Thursday, 2 June 2016

This is it!

It was an early morning for us again as we had to wake up at 5.30am today to go off for PTET again! We looked forward to a very meaningful day for us all as we were going to spend a full day with the buddies!

First up, we met our buddies at the Conference Room and then followed them to their registration. It was very interesting because during that period of time, all of them would recite verses from the Al Quran. From this, we were able to learn more about their culture which we do not find in Singapore. It was also very interesting and we're impressed and have huge respect for them as they are very devoted to their religion.

What equally amazed us was that they sing their national anthem with pride and gusto even without having a proper assembly like in Singapore. They understand that they have to stop whatever they were doing, wherever they are, when the national anthem starts playing, which is something we often do not observe strictly in Singapore.

Afterwards, we followed our buddies to attend lessons. It was mind-blowing to see how big the differences are between education in Brunei and Singapore. Brunei's education does not feel as demanding as Singapore's, but yet the standards are the same. Unlike Singapore, the students only take 4 subjects for their A levels while we take 6 subjects. As a result, we also spend more hours in school as compared to Brunei.

Today's lunch was prepared by the school teachers and it was a really scrumptious and filling meal. We also got to try Brunei's traditional dish called 'Ambuyat' which was certainly a unique dish. This time, the "masterchef" teacher demonstrated how to prepare ambuyat using very clear instructions, and the final product was a very pleasant staple food, with its smooth yet sticky texture, and a slightly sweet taste. What a great meal!

Next up, we went off to the ODGC which was 45 minutes far away from the school by bus. We were very excited as we were going with our buddies!!!

The discovery centre aims to educate the both locals and tourists about oil and gas industries which take up two-thirds of Brunei's economy!! We feel that this may be a very worthy long-term investment by the Brunei Shell Petroleum to help develop more potential employees and attract investments.

Many of the exhibitions and games displayed at the discovery centre were very interactive and we enjoyed playing many of them while learning more about production of oil and gas!

The staff at the OGDC were very interactive and engaging despite being very young .We are very thankful because we are probably not the usual target group they have been working with, yet they were so good and confident in handling our group. Thus, we can see the effort they put in to make us feel engaged even though the exhibits were more catered to primary school. OGDC definitely had a different energy level compared to Singapore's Science Centre.

And of course, we had to take our mandatory group photo before leaving!

Following that, we took our long 2-hours bus ride back to a restaurant located near our hotel to have the farewell dinner with our buddies! Despite the delicious food, we could not help but dread the inevitable separation from our buddies as it drew closer and closer.

PTET's Principal, Cikgu Hajah Murni presenting a token of appreciation to Mr Chen!

Not forgetting, Ms Leong and Mdm Rosemah!
Even though it was just a short period of time interacting with them, all of us have definitely forged sweet memories with our buddies. Through them, we have learnt much more about Brunei, and particularly its education system. In the end, we managed to suppress our dramatic emotions at the parting, for we also remembered to exchange our social media links and contact numbers with one another! Besides the many photos we took to capture our memories, we also gave out the gifts which we have prepared prior to the trip. We were delighted to see how touched our buddies were!  


Overall, we had a very positive experience here in Brunei! We got to experience the difference between Brunei and Singapore culture and interacted up close with our Bruneians peers! Amongst ourselves, regardless whether we are MLEP students or Science students, we have also bonded much closer through this meaningful trip!

As our trip is coming to an end, we would like to thank our Principal, Ms Pamela Yoong, Vice-Principals and teachers for sacrificing a lot of their time and showing their support for this successful twinning programme!  

And of course, it's time to dedicate one last post to ourselves - the team behind this blog! We have been spending a lot of time away from sleep to consistently maintain this blog throughout the 5D4N trip!

(Clockwise from top left) Syamir, Izzah, Shaine, Farhanah, Fadhli, and Sarah

As we are packing our bags late at night, we are certainly feeling sad to be leaving already. On the brighter note, we look forward to our noontime flight back to our family and friends tomorrow! Once again, thank you for reading our blog and we hope you have enjoyed this read as much as we have learnt from our Brunei trip!

Like they say, all good things must come to an end. We on the Journalists Team agree.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

And oh, the Sun is up again.

Our day started early with all of us having to wake up at 5.30am and assemble by 6am to begin our way to our host school, Pusat Tingkatan Enam Tutong. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted and welcomed by the friendly teachers and principal. As we began to gather at the parade square, we were really touched as many of the students smiled and waved at us. 

