Showing posts from May, 2006

Origin of Brunei Darussalam

I did not realise that there would be a big debate on what an 'empire' is when I stated that Brunei lost its huge empire. Of course in comparison to the Roman Empire or any of the other 'Empire', the Brunei Empire was relatively small. But at its height, it is said to have covered the whole of Borneo Island and all the islands in the Southern Philippines and some have said the empire also included parts of the Indonesian Java Island as well. How the empire was ruled in those days would also be subject to question. At its height even the Roman Empire was not in total control of some of those areas supposedly within their empire. Short of being a time traveller, there is no way we would really know. However amazingly enough, most of the historical data that we used to derive all these information are not ours. It's always written by other people, other historians. And other people will not write your history well. All the arguments heighten my interest to delve into

The Brunei's Kampong Ayer

Brunei has a very long history. In the Chinese historical records, Brunei has already existed by 518 CE (Common Era - the new replacement for AD which stands for Anno Domini - the year of the Lord, CE is supposedly neutral) and known as Poli. By the time of the Sung Dynasty in 1370 CE, Brunei was known as Puni. History suggested that when the capital of Brunei was moved from Puni to the present area, the name Brunei came into being with some suggesting that when the founders found the capital they declared it as 'baru nah'literally translated 'now we found it' which eventually became Brunei. Kampong Ayer would have existed as early as the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah who ruled from 1363 to 1402. It was described by Pigafetta, an Italian traveller that the water village made up of about 25,000 households with a palace built in the middle. The water village was a major port with Brunei exporting a variety of goods. However the fortunes of Brunei declined with the loss of

Brunei Bank Debts

When I first started working in the mid 1980s, I was already fully exposed to the British banking system. I came back from England loaded with credit card debts and assumed that with my new salary as a newly appointed officer in the Brunei Government, I should be able to pay back the debts easily. I did pay it back but it wasn't as easily as I had imagined it to be. Because of that experience, for the first few years, I didn't open a new bank account or credit card account in Brunei, preferring to use the same bank account that my parents had kindly open for me when I was younger - even using some of the money that was already in there. After being in debt, I thought there and then, I am not going to apply for a credit card in Brunei, no siree, no... It wasn't until I applied for a Yaohan card (anyone remember Yaohan used to be in Brunei? What do you mean you don't know what a Yaohan is?) that I was forced to apply for a credit card with my bank, the red and white hexag

50 Years Ago

Last night, I was browsing through my library, that does sound a bit pretentious, doesn't it? Let me start again. Last night, I was browsing through my little collection of books and I come across this book which I 'borrowed' from my dad's collection of books - the "State of Brunei Annual Report 1961-1962" (printed Brunei Press, 1964). For some of today's blog readers, that could be the birthyear of your parents, so it is a bit ancient. This book is interesting as it reports events of 1961 and 1962. Brunei Annual Reports in those days were published by the Broadcasting and Information Department which was just merged in 1961. Prior to that it was two separate entities known as the Brunei Information Service and Radio Brunei Service. In 1975, the department has gone full circle to be separated again as Radio Television Brunei and the Information Department which remained till today. Back to the book. What I found interesting about the book, it reports thing

The Mystery of the Brunei Missing River

Ever since I read the "Wanderer in Brunei Darussalam" which I blogged sometime last month , I was piqued with curiousity with regard to one of the stories in the book - the Sungai Katam Project. I have been asking a few people what happened to Sungai Katam? The Sungai Katam Project in the book referred to the Apartment Block at Taman Puri - that's the huge residential park along Jalan Tutong just off the Jalan Tutong/Telanai traffic light, owned by the Association of Malay Teachers (PGGMB). Anyway, I am curious as to where Sungai Katam is and what happened to it. I know Bruneians despite of our country's dimunitive size are capable of many things but to make a whole river disappear does take a bit of skill. A few days ago, I happened to meet the Penghulu of Mukim Kianggeh (to the non-Bruneians, a Penghulu is probably the equivalent of the Head of a County, so county means Mukim). Mukim Kianggeh covers an interesting area - all the way from the Kianggeh river in Bandar

