(Published Jan 4th 2009)
Construction works are well underway at Kampong Ayer's new Tourism Centre set to open sometime this year. Its most prominent feature is the 'lookout' that offers amazing views of Kg Ayer and beyond.
The attractive interior of the new centre, located at Kg Lorong Sikuna, has yet to be completed and once the building is ready to be launched, it will be a great asset to Brunei's historical heritage and the sultanate's tourism industry.
The tourism scene in the sultanate has been an unlikely success story as it competes with neighbouring countries filled with interesting tourists attractions. Brunei's success in this field is quite astonishing.
Nowadays, buses are loaded with tourists and have become a rather common sight around town and Kg Ayer, which is one of the main tourists hotspots in the sultanate.
We now have larger and better tourist boats, which takes visitors on a cruise through the water village. Hats off to the Tourism Development Department of MIPR for their hard work and creating a new building destined to become a landmark in Brunei.
As published in Borneo Bulletin Thu 23rd July 2009)
IT’S only five minutes from Brunei’s super mall, Yayasan, and the town centre, that’s by boat of course, but Sg Kebun’s own shopping facilities are still in the dark ages. A row of what is little more than ancient wooden stalls is the entire Sg Kebun shopping experience.
But all this is about to change. An enterprising developer has decided that Sg Kebun is ripe for expansion and has put his money where his mouth is and built two blocks of shophouses in what can only be described as a ‘daring’ shade of yellow.
They are still empty so one can only hope that sooner or later similar enterprising retailers will take advantage of them and the residents of Sg Kebun will have their own modern shops, cafes and coffee houses.
And no doubt, the very latest Hollywood films will be available at a bargain price!
(Published Sat 25 July 2009 Borneo Bulletin)
Vitamin D is free. You just have to take a walk in the sun and sunlight acts on your skin to produce it. In need of some exercise and probably vitamin D as well, I picked up my camera set off on a fine sunny evening to see what secrets Simpang 316 may hold. You never know what you will find along the most innocent looking simpangs in Brunei. They may look innocuous from the outside but when you go into them, you find all kinds of unexpected things.
You are never far from the jungle in Brunei. Remnants of jungle exist everywhere and native species of trees and fruit are all around us. I think if you really wanted to you could live off the land in Brunei.
Bananas in particular are readily available and so it was that the first thing I came across was a few fruiting banana trees. Most of the bananas had gone, to either the landowners or the enterprising local monkeys that are also quite abundant in many parts of Bandar. The 'Banana Heart' was still intact, it is not much used today but it used to be eaten steamed or raw. A little further along I came across some Tarap. I have never tasted the stuff but if abundance is anything to go by it must be popular. Homes ancient and modern are represented in Simpang 316. Well, not ancient perhaps, but traditional. There are still a few traditional wooden houses left in Brunei. Perhaps it is sentiment but they seem to me to have a unique charm. Of course, Brunei has come a long way in the last 30 years or so and its many splendid modern homes make an interesting contrast with the traditional wooden stilt house. Simpang 316 has both.
There is a myth common in government circles that Brunei Malays are not as enterprising as they should be. Perhaps ministers are judging the real world by their own departments? They have not noticed the Nasi Katok signs every 50 yards or so that adorn most main roads, nor the market stalls that do a roaring trade in Gadong and other areas. In addition, the fact that Brunei, even with its small population, has a great many more shops than say, an English town with a similar population would have. Many of them well run Malay businesses. Well, Simpang 312 also has its own 'commercial district'. Hidden away, near the end of the simpang there is a turning, a very rough and ready track that takes you away from the 'residential district'. Follow it for a hundred yards or so and you find what appears to be thriving plant nursery business. An abundance of plants and shrubs in neat rows testimony to a well-run enterprise.
Another surprise, although perhaps it should not be, is the presence of two vehicles, one looks like a four-wheel drive, hard to tell because only the roof is visible above the foliage. They have obviously been parked there for some time. Is it possible that the owners have forgotten where they parked them?
As I stated earlier, vitamin D is free in Brunei's sunny climes and to take maximum advantage of this I was wearing shorts. It may surprise you to know that people have made remarks about my appearance in shorts. I can never quite catch what they say but obviously I make quite an impression.
Anyway, in Simpang 316, or at least in this part of it, something else is free as well. Mosquito bites. I suspect that it is only rarely, (if ever before), that the local mosquitoes have had the opportunity to sample such a fine vintage English blood. Well, they were now certainly making up for lost time.
I put down my Nikon and started slapping frantically at my legs. I put up a pretty good fight, and there are many mosquitoes for which this was the last supper. However, I was substantially outnumbered and decided that too much exercise is probably as bad as too little. And do I really need vitamin D? It was time to go.
With a last slapping session I picked up my Nikon and walked briskly back to the main road. The setting sun lent a magical rosy glow to Simpang 316 as I strolled home (just across the road), wondering if we had any Tiger Balm ointment in the house.
Now where did I park my car?