Our Vice President, Sharizman, giving his speech!

Our buddies performing their dance item for us!

Then, it was followed by a song item, 'Baju Kurong'!

Ms Leong presenting a token of appreciation to PTET's principal, Cikgu Hajah Murni!
The students even prepared two performances for us. One was a traditional Malay dance and the other was a song with live accompaniment by their Ethnic Club. Both performances were very well showcased and everyone was impressed. 

Soon enough, it was our turn to perform. Nervous but excited, we made our way towards the stage. Our Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP) students began their heartfelt poem, "Melayu", about the Malay culture and race. Following that, we presented two songs, "Semoga Bahagia" and "Home". "Semoga Bahagia" is a meaningful song about friendships between youths and our journey to succeed together as one. "Home" is a popular song which Singaporeans sing during National day. 

The poem went great with everyone being immersed in their roles, expressing the poem excellently. We also managed to present the two songs to our best effort. A few teachers nodded and praised us for our efforts and we were really proud of our performance at the end!

Next, we met our friendly Brunei buddies who brought us around the school and introduced the facilities to us! The school had many facilities, such as the well-equipped Science laboratories, comfortable lecture theatres, various courts for ball games, and even a reading corner where students could donate their own books!

Some of us then attended GP lesson with a teacher who lived in Singapore 40 years ago, thus he was familiar with our culture and was very happy to have us there. We found out that in Brunei, they use 'bah' instead of our 'lah' ( Singlish)! The lesson was also different compared to Singapore in the sense that it was more fun and encouraged class participation.We started with a reading activity called 'lion hunt' where one person was supposed to read while doing actions while the rest followed suit around the classroom.

It was also very different as compared to Singapore's GP lesson as it focuses more on improving the Bruneian students' English skills, in this case through simple and fun activities. Overall, it was a great experience with the Brunei school and I got to know a lot more about the Brunei education system.


After having lunch we went to the Sago factory to learn more about sago making. The sago is traditionally cooked and eaten in various forms such as rolled into balls, mixed with boiling water to from paste or as pancake, steamed puddings called sago plum and as ground powder thickener for other dishes. In the ayuverdic system of medicines, the sago porridge can be effective and simple food to cool and balance one’s body heat, while taking strong medicine or antibiotics.

Ambulung is sago that is processed which derives from the Rumbia tree which grows in the jungle near the riverbank. It is found throughout the Borne, including Brunei. Ambuyat is then prepared by adding hot water to ambulung and stirring it until it becomes a sticky glue-like porridge. One machine in the factory produces about a tonne of sago from five rumbia tree trunks.

Other than that, we were also showed the tree trunk that was left for a month and it was rotten. When it was opened.... FAT GRUBS WERE CRAWLING EVERYWHERE! It was gross but interesting at the same time. There were also a few that already matured into beetles. EWW.... 

It was time for us to learn about the different processes to get quality sago flour. After cutting out the hard part of the bark, the wood was chopped into smaller pieces. Then, the wood will be grind using a grinder machine. The sago flour will be extracted there and mixed with water. It will be left to stand in a tank for a few days or hours, depending on the demand. The process of leaving it in the tank will be repeated many times till the sago flour is of a standard quality. We also got to try some ambuyat prepared on the spot. So, the sago flour is mixed with cold water to form a paste. Then, hot water will be poured in to obtain a sticky, transparent mixture. It was DELICIOUS!!!     


After the sago factory, we went to the coconut oil factory. There, we learnt about the process of extracting virgin coconut oil. This is a very labour-intensive process and it was really interesting! We were taught about the many products that can be produced from the virgin coconut oil. The products improved the condition of our skin and general well-being and they were generally very beneficial for us. Did you know that many products can be made with pure virgin coconut oil as its base? The factory we visited showcased 17 products, and they are seeking to develope more. After the initial explanation by the staff (together with Sharizman and Mdm Rosemah as interpreters), we went 'crazy' buying the products, as there were many health benefits that we would like our parents to enjoy. This factory started from a workshop about 7 years ago, and slowly developed more capabilities over time. In fact, there were even a series of products designed in-house, and the designers were present to explain their work to us. I think what we can learn from this is that, a lot of hard work must be put in, in order to reap success. Press on guys!! J

That's all for tonight! It was quite a long day, so we're sleeping now! Good night!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A New Post, A New Day!

