I bought two books this week. One is a normal price or rather, locally Brunei priced best seller book and the other is an old almost antique book which cost five times more than the other one. When I look at Amazon, the price of that best seller was almost half but I guess with postage etc, it would probably cost close to what our local bookstores are selling. Anyway, I am talking about Dan Brown's Lost Symbol which retailed for $50.80.
I don't know about you. But after having watched National Treasure movies and reading other books and watching all those National Geographic and other channels, I didn't find the Lost Symbol that mysterious anymore. I guess that's me. Though I did lose some sleep trying to read the 500+ pages in just two days. Would I recommend it? Well... I would say buy it but wait for the paperback.
The other book which I bought was this. This plain green book is entitled simply 'The Royal Brunei Malay Regiment' which tells the history of the beginning of our Royal Brunei Armed Forces. I found one antique bookshop in England which only sold it for 50 pounds but the shop does not deliver to Brunei. So I had to buy it local.
The army is always a fascination to me. My father's house is in Jalan Berakas. Before all the highway etc was built, everyone had to use Jalan Berakas including the army people at Berakas Camp. Every now and then I would glimpse armoured vehicles as well as trucks carrying all sorts of things passing in front of the house.
Every now and then too when I am in my dad's car, we would find ourselves behind one of these vehicles. Their license plate was using the AMB plates, so you would get AMB 123 etc. We used to joke that AMB which stands for Askar Melayu Brunei as AMBok or monkey if you don't know Brunei Malay. For some reason too, the army was always on the road. Nowadays I don't see them as often as I thought when I was a small boy. Anyway, the army was just one fascination to a small kid.
I bought the book for a number of reasons. One, obviously I needed this to be part of my references collection. Two and most importantly, it contained not just the history and the background of all there is to know about our army but it also contained numerous photographs like this photograph of His Majesty holding the gun.
This book had the names of the first Brunei officers and also the names of the first 60 recruits. I was quite amazed to discover that I know one of the names. He was my step grandmother's son. I knew he was in the Army and we used to visit him and his family at Bolkiah Camp during Hari Raya but I didn't know he was among the first 60. His brother was also in the army but he stayed at Berakas Camp.
Brunei celebrated the Armed Forces Day on 31st May, a day which everyone looked forward to because it is just a free public holiday. That date was when His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar Ali announced the formation of the army in 1961. Though the advertisement for the recruitment were published in the Borneo Bulletin on 22nd April 1961. The first three officers were Sulaiman bin Awang Damit, Ak Ibnu bin Pg Apong and Mohammad bin Haji Mohd Daud. They all became Generals, one of them a Deputy Minister and the other a Minister.
Anyway, the book I have is number 480 out of 500, so it is quite rare. It was written by Major AG Harfield in 1977 and the book was printed by The Star Press. The copy I have even included a letter from Major Harfield to a Lt Commander in Southall who bought the book from Major Harfield dated January 1979. I guess that Lt Commander decided to sell the book.