted Minister of Industry and Primary Resources.

A picture is worth a thousand word. Two pictures, much more.

I was speaking to a former army commander who now runs a 30 acre padi plantation in Labi about the rice yesterday while waiting for His Majesty to arrive. I asked him about the Laila padi as well as his thoughts about being in the rice industry. He has been planting it for the last few years and he is satisfied with it. You can get around 3 to 5 tons per hectare and the government pays each farmer around $1.60 per kilo of rice. He only has 2 workers to cover his 30 acres but heavily mechanised. With all the modern equipment plus govenment subsidies, it can make a good income to be in the padi business. Food security is a price we have to pay for.

Yesterday too saw the launch of …

Brunei Halal

Everyone was queuing to get a nice reusable bag with this Brunei Halal logo yesterday including my better half and me. At first we did not want to queue but the entire ICC was full with people with green bag with this logo, we did it too. The most important thing is that the Brunei Halal logo is up and running. I really hope that our local food producers can use this logo branding and exploit it to sell their products. There are many challenges faced by our local manufacturers, for example high costs of the supply chain. In addition there is also relatively high labour costs as well as high imported costs of raw materials. I know my colleague at MIPR is working his * off in getting the assistance required. We should all work together to help them too.

Anyway, I thought the crowd was as equally enthusiastic as previous crowds. The food products interesting but there were one or two surprises. If I was a judge, the one that wins the most interesting claims is a drink product made from a …

The Golden Legacy Vol.2

This is the backcover of the book. Not much different from the first one if you remember. My artistic sister says that since I have named the first book volume 1, I had to follow the same design for volume 2. I am beginning to regret naming the first book volume 1 but I gues it is the contents that matter.

I was hoping that the printers would be able to print all the books but unfortunately no. The advance copies they give me was on Thursday but so far they have not confirmed when the rest would be coming other than sometime next week. So, don't look for the book at the bookshops, it is still not there yet. Meanwhile, I do have advance copies for sale at my office at $15 each.

I am giving away 50 books as I have mentioned yesterday. So far I have received only one email and she definitely will get one.

Enjoy your Sunday.

The Golden Warisan Volume 2

For those keeping track of the publication of my book 'The Golden Warisan Brunei Darussalam Volume 2' will be pleased to know that the book will be available from Monday. I have an advance few copies which I will make available for sale to people who has time to drop in to my office starting from this morning. The book is 1/3 thicker than last time and the price is unfortunately too $15 instead of last book's $12. It is thicker and has more information but I do have to pay more for the printing of the book. So I do hope you will bear with me.

What are the contents? This is the compilation of 2008 Golden Legacy articles that I have written for Brunei Times as follows:-

Berjanawari: The River Regatta Festival
Brunei Places Named After Native Words
Family Relationship Monikers in Brunei
Kampong Tanjung Nangka: Legend Trove
Brunei Lore’s Samurai, Genies and Fairies
Rural Tutong, Brunei’s Different Side
The Tobacco Smoking Tradition in Brunei
An Abridged History of Modern Brunei