Rise and shineee!!! It’s our very first morning in Brunei and we were awakened by the pouring rain. At 7:30am we headed to ‘Ayamku Restaurant’, the in-hotel restaurant for breakfast. Although simple, it was certainly a satisfying meal. Energised and excited, we began our journey for the day.

Our first stop was the Royal Regalia Museum!  Bright and early, we arrived at the location just as it was about to open. Great timing indeed! At the museum, we learnt a lot about the Sultans of Brunei, especially the present sultan: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. It was an eye-opening experience, very different from the form of governance in our homeland, Singapore. It was enlightening to learn about what each of the Sultans did for the development of Brunei and what their life entailed.

We got a glimpse of  the rich history of Brunei, and learnt about the philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy.

One thing that striked us was that in his younger years, the Sultan attended a public school to get to know more about the community and learn about their way of life. This showed the humility that the Sultan possessed and we learnt that we should also be down-to-earth in the way we live.

There were many more facts that also captured our attention. The Sultan also has over 200 ponies and loves to do sports. He plays sports such as golf and rugby. In addition, the third Sultan of Brunei is the 25th descendant of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. The tombs of the 3rd, 5th and 17th Sultans of Brunei are still preserved in Brunei. Moreover, the 17th Sultan became Sultan twice as he voluntarily gave his power to his son. However, his son died, so he became acting Sultan once more. This showed the variations of how the power was passed down. The power of the Sultans are passed down by basically three methods - father to son, brother to brother and father-in-law to son-in-law.

The golden umbrella used to shelter the Sultan weighs about 2kg. It must be really challenging to hold up in parade!
The people in red uniforms are actually from the ethnic group of Sakai, who are fiercely loyal and even willing to sacrifice. However, the positions at the front of the procession are now replaced by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces in modern times. This exemplifies how much love the citizens of Brunei have for their own ruler, their patriotism and their willingness to protect their ruler. We Singaporeans can learn from their patriotism and treasure what we have in our country.

For our next stop, we went to Yayasan Mall!

We were pretty excited as we finally got to buy souvenirs for our family and friends! Sadly, we could only afford half an hour here as we were running short on time. We did our shopping as fast as possible and we were pretty sure that was the first time we did a lot of shopping in just 30 minutes! Thankfully, the mall was much less congested than we imagined, despite it being a public holiday! Imagine if it was in Singapore… the mall would most probably be very packed! 

Following that, we went for lunch at Big Papa’s restaurant and luxuriate with the buffet of gastronomic food!

Well, that was our last activity in the itinerary to be classified as "relaxing". NEXT CAME THE AGRICULTURAL TOUR. From the Big Papa’s Restaurant to the agricultural farm, it took roughly 1 hour's journey by bus. Initially, we thought that the tour was just going to be at a run-of-the-mill farms along the road. But we had no idea about the scale of plantations in Brunei. Our adventurous hike was clearly going to take much longer than we thought!

We braved through the narrow and steep hills through the plantation, ending at the reception point put up for us. Many of us were panting and struggling along the way but we truly enjoyed the scenery at the top! This reminded us that enduring hardship leads to great rewards :)

After minutes of sweating and climbing, we arrived at the  banana plantation! The plantation is a family-run business and they really put in the extra effort to host our school. We were extremely appreciative of their hospitality. 

Along the way, we saw young banana trees which have yet to grow. We were welcomed by the friendly hosts there who waited for us with two tables full of delicious snacks, mainly made from the banana grown there, by the plantation staff, at the plantation itself! 

We tasted various delicious snacks such as banana chips (sweet and plain), fried banana, banana cake and banana milk jelly etc and we could not stop eating them! The staff had prepared an amazing spread completely based on bananas. They were also very generous in the distribution of food, making sure we ate till we were satisfied. We were very grateful for their generosity and hospitality. We were even given the chance to cook our own snacks! Many of us rushed to buy these yummy snacks to share with our friends and family back home!

The passion-driven introduction of the importance of bananas to the economy allowed us to gain a fruitful (pun intended) experience. We had a great time tasting the delicacies and got to know about how the different parts of the banana tree can be used to make snacks and various side dishes. Through this very meaningful experience with the plantation staff, we caught a glimpse of their hardships, as well as their devotion and passion towards their work. 