Brunei Road Names, Again

A lot of readers seemed to enjoy the recent blog on Brunei Road Names. I have dug out my 'Road Map and Street Index of Brunei Darussalam' published by Brunei Shell with the Brunei Surveyor General and having to relook at all the road names all over again. The book is a little bit old but still worthwhile to look at. It is the only one there is anyway. So it's not as if you have too many choices about it. One of the feature I love in Brunei is the changing names of the same road you travel on without you realising it. I asked in my previous blog as to when does Jalan Haji Basir end, Jalan Kumbang Pasang begins and ends, Jalan Berakas begins and ends, Jalan Pasir Berakas begins and ends. Jalan Haji Basir started at the top of the road from the Bandar Fire Station along Pusar Ulak/St Andrews and at the four way junction, if you go straight you will be on Jalan Kumbang Pasang and this goes on despite several traffic lights in between all the way to the entrance of the Old Airpo

Life and Death

How many of us are really prepared for the cost of organising weddings and the cost of a funeral? Weddings we can prepare for and we know tentatively when to hold it and in some ways we can always try to save up for it. Even if it's a shotgun wedding and totally unexpected for the other family members (if not to the bride and bridegroom) - it normally won't cost as much as a normal wedding. So wedding costs are fairly controllable in that sense. But funerals? We don't know when it's time for us to go. If we go, are our families prepared psychologically or financially - that is, have enough money to even hold the ceremonies? I know some people said the ceremonies are sunat (non-obligatory) but we do want our dearly departed to be remembered and cared for even when they are no longer with us. And if it's us that are departing, I am sure in our after life we want our family members to remember us by holding tahlil and other religious ceremonies. Our spirits and our sou

Brunei Government Gazettes

The first legislation to be approved by the new Legislative Council has been gazetted and bootleg pdf copies are available at . For the official and clearer copy, please pay $5 to the Brunei Government Printing Department or to the Attorney General's Office. The legislation is called the "Supply (2006/2007) Act" - the one that allows the Brunei government to spend for the 12 months from April 2006. It's a worthwhile read to know how much each ministry and department gets. It might give you a surprise too. It's published as Government Gazette Part I No.1 as the first law that actually went through the legislative council process. Most other legislations are approved through the power of the Constitution and are gazetted in Government Gazettes Part II. For readers who did not know the existence of the government gazettes before, it's something you need to know but you don't really need to buy. You can always get hold of it in the libr

The Future of Water and Electricity in Brunei

I was in the Kiulap area last Sunday when this water truck passed by. It was very colourful and not the normal khaki/gray colour of the Public Works Department. The tank had cartoon images and slogans about saving water. Unfortunately, the truck zoomed very fast (which it shouldn't) so, I only managed to get a shot of the back of the truck. The message on the truck is for us to save water. I am not sure which building is short of water in that area. But the way we Bruneians used our water - the possibility of running out of water is a real possibility. I remembered sometime last year, the Minister of Development stated in a speech that each of us Bruneians consumed almost 400 litres of water per day or the equivalent of about 300 bottles of SEHAT water every single day. What is that in comparison to our neighbouring countries? In Singapore, each Singaporean only consumes 160 litres a day, in Hong Kong 203 litres a day and in Tokyo, the Japanese only consumed 260 litres a day. So 40

Brunei Education Debate

When I was doing my teaching practise in England (no, no, unfortunately I am not a member of that honourable profession of teaching - I took education as a subsidiary subject - my university had this policy that you must take additional subjects completely unrelated to your principal degree so that you have this more rounded education - and yes, there's only one university in England that does that) - anyway, back to my teaching practise, I got to teach at a few primary schools in England. The first one was at a little coal mining village and that was the first time I have ever seen British working class children in their surroundings. The British has this social classes - not visible - but clearly identifiable if you go deeper enough and in education this is clearly visible. I was really moved by the 3 week experience I spent in that school. I enjoyed the school and the 100 odd children. The children I met have never met an Asian before, the only Asian they probably have seen in t

