Showing posts from November, 2006

The Unfillial Son Tales

A few days ago when I wrote about the history of Istana Manggalela , a Tun Teja, a History teacher put up two very long comments about history but one in particular strike me as something I would like to pick up, namely the similarity between the three countries about the legend of a poor boy, who went abroad to better his lot in life. After many years, he achieved success, married a noblewoman and became the captain of a huge ship, forgetting his humble roots in the process. One day, in order to take shelter from an impending storm, his ship happened to berth near his birthplace. His ageing mother recognising him rowed out in a canoe calling out to her long lost son. He was too embarrassed to acknowledge her. She was very depressed and placed a curse on her unfillial son whereupon a storm appeared capsizing the ship and transforming it into rock. In Malaysia, this is known as the tale of Si Tanggang , in Indonesia as Malin Kundang and in Brunei as Nakhoda Manis . Each and every single

The Art of Visiting the Sick in Brunei by Pollyanna

I'm sure you've visited people in the hospital before. And I'm sure you have your own etiquettes while visiting the ill. Being around a hospital environment this last week made me see that us Bruneians sometimes have our own rules of visiting the sick. Rule #1. Visiting as soon as you have heard a loved one or friend has been admitted Us Bruneians tend to spread the news by word of mouth. I once learned that my second cousin was getting married from an office colleague whom I had just met a couple of weeks. And because of this most effective form of communication, patients have yet to warm their bed when before they know it they already have visitors. This just goes to show how caring our society is. It probably also stems from the belief that everyone will have their turn to get sick so it's best to visit those that are sick before you yourself need to be visited. Rule #2. Bringing giftbaskets or 'buah tangan' Sometimes us Bruneians are just so generous that we

Toponomy - the study of placenames

The temperature was 5 celsius this morning and yet all the snow along the ski runs here in PyeongChang are artificial. There were some snow falls during the last week but it will be next month I have been told before the real heavy snow comes. PyeongChang is a poor place which made it big time - it used to be a potato farming area. It wasn't until the nearby village of YongPyeong turning itself into a ski resort 25 years ago, that PyeongChang County became wellknown. Phoneix Park the ski resort I am in at the moment itself became a ski resort place about 20 years ago. The county is a part of the Gangwan-Do province. The interesting bit about this province is that this is the only province which got chopped into two along the 38th parallel during the Korean War. So, some parts of the province is in North Korea. The border I have been told is less than 30 minutes ride away. I haven't had time yet to go out and see the place - the meeting and then the official dinner have taken th

Lessons from the Winter Sonata City

Greetings from the City of PyeongChang, South Korea, one of three candidate cities competing to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. I arrived here yesterday evening to lead the Brunei delegation, not for the Olympics, but for an ASEAN+3 Finance meeting here. PyeongChang is a four hour drive from Incheon, Korea's International Airport. After a 7 hour flight and a 4 hour drive getting here, I am wondering why on earth would the Koreans want to host the meeting in this rather remote mountainous city. But having seen the beauty and of course, the possibility of reminding delegates of the upcoming Olympics vote for the 2014 Winter Olympics, we all know why we have to come here. Oh by the way, this place is also where they filmed most of the scenes for the Korean drama Winter Sonata (don't tell me you don't know what that is...) The facilities at the hotel is of course similar to what most hotels would provide except that they have a few ski resorts nearby. The Korean technology is on

How old is Tanjung Nangka?

Sometimes it's surprising how long some of our villages have been inhabited. We know for a fact that along Sungai Brunei, the Kota Batu areas, Bruneians have lived there for hundreds of years. But for the most parts, most of the interiors of Brunei are not habited by anyone until very recently. Of course, there are some natives which live earlier in the interior parts of Brunei. However it is debatable as to when they started. I read with interest a recent Museum report about the excavation work which they did at Kampung Tanjung Nangka. The excavation was done along the Damuan River. Damuan River is about 2 kilometers away from the main road Jalan Tutong. The Damuan River was recently widened and a lot of dredging was done along the river bank. The sands that were dredged were placed alongside the riverbanks. Among the sands, many shards of potteries were found. In fact up to 5 boxes of broken pieces were actually found where the majority of these were potteries of different types.

