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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Brunei: The Trip That Wasn't Exactly A Holiday Volume 1

Back to updating backdated entries yet again.


In the month of May last year, the hubby was posted to Brunei for a month within a short notice even though he was due for another 3-month overseas detachment soon after.

He was not able to make it back for my birthday week and suggested that I went over for a few days instead. Thinking about his back to back overseas postings, I packed my bags and brought work there to do even though I had a very able department back at home.

Everyone at work told me to enjoy my holiday to which I exclaimed, "I'm going to BRUNEI. Nobody goes to Brunei for holiday."

Brunei is not a holiday destination in it's own right and you know, I did not even treat that trip as a holiday as in my very "atas" city girl mind, I thought that there was NOTHING I could do at Brunei but work.

How wrong I was.

Other than doing a few hours of work, each day was packed with activities and lots and lots of pigging out. Though Brunei is not a fantastic place for long term relocation, it certainly offers quite a fare amount of entertainment for a week's stay. Last but not least, the food in Brunei was AWESOME to the max!

~*Family Dinner Cum Supper Before I Flew Off*~

In my family, there is an unspoken rule of eating out together for everybody's birthday. Everyone had to make time for dinner and nobody was to be absent. Therefore, there were times when a birthday celebration could be advanced or way belated as long as everyone was present.

It was an advanced birthday dinner for me.

I always love good old zi char at hawker centres.


By the time I ended work that night, dinner had become a supper affair. Nobody's complaining as long as we got together to eat.

~*All Packed and Ready to Go*~

I would always bring a book whenever I travel and at that time, I was reading The Great Gatsby.


It was a few hours flight and upon landing, there was a warm welcome from kh and his colleagues.

In actual fact, they weren't giving me a warm welcome. It just so happened that everyone ended work late and were famished for supper. We bonded over supper but as I was still very new to the group, I was too shy to whip out my camera to take photos of the very delectable local fare.

The situation soon changed in the impending days to come and it became a drill for everyone to wait for me to finish taking photos of the food before they started. Some of them even helped me to arrange or tilt the plates.


~*Day 1: My Birthday*~

In the morning, kh got ready for work and told me to go downstairs as he wanted to introduce me to the rest of his colleagues. He told me to take my camera with me but I brushed his suggestion aside while wondering aloud that it was a really strange idea.

When we got downstairs, the "office"  was dark and the curtains to one section of the room was drawn. Upon pulling aside the curtain, everyone shouted "Happy Birthday".

I was truly surprised and touched beyond words for it was not just the people I met at supper the night before but the whole team at Brunei who had gathered, including the "boss". I felt so embarrassed for I'm nothing but an unimportant person next to many important people there.

Besides the very simple words flashed on the projector, they also ordered a durian cake in the shape of a durian.


Somebody brought a camera and thanks to him, I have these photos to keep for memories.

After the cake cutting, I went back upstairs to do my work and surfed the Internet while the hubby was working.

This was my very cute old-fashioned Mickey and Minnie wallpaper at that time. I simply love old fashioned Mickey, don't you?


I had to clear my email notifications from Facebook every few hours. Facebook is amazing, really. You realised that so many more friends care about you to wish you happy birthday on your wall.
[Read the above with some sarcastic humour, will you?]


In the late afternoon, the wife of one of kh's colleagues came over with her daughter. The whole family had relocated due to the husband's posting to Brunei and both husband and wife are very familiar with the country like the back of their hands. His wife had volunteered to show me around the city till the guys ended work.

The first and only time I saw both mother (K) and daughter (Leanne) was a few years back. Leanne was a mere toddler back then.

Now, she's such a vocal little 5-year-old. I love her to bits! In the photos below, she belted up her bearbear for fun and pushed the stroller herself. She claimed she was driving bearbear.


I really envy the close bond between K and Leanne!

We visited a mall and had some shakes at Dairy Queen.

Very soon, I became Leanne's favourite person. Before I came into the picture, kh was her favourite person in Brunei. Throughout the duration of the trip, she often stuck to me and forgot all about kh.

In the evening, we headed to the family's home.

Leanne has a little brother called Ethan who is really such a darling as well.


Kh was let off early as the "boss" told him to take me out for a good dinner.

I was so full and could not think of eating anything. Kh suggested Tian Tian Chicken Rice which was around the corner. It is supposedly famous in Brunei.

The chicken was tender; the rice was fragrant and tasty without it being greasy. Most good chicken rice has got relatively oily rice with a rich chicken taste but not for this. I gobbled down everything within minutes even though I wasn't hungry.


I haven't seen such old-school Chinese calendar in years.


After dinner, kh showed me around the city before we went to the famed THE Mall. Yes, it's accented "THE" as claimed by the people there. THE Mall is the most happening mall in Brunei. It houses the most popular cineplex in Brunei.