Brunei Road Names

Jalan Pehin Dato Perdana Menteri Sheikh Abd Halim and Jalan Pehin Dato Perdana Menteri Sheikh Hj Abd Rahman - how many blogreaders would have any idea where these roads are? How about Jalan Dato Abas Al-Sufri? How about Jalan Maharaja Lela? Maybe you know Jalan Lintang? Jalan Simpang? How about Jalan McArthur? Jalan Cator? Still no? Jalan Sultan? Finally, a name you know. These are all roads within a 2 mile radius of Bandar Seri Begawan. It's amazing sometimes most of us drive around the Bandar area without realising the names of the roads. Honestly speaking, I have not been paying that much attention either if not for the fact that for the last 10 months I have been sitting at the back of my official car and watching road signs everyday. From sitting too long at the back of the car, I have worked it out - roughly the naming of official roads in Brunei Darussalam stopped somewhere in the 1970s and roads are named sparingly over the last 20 years or so. I divide the naming of roads

Brain Scram

Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it's important that we keep mentally alert. The saying: "If you don't use it, you will lose it" also applies to the brain. Below is a very private way to gauge your loss or non-loss of intelligence. So take the following test presented here and determine if you are losing it or are still a MENSA candidate. OK, relax, clear your mind and . . . begin. Question 1. What do you put in a toaster? The answer is bread. If you said "toast", then give up now and go do something else. Try not to hurt yourself. If you said, "bread", go to question 2. Question 2. Say "silk" five times. Now spell "silk". What do cows drink? Answer: Cows drink water. If you said "milk", please do not attempt the next question. Your brain is obviously overstressed and may even overheat. It may be that you need to contend yourself with reading something more appropriate

Make a Shay Day

What would you do? You make the choice! Don't look for a punch line. There isn't one! Read it anyway. My question to all of you is: Would you have made the same choice? At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query. The father continued. "I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child." Then he told

The buck stops where?

Someone commented that I should write something about road traffic in Brunei Darussalam. That brings back old memories. The first ministry I worked for was actually responsible for the Road Safety Council and I was in the secretariat and at a time was the officer responsible for land transport department's policies. I remembered being on radio announcing the first traffic light installed at the simpang going into the present Centrepoint/Mall area from Jalan Gadong. At that point in time, the Centrepoint was not yet built and the only shop of note was the Hua Ho Gadong. For some reason for the radio interview, I was advised not to say the simpang leading to Hua Ho, so I had to say the simpang leading to Hasbullah complex. It confused a lot of people as that complex even though many people passed by it everyday, is not particularly well known, even now. (The next time you passed by, the Million Goldsmith is in the Hasbullah Complex.) During my stint there, I realised one of the major

The Right of Reply

For today, I will concentrate on replying and making comments on several issues being raised in this blogsite. First and foremost, my blog on "Practise makes Perfect", I have to slightly disagree with Professor Anders Ericsson that you not only need to practise and have to have the love for the subject but most importantly you got to have the skill as well. 3 months of practising playing golf and time spent at the driving range have shown me that without skills, no way you will be able to do well in the game. This was brought home when I came bottom of the table after a tournament at the Empire Hotel with a nett score of 110. I must be the only one who enjoyed the scenery of the entire course at the Empire Hotel as I visited every little nook and cranny of the course and its surroundings including the streams that flow through it as I follow my little golf ball who refused to listen to whatever instructions I gave it. Second, on my blog "Facts about Brunei-Singapore Curr

Work Attitude

Let me share this which I received yesterday from my usual supplier, Dr M* through chain e-mails (caveat - strictly for amusement only!): From a strictly mathematical viewpoint, what makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Have you ever wondered about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?!? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How on earth are you supposed to be able to achieve 103%? Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions: What makes up 100% in life? If: A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4 and so on until Z=26 Then: H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K 8 + 1 + 18 + 4 + 23 + 15 + 18 + 11 = 98% and K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E 11 + 14 + 15 + 23 + 12 + 5 + 4 + 7 + 5 = 96% But, A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E 1 + 20 + 20 + 9 + 20 + 21 + 4 + 5 = 100% However: B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T 2 + 21 + 12 + 12 + 19 + 8 + 9 + 20 = 103% AND, look how far ass kissing will take you! A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G 1 + 19 + 19 + 11 + 9 + 19 + 19 + 9 + 14 + 7 = 118% So, one can

Unhealthy Bruneians?

