Falling in Love with Brunei

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Falling in Love with Brunei



WHEN you’ve lived in one place all your life, you tend to be so used to the beauty you’re surrounded with that you sometimes forget to appreciate it. That is why it takes a visitor to your country to remind you why it’s such a gem, which is precisely what foreigner Chan Yim Kwai did.

The 20-year-old first time visitor from Hong Kong, China came to the nation for a one-month long internship with just a little knowledge or expectations of the country gathered from a bit of research on the Internet. However, she fell in love with what she learned and experienced here, sharing that it has been fantastic for her since day one.


Favourite local places

In the short month she had been here, she visited all four districts. Out of all the places she had checked out, she singled out the Water Village and Temburong as some of her top favourites.

“The Water Village is fantastic. I think it’s the real treasure of Brunei. I can’t believe that such a magical land exists here. If I had to pick just one favourite though, Temburong would be my top choice,” she said.

“It’s my first time to explore a rainforest, where I saw how rich biodiversity is formed by the amazing nature. The natives love to live naturally within the environment to maintain mutual benefits. It is definitely one of the most valuable assets of Brunei,” she added.

When asked what she found to be the most impressive about the country in general, her choice was quickly and easily the nature.

“There aren’t a lot of places where I can experience the sunset, sunrise and the rainbow all in one day. Personally, I love nature. I enjoy the sea a lot and there are beaches everywhere here. I can also see the monkeys everywhere but they will not disturb you and the people will not hurt them,” she said.

“In Hong Kong, our buildings are very tall and most of the time, the sky’s blocked by the buildings. We have to go to very specific areas like the country park to get a good view. In Brunei, there are blue skies, the trees and such good weather every day,” she added.

Getting to know the culture

As a student whose main interest lies in language and communication, Chan shared that the Malay language is one that’s difficult to learn by just listening to others.

“I’ve learned some different slangs and food names but it’s a bit difficult for me to catch up because it’s not really similar to English or other languages that I know so I cannot really relate,” she said.

“It sounds difficult and when the locals are speaking in their normal pace, it’s very difficult to catch on if you don’t know the language. It’s actually difficult to pick up just by listening. Worse yet, I don’t have any idea about Jawi,” she added.

In terms of the culture, the biggest difference for her would be the country’s main religion. It was her first time visiting an Islamic country and the very first time she made Muslim friends.

“Everything about the Muslim religion is new to me. I found out a lot of interesting things during my time here, such as Ramadhan and the restrictions of Muslims. There are not a lot of Muslims where I am from and I don’t have any friends who are Muslims. This is where I first made Muslim friends,” she said.

Apart from the place itself, another thing she loves about the country would be the friendly and helpful people who reside in it. She shared that Bruneians are so much simpler than the people she had met in other cities and countries.

“They’re really friendly and actually, the local people are so willing to help. This surprises me. They were really concerned about the problems that I faced and offered to help me sort everything out. I’ve had a person I just met offer to send me to work and fetch me back when I had transportation problems initially,” she said.

“I was really grateful. When I got here, all my colleagues cared a lot about me. They helped me to arrange everything. I think the locals are a bit passive and they will not easily open up in the beginning but once you get to know them, they will share a lot about themselves and we can be great friends,” she added.

There are many distinct differences between Brunei and Hong Kong, with some notable ones being the working life and the housing programmes.

“If you compare the working life here to Hong Kong, it’s not that stressful. Working life in Hong Kong is crazy. Many people who work there allocate their time only in between work and rest, losing their social lives or time for their family. But here, people can still do what they love,” she said.

“In terms of the land, Brunei has vast lands but small population while Hong Kong has limited land but a huge population. Everything is extremely crowded in Hong Kong while in Brunei, it’s very quiet and peaceful,” she added.

All in all, Chan loves the country due to its positive traits of a relaxing vibe, the wonderful nature, the good-natured people and the peace as well as safety it offers.

She said that she would love to come back to visit all her local good friends and would, in fact, love to retire here when she grows older.

“Brunei is a very good place to retire. When I’m old, I might come back to enjoy my retired life. It’s very safe here,” she said.

“I understand that some locals will also have problems in their lives but compared to other countries, they’re more of a lucky group,” she added.


Article from The Brunei Times (August 19th 2016) 

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