Brunei's Crocodiles

Do you remember the news story on BB about a couple of weeks back about someone finding a baby crocodile in one of the drains near the houses at Bengkurong? That baby crocodile most probably came from the nearby river. In fact that river is fairly well known for its crocodiles which the locals have sighted every so often. I read somewhere that these crocodiles if they live long enough probably can reach as long as 9 meters (30 feet) long. According to the scientists, there are many types or genus of crocodiles but in Brunei, there are only two types. One is the Crocodylus Porosus or the English Salt Water Crocodile or in Brunei, known as Buaya Katak . I am not sure why it's called that especially if it can grow up to 30 feet long. The other type is the genus Tomistoma Schegelii or known as Buaya Penjulung . The obvious difference between the two is the snout of the crocodiles. Buaya Katak's snout is more rounded whereas Buaya Penjulung's snout is narrower. But so far ther

Istana Manggalela

If you live in KB, you would know that there is a guest palace there at the top end on the right of Jalan Maulana just after the roundabout heading towards Kuala Belait. The palace has tall white walls with a label that says Istana Manggalela . For those who do not know where that is, use my description to find it. But if you do find it, ask permission before taking photographs. Last December when I went there with my family wanting to take a photo in front of the gate, an armed gurkha came out and said I was not allowed to do that. Anyway, the Istana was built in 1956 and completed in 1958 and was originally designed to be the palace for His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien whenever he visited Kuala Belait. Remember in those days, the roads linking the capital to KB was in its infancy and in some parts cars can only be driven along the coast. At some places, you have to wait until the tide goes out before you can drive across. Unlike today's one hour drive, in those days, t

Ladies - Getting Married?

Today's posting is the traditional wedding dress for the Brunei bride. Most of the accessories are identical to the groom's accessories . The major difference is the headgear and accessories for the hair. I won't be describing what's identical but only the new items. For the hair, the bride has to wear the Tajok . This is placed on the head with the hair in a bun. The ornament has flowers arranged in three levels on both left and right sides. To keep it in place, the hair is woven around a stripe of black cloth tied to the ornament. The Karong Tembusa made of gold and precious stones is placed on the back of the neck (nape) tied with jasmines coiled to the hair and the Tajok to keep in place the position of the Tajok on the head. On the Tajok is the Ayam-Ayam Bernaga . This is tied with black cloth or or to the hair to prevent it from falling. The Sisir which is the Malay word for comb is another ornament to be worn during the Berbedak Ceremony. It is slipped into the

Getting Married?

The wedding season is starting to peak - the number of wedding invitations are now mounting. Two of them will be my cousins who will be getting married this December and I have been asked to give the thank you announcement at one of them. Anyway a lot of male Malay Bruneians get married - wear their traditional ornaments but never got to know the names of what they wore. I thought we will spend a little bit of time today just looking at what it is that you have worn or will wear. Enlarging the picture on the right might help a bit. This example is for a Royal Groom but it is still as useful to know. The hat is known as Kopiah Berpisnin and is used for Berbedak, Bersanding, Berambilan-ambilan and Mulih Tiga Hari. On the shoulders are the Kuas and is usually studded with precious colourful stones and tasselled. On the neck will be the Kanching and normally only worn during Berbedak. It is worn on the neck and on the chest which makes it look like a necklace with lockets in tiers. A sm

More Origin of Place Names in Brunei

Practically all Bruneians know Jalan Gadong - it is still considered as the business and commercial centre in Brunei even though a number of other centres such as Kiulap, Telanai, Delima Satu have sprouted up to challenge it. Ever wonder where the name Gadong comes from? A number of people I asked said that because the place was green, hence gadong as that is the Brunei Malay word for green. Some said that this was where the various properties of someone entitled Di-Gadong and gedong is the name of the stores. I said this too in a June entry when I wrote about origins of some Brunei places . Nice theories. Incidentally the English word Godown which is a storage place is derived from the word 'gedong' or 'gudang' and in turn probably originate from the Telugu word ‘gidangi’ or the Tamil word ‘kidangu’. According to an old project by UBD which I stumbled upon on Brunei streets since I wrote in June was that the origin of the name Gadong is derived from a fruit called “gad

The Grave in the Middle of the City

I was speaking with my brother yesterday about a few historical research articles that he had to be added on to the library at He gathered the articles when he was at Tourism Unit and one of the projects which he did was to gather all the information about historical sites in Bandar Seri Begawan. One of them was an article on the rather unknown but quite famous graveyard across the road in front of the General Post Office or rather in the carpark yard of the TAIB Building. A lot of us must have seen the grave or rather the walled part of it and there is a roof structure over it. I am not sure whether the younger generation if you passed by it actually realised it is a grave. The older generation know it as Kubur Dang Ayang or rather the Dang Ayang's Grave. Dang is the Brunei colloquial term for Dayang and Ayang is the name of that person. I have not had the chance to read the said article but my brother described the contents of the paper to me. The grave is no