The Minister of Health was talking about the wastage of medications last night on the news. The government spent some $27m on medication for heart diseases, $5m on kidney treatments and another $5m for cancer and about $40m on medications. That is a large sum of money for Brunei and when payment is minimal, it does create burdens for the country. However what is sad is the irresponsible behaviour of those given the medications where they do not take what's given and the medications are either wasted, thrown away and improperly stored. Prevention however can be better than being cured. I read that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has a compulsory program where everyone is required to attend an exercise session every Satuday morning before work at the Ministry begins at 9.30 in the morning. The activity included a 'heart pumping aerobics' session followed by a brisk walk in the stadium's premises. The exercise was supposed to enhance work productivity through exe

Vacancies in the Private Sector?

A couple of weeks back, I was sitting on the stage at ICC watching about 500+ young Brunei students get their vocational and technical diplomas and certificates - one of the duties of being a member of the Technical and Vocational Education Council. I did not envy the guest of honour, he had to stand the entire time. For the rest of us, it was not that easy either sitting up there looking very serious and very official and remembering not to fidget too much as the entire hall is looking at you. Though you do develop a technique of doing your sms without being spotted by the 3000+ crowd or the RTB cameras. The vocational or technical awards are interesting. The subjects covered include automotive engineering, building services engineering, business and finance, computer studies, construction, communication engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, fabrication and welding engineering, geomatics (you have to open a dictionary here), hotel and catering management, instrumentation

I am already married

I was doing some reading and I came across this book which I bought way back sometime in 1984 entitled " Our cheque is in the post " (publisher Pan Books, 1982) that contained a myriad of humorous excuses that you can use. I came across one for calling off weddings. Since tomorrow is a Sunday - another day for weddings in Brunei - these excuses might come in handy someday to someone somewhere out there (though I am not taking any responsibility whatsoever if you are going to use any of these!) - The best reason for calling off a wedding is the one that is preferably given by telephone from a very great distance. It is: "Darling, I probably ought to have mentioned this before. I am already married." An equally compelling argument against walking up the aisle, or signing the book in the register office is, "I don't love you." If you want to sugar the pill, however, you could say this: "When I collected my birth certificate today I discovered that t

Donuts or Doughnuts?

My 6-year old son loves Supasave donuts. Supasave supermarkets sell their donuts ball-style and not the traditional ring-donut style - you know, the ones with holes in the middle. For some reason, my son likes to eat his donuts whole rather than biting into a ring-type donut. As for me, I got bitten by the donut bugs when I was studying in the States. I have to go pass this Dunkin' Donut place everyday and every so often I would drop in there. At that time it has this offer of a free donut for every 5 that you buy or at some other time of the day, it would have this buy one get one free offer. The donuts are not just round but filled with many fillings such as custard, chocolate etc. Man, those were the days. Incidentally, a plain donut contains around 300 calories. On average, it takes about a mile walk to burn off about 100 calories. So 300 calories is about a 3-mile walk and half a dozen of them donuts, are ... .(ehem).... By the way, a sugared donut is only about 305 calories!

The Brunei Health Situation

The Brunei Government spends around $244 million annually to provide medical and health services to the people of Brunei Darussalam. This pays for everything - all the doctors, the nurses, the free hospital care, the free surgery, the free medications, the free trip to Singapore (for the patient and the accompanying family member) - you name it, it's all there. How much does the government get from the public for registration fee and some charges to non-citizens and services charges? Only $5 million - around 2% of the total expenditure. We are one of the luckiest people on the face of this earth. Other people will gladly give an arm and a leg just to be in this country to enjoy all the medical and health benefits. What do we do? It's free, everything is free, medication is free, consultation is free, so why not use it? Even the littlest headache which can be cured by lying down, people go to the hospital. It's true, it happened at our hospitals. Hmm, tomorrow is a workday,