And that's all for today. It was quite a day as we get to learn more about the different aspects of the country, from the royal family to the banana plantation. Thank you for reading and catch us again tomorrow!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Bye Singapore, Say Hi to Brunei!

Our group photo before we take off!!

What's up guys!

Where do you think we are now? WE ARE IN BRUNEI!!! Our flight went smoothly thanks to the air stewards and stewardess from Singapore Airlines and we arrived safely in Brunei around 11am. 

Entering our plane!

Our airplane food!

We were very thankful for the teachers in Brunei for being extremely welcoming towards us. Even before our arrival, they reached early and waited for us. They warmly introduced themselves and wished us an enjoyable stay here in Brunei. We were all very touched by their actions and truly looked forward to our day ahead.

Brunei's airport is quite beautiful, right?

Luckily for us, Grand City Hotel was a mere 15-minute ride from the airport. The staff there were also very welcoming and even though there were some delay in the allocation of rooms, they were very accommodating and helped us to sort out the problems as soon as they could. We were also very thankful for that as they approached the problem calmly instead of being agitated by the small problems.

Recharged from a long bus ride, many of us were energized for the activities that lay ahead of us.


On our first day at Brunei, we had a buffet lunch at BIG PAPA'S. The buffet offered a large array of local cuisines such as beef rendang, black peper chicken, sweet & sour fish and more. 

Being the first meal since alighting the plane, we ate joyfully and the teachers ensured that we had filled out stomachs. The local cuisines were great and really delicious! Thank you to the Bruneian teachers for choosing such a great restaurant! :)


After lunch, we went to Brunei's Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka. It was basically a library that encapsulated Brunei's rich culture and history. The library ensured the continuity and strengthening of Brunei's sense of patriotism and was an essential part of Brunei. Being given the opportunity to tour the library, we were given the opportunity to take a look at their past O and A level papers. We were pleasantly surprised to see that their academic standards were very similar to ours. After touring the library, the library prepared some light refreshments for our tea time pleasure. Generally, we had a great experience at the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka.


After going to the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, we went to the Malay Technology Museum. There, we get to learn the different types of houses that existed in the past. It was very interesting to see how the houses evolved - how they used different types of materials and the way the houses were structured. There was one that stood out to us and it was called the Rumah Berloteng or A House With Loteng. This type of house was normally built by Brunei nobles and was easily recognised by it's double storeys with its upper floor or loft called loteng. The upper floor is usually reserved for the daughters of families as they do not want boys to meet their daughters easily. They believed that all daughters must be protected very well. The staircase to the the loft is also usually right in front of the the parents' room so if anyone tried to go up, the parents would know! 

We also get to see how the villagers find food to survive- by fishing or even hunting in the later days. They used a bubu- a fish catcher and poison from snakes to kill animals. It was very interesting to see how they lived in the past! To add on, the wax figurines looked really life-like and it started to look very scary!! 


When we reached the mosque, we were amazed by the great architecture of the landmark. It is the second grandest mosque in Brunei Darussalam. We were greeted by many friendly staff members of the mosque. However, we missed the last time window for visiting, so the non-muslims took their time to explore the vicinity of the mosque, while the rest used the opportunity to pray in the beautiful prayer halls. The halls seem so spacious that they might just be able to fit all the residents of Bedok and Tampines! After that, we took some group pictures before boarding our bus to head to our dinner venue.

Learning points

From the experience at Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka, we learnt how important it is to preserve our mother tongue language. Even the signages have to go through them before being placed at the appropriate places. This is to ensure that the Brunei citizens and students use a high standard of Malay, something that perhaps we could learn from. At the Malay Technology Museum, we learnt about how the different models of the houses, both on the water and on land, got their names. One such example is Rumah Loteng, whose name was derived from a Hokkien word for "level above". There are many different ethnic groups in Brunei too, such as Iban and Kedayan, illustrating the multiple cultures that define Brunei today. Lastly, we learnt about how sago are made in the past. The bark of the sago tree is cut. It is cut from 2 meters below and above to get the most sap. The bark is scraped to get the sago, then, they are washed. All this detailed descriptions really make us look forward to visiting the actual factory on Wednesday. Who knows, we might even get a chance to taste the famous national staple, Ambuyat!