Brunei Coins

Someone asked in the chatter box, what is that design on the Brunei 10 cent coin? Rather than answering that question in the chatter box, I thought I will spend a whole entry on Brunei coins. We all have coins and have been holding them either in our pockets, purses, the small drawer in the car etc. But we never really know much about them and we always take them for granted. Today I thought we will spend a bit of time learning about the coins that we handled everyday. First we look at the design of the coins. On the obverse side (this is the way coin faces are described - obverse refers to what we call the front) is always the potrait of His Majesty. The reverse side (that's the other face) are all those designs which are officially described as follows: + 50 cent coin - Crest of Brunei Darussalam; + 20 cent coin - A vertical oblong pattern based on local design and said to represent a tree; + 10 cent coin - Claw shaped (sepit ketam) local design and said to represent an animal; +

Postage Stamps of Brunei: Early History

Brunei surprisingly was the last among the Borneo states to have its own stamps. Sarawak had theirs in 1869, Labuan despite not being a state in 1879 and Sabah, then known as North Borneo in 1883. Brunei only had theirs in 1895 and even that was considered by stamp enthusiasts as unofficial. Prior to the 1895 issue, the postage stamps used in Brunei was a Sarawak one which was used in Muara, then known as Brooketon. Rajah Brooke ran the coal mining operations there and used the stamps of Sarawak for the community. That postal service in Muara operated from 1893 to 1907. The 'first' Brunei stamps in 1895 was considered as controversial and known in the stamp world as the 'Brunei Locals'. Printed in Glasgow by a John Robertson who managed to get a concession from the Government - the government gets all internal revenues but he gets all external revenues - was considered as purely speculative. The stamps were considered as 'locals' only - to be used in Brunei but

From laughter comes wisdom

My entry on the Brunei kuehs showed just how hopeless I am in certain subjects. But I enjoyed reading the comments correcting me and I hope at the same time other people read those comments too as the education does not stop just reading my entries alone. The comments are part of the education too as out of currently 700 readers a day, I am sure there are many experts on many subjects out there. Similarly enough Tuesday's entry on Brunei medicinal plants and traditional medicine elicited several professional medical comments. By the way I did have urinary tract infection last month and what I had several years ago wasn't it. Though this time I only relied on conventional antibiotics for the cure. Anyway, there are people who swear by traditional medicine and some would never contemplate anything other than conventional medication. And I have seen one case up close where alternative medicine actually worked. To me the jury is still out. But most importantly, I am glad to see p

Pengembara: The Road Less Travelled

Sometime in April I wrote an entry about a book entitled 'Wanderer in Brunei Darussalam' written by Pengembara which is a pseudonym for CH Gallop. A number of people still remembers him as he was a very active man when he was a teacher in Brunei. For those who don't know him, he actually wrote numerous articles for Borneo Bulletin about Brunei when he was here and some of those articles were reproduced in that book. He found the entry and emailed me sometime in May thanking me for writing 'appreciative comments' on his book. He was also glad to see the individual comments from people who remembered him and his family. He and his wife are currently in Penang on retirement. He hopes to bring out two more Pengembara books, one about Brunei and the other about Sabah and Sarawak. I was intrigued about one particular project which he wrote about the Sungai Ketam project and searched for that particular river only to find out that the river has disappeared. I wrote that a

You know you are Bruneian (Part 2)

You 'miss call' instead of calling or sending sms. You always say "kapih ku.. bila terima/keluar gaji/overtime/elaun ah?" You park your car as close as possible to your destination area. You speak Malaysia if you meet Malaysian, speak Indonesia if you meet Indonesian.. and so on. You are asked to go to a "meeting" but actually you will only be "listening". You go to someone's wedding, you give money using an envelope and put your name on it or if you think you don't give enough you use a blank envelope. Indo mee is your staple food and Ayamku is your fastfood. The term 'balik kampung' is almost not applicable.. since you can 'balik kampung' everyday. Motorcyles and bicycles are not your transport, they are your sport. When you see local tv camera around you during the day, then at night you will watch local news... and hoping to see yourself on television. You drive your car on wavy and potholed road. You receive official ne

Brunei Medicinal Plants

A few years back I had this pain when urinating and forcing the urine to flow out felt as if someone had kicked me in the groin. It was that painful. The concensus among relatives was it was either appendix but it couldn't be because I didn't have any other symptoms or it could be stones in the kidney and it's making its way down. Anyway, after a very long wait to get a referral to RIPAS for a scan, and to cut a long story short, the scan showed nothing but the pain remained. Another trip to JPMC to get a second opinion said that that might be tiny stones or crystals instead of bigger stones. Whatever it is, it *&#*#$*?* hurts like crazy, I remembered thinking then. The medical solution was - wait for the tiny stones or crystals to wash out, if it washed out. What?! My better half suggested a natural traditional solution. With pain that bad, I was more than willing to try anything. So we went to see this lady herbalist and she prescribed a plant whose leaves I had to bl