Practise Makes Perfect

Remember when you are younger, your mum or your teacher keep on telling you to practise as the more you practise you will become better at whatever it is you are doing? I did. But I also remembered that no matter how much I practised my football, I never can ever be on anybody's favourite list of players. When my mates go on choosing sides, there will be a few of us left behind and are put on 'reserves'. That's when I remembered thinking, this practise thing doesn't work all the time. I read an article recently on the New York Times about a study conducted by a psychology professor at the Florida State University in America. Professor Anders Ericsson who is a leading proponent of a movement known as Expert Performance Movement argued that the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, was a process known as 'deliberate practice'. Deliberate practice is more than simply repeating a task — going to the driving range and hitting 1,000 golf balls

Facts about Brunei-Singapore Currency Arrangement

2007 marks the 40th Anniversary of Brunei-Singapore Currency Board arrangements - establishing currency parity between the two countries' currencies. These two currencies are probably the most unique in the world where you do not have to change currencies when travelling to either country. Malaysia used to be part of the original tripartite but left the arrangements sometimes in 1970s. Lately only the Euro is one of the other currencies which actually can be used in a number of countries in the Euro Zone. One question that people who realised what's going on - is this good for Brunei? To answer that question, we have to do a short course in post-graduate financial economics. But I will try to lay out the salient points. Most countries in the world established either a flexible of fixed exchange rate. A fixed rate mens that government set a rate for the value of the currency and that currency can only be traded or exchange at that particular rate. A flexible rate means that the

Japanese Food in Brunei

Hands up! How many of you out there eat Japanese food? For the Brunei blogreaders - how many Japanese restaurants are there in Brunei? If you shouted anything above 5, well done. But, there are a couple of things you did not know about Japanese food in Brunei but of course not being Japanese speakers, we don't know all there is to know about Japanese food. I remember in the late 1990s, the now Head Honcho of the IT at our agency was sent to Tokyo to attend a seminar, he wasn't the head honcho then. It was his first ever trip to the country of the rising sun and he told me he wanted to taste the tiramisu in Tokyo as apparently that was his favourite food at one of the Japanese restaurants in Brunei then. A lot of Bruneians associated tiramisu as being a Japanese dish because of that restaurant. He came back after the trip and told me that the Japanese didn't even have it. Tiramisu which is a sponge-based desert that contains chocolate and amaretto (an almond liqueur) is a

Brunei Wedding Practices

Today being Sunday means someone somewhere (or rather in Brunei's context) a lot of ones are getting married in a lot of wheres but what gets me is that it has to be held at the height of noon. I have mentioned this once in a previous blog on spaces.msn about why must Brunei Malays have wedding ceremonies at the height of the day when the sun is right on top of us and the temperature is at its highest? For crying out loud, this is Brunei - a country smacked in the middle of the tropical equator with sunshine second to none. Maybe one day, one day, we will change the time of the ceremonies. I will start when my 6 year old son finally gets married in about two decades from now. Two years ago, I was in Johor for my Malaysian cousin's wedding. It was a different wedding compared to the Brunei wedding. The jemputan (guests) were invited to come from about 10 am to 5 pm, so guests can actually choose to come at whatever time that suits them. You can come late if you have another 10 w

Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)

I read sometime last week somewhere in BB, I think, that the next Youth Ship Program is advertising for participants. It brings back memories as I was the Brunei Group Youth Leader for the 1990 program - full title "Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)". For those who have no idea what SSEAYP is - it is a youth program fully sponsored by the Japanese Government where they take a group of Japanese youths (18 to 35 years old) and 10 groups of ASEAN youths on this grand cruise ship and go cruising round selected ASEAN ports and Tokyo. Activities will be held during the cruise on board the ship as well as when at the ports of call where all the youths get the opportunity to stay at foster families to experience family life in those countries. During my time, we were the first to use the new Nippon Maru (replacing an old vessel) and since there were only 6 ASEAN countries then, we get to visit all the 6 ports as well as get to stay for about a week in Tokyo and a few da