There was not a shop that I fancied there except for a shop which sold computer stuff. I bought a mouse as I had forgotten to pack my mouse into my luggage.

Other than the cineplex which sold cheap movie tickets, there was nothing about THE Mall that enticed me.

We ended the day watching Fast 5 which I enjoyed surprisingly. It departed from the theme of street racing which was prevalent in all the other films in the Fast series. I liked the humour and action throughout the show.


The chicken rice birthday dinner became the talk of the office for the next few days. Everyone excitedly asked kh where he had brought me to celebrate my birthday and was flabbergasted when he told them "Tian Tian Chicken Rice".

That night, I was video skyping with my bestie Tiff who was in San Francisco back then. Upon hearing that the hubby had brought me to eat chicken rice for my birthday, she gave him the universal sign.


~*Day 2: The Day I Discovered I Love Teh-C Special*~

In Singapore, we could order tea (teh) from a food centre in many ways. Refer to the list below:

- Teh, tea with condensed milk
- Teh-C, tea with evaporated milk and sugar
- Teh-C-kosong, tea with milk and no sugar
- Teh-O, tea with sugar only
- Teh-O-kosong, tea without milk or sugar
- Teh tarik - Malay tea mixed with evaporated milk, usually of the Carnation brand. During preparation, the tea is tossed repeatedly from one mug to another to create a thick froth (hence the name teh tarik, meaning '"pulled tea")
- Teh halia, tea with ginger water
- Teh-peng, tea with ice, also known as Teh-ice
- Teh-siu-dai, tea with milk and less sugar
- Teh-gah-dai, tea with milk and more sugar

My favourite type of tea to order in Singapore is Teh-peng but once I discovered Teh-C (aka Teh-Si) Special in Brunei, I could never quite go back to my Teh-peng roots. I was in agony for the next few months after I got back from Brunei for I craved for Teh-C Special every single day.

I especially love the Teh-C Special variant with wheatgrass. I would feature this variant soon. The one shown below is a concoction of red tea, evaporated milk and gula melaka.


My love for Teh-C Special is unabashedly shared by a Kuchingnite who had a whole page dedicated to this delectable and highly addictive drink. To know more about this drink, head over to where the author has done such an awesome write-up on it, I wish to steal his words.

The rest of our dinner that day at Hai Wai Tien deserved some spotlight too.



Our company for dinner.


Besides Leanne's family, another Singaporean family has relocated to Brunei for the same reason and I was acquainted with them that evening. While 5-year-old Leanne has a younger brother, 4-year-old Hong Zhi has a younger sister with both younger siblings being of the same age. They are all such lovely little kids.


Volume 2 coming soon!


  1. Oh I love Durian. Looks like you had a good time.

  2. I haven't heard much of Brunei other than knowing that Wu Zhun from Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit is a native of the country haha. You travel to so many different countries Jo! I hope I'll have the opportunity to do as much traveling one day :D

    The food looks so good in all of your pictures. Za man tou is one of my favorite things to eat, especially when dipped in condensed milk.

    That's hilarious how all of your husband's colleagues got so used to you taking pictures before eating haha. It sounds like kh works for a great company - the employees all seem very closeknit, almost like a family, from what I've read in your post. It was very nice of them to throw you a surprise party and get a cake and everything :)

  3. Unimportant? You were the guest of honor!!! When Tiff sees this post, I hope she'll see the universal salute was not necessary. Over the two days you had some good food and fun--even though the shopping was a disappointment. It's nice that KH is good with kids.

  4. PAPS,
    You just reminded me that I haven't eaten the real fruit for quite some time. Only durian cakes and puffs.


    Brunei is really not a holiday destination but the trip surpassed my expectations as really, it's the company that matters, I got to spend quality time with my hubby before he went out to seas and I made new friends there.

    Before this, I've always known Brunei for being a rich country and for its oil. And yes, knowing that cutie Wu Zhun came from Brunei was something which came much later.

    Remember I told you I didn't travel a lot as compared to my Singaporean peers. (In Singapore, it seems the norm to travel once or twice a year.) Well, 2011 was the year I decided I've to remodel my life and not let everything revolve around work after doing so for the past 8 years. With that, I made major changes in my life, stepped out of my comfort zone, pursue my dreams and in the process collected the most number of passport stamps in that year alone.

    Maybe after a few years of working, you would be able to do it too! Gambatte ne!


    I beamed while reading your comment. I was really unimportant but I guess every wife is important in some ways to be the pillar of support for her hubby during trying times.

    Shopping was a major disappointment but yes the company more than made up for everything. Oh and the food too! lol

  5. you always make me sooo hungry looking at your food pix! I hope you had a wonderful birthday!!! and about fb, yeah ppl simply say happy birthday even though you never talk to them, but yes at least they care to type it out eh :) cheers to many more awesome cheers!

  6. Yvonne,
    Cheers to awesome cheers too!


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