The Mystery of Brunei's $1 note with 2 serial numbers

Every once in a while, some BR readers out there would send me something. This I received from a reader who luckily enough reads the Miri Daily News which is in Chinese. She found this story and has very kindly translated the news article and emailed me the relevant page on Miri Daily which appeared in the 10th November 2006 edition. B$1 note with 2 different serial numbers Seria, Nov 9 – A currency note collector was very excited as he discovered an extraordinary note few days ago. The B$1 note bears two different serial numbers on it. Mr. Yong said that he started to collect B$1 notes years ago, particularly those with the “golden” numbers of ‘6’ or ‘8’. To date, he has collected over ten pieces “golden” numbered B$1 notes. Recently he was fortunate to have discovered a note with “golden” numbers, as well as a note that has two different serial numbers printed on it. He presumed this is a printing error by the Currency Board. On the right hand corner of the unusual note is 4266868, h

Sunday Ramblings on Brunei Kuehs

There are days when I get completely stumped as to what to write. Today is one of those days. Plus this morning I went to the golf course for the first time in about 4 months, so it was an extremely early morning and coupled with a very late night last night after coming back from my wife's nephew open house in Muara. Plus too yesterday was a mentally tiring day trying to find savings from practically every single agency's next financial year budget. It's funny when you asked all the head honchos where you can find savings and everyone replies that they can't find anything to deduct. ALL the projects are important and NO, NO, you can't cut anything. But the fact is no matter how much money is allocated, at the end of the year we get a few hundreds of millions unspent. So what happened to all those 'important' projects? Anyway, that's digressing a bit. I am not supposed to be talking about that even though that's a topic on its own right. And since I

Brunei Darussalam in Colour

Our beloved country has its share of coffee table books. For those who don't what a coffee table book is - let me use an official definition by wiki - A coffee table book is a style of hardcover book designed to rest on a coffee table or similar surface in an area where guests sit and are entertained, thus inspiring conversation or alleviating boredom. They tend to be oversized and of heavy construction, since there is no pressing need for portability. Subject matter is generally confined to non-fiction, and is usually visually-oriented. Pages consist mainly of photographs and illustrations, accompanied by captions and small blocks of text, as opposed to long prose. History, art, entertainment, and biography are popular genres. Okay? Brunei coffee table books are mostly pictorial books about Brunei produced by private publishers or by the government. Each of these books are worth a blog entry each but for now I will lump them all together and probably will write separately later. I


Sometime very late today or early tomorrow morning the counter on the number of visitors will reach the magic 100,000 mark. That means since 11th March 2006 (245 days ago), that all of you faithful and loyal readers out there have clicked on for 100,000 times. This is excluding 14,000+ visitors on my predecessor blog on spaces.msn. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for making time in your day to visit this site. Some I know visit the website early in the day, some during office hours (it's alright I won't tell), some during lunch time, some late in the afternoon and a few at night. I checked the IP addreses every once in a while and sometime I am quite surprised to see where you are coming from. The vast majority are Bruneians in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, Australia and New Zealand with some other Bruneians in places such as Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, USA. Other visitors come as far away as from Iceland to Taiwan. T

Arachnid Bruneians

A zoologist named Joseph Koh nickanamed Mr Singapore Spiderman wrote in "A Guide to Common Singapore Spiders" about the Rolled-Leaf Comb-Footed Spider with the Latin name of Acaearanea mundulum that hides in a leaf retreat suspended in the centre of the web and that the leaf is collected by the spider and carried into the web. It is fastened with silk threads at one end to form a tubular hiding place for the spider itself, and for its pink and spherical egg-sacs. Another is about a Scarlet Acusilas ( Acusilas coccineus ) which hides in a retreat made of a rolled leaf suspended in the centre of the web. Interesting. Our multi-legged arachnid friends seemed to belong to a different world out there. By the way that same Joseph Koh is now among us in Brunei talking about spiders (of Brunei now) here in his capacity as one of the ASEAN countries ambassadors here. During lunch the other day we talked about His Excellency's passion - a zoologist by training - a diplomat by prof

After Birth in Brunei Society

My wife's niece gave birth to a baby girl yesterday afternoon. The baby makes us 9 time granduncle and grandaunty. I was first called nini uncle about 9 or 10 years back so by now I kinda get used to it already. Though for my sister-in-law and my biras, this makes them real grandpa and grandma rather than grandunc and grandaunt. As usual in Brunei, a visit to the hospital whenever someone is ill or has just given birth etc, to the chagrin of the medical staff sometimes, must be done. So we did that last night. It was a natural birth so the mother looks fine apart from a little tired and the father looks ecstatic. This is always interesting as father's contributions towards the baby being developed and then born can probably be measured in tablespoonfuls if you know what I mean. It is mothers who had to do all the work! Anway, what was interesting was not so much the birth but the conversation as to what he did with his baby's placenta or afterbirth or what the Brunei Malays