Royal event a pleasant surprise for tourists
By Aziz Idris

Excitement and joy were in the air as loyal residents of Brunei-Muara District as well as tourists came to witness the spectacular "Junjung Ziarah Bersama Rakyat" or "Royal Get-together" yesterday in the capital.

Lars from Denmark will have unforgettable memories of Brunei as he managed to shake hands with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the get-together. He told the Bulletin that he hesitated at first being in a crowd of thousands but said, "this is an opportunity you come across only once, might as well take it!"

Fiona, a New Zealander, was impressed with the colourful decorations and described the occasion as "a sight that I never seen before". She added that Brunei is truly a "Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures".

A couple from England, James Dalton and Gabrielle Donovan who currently reside in Australia caught a glimpse of the fireworks on Saturday as their were browsing through the lively 'Pasar Malam' or 'Night Stalls'. They were encouraged by locals to come the next day for the Royal Get-together and were amazed by the event. James commented that the event was "exciting" and full of customs and traditions. "Simply put, it was beautiful," said the couple.

Marje and Jim also from Australia said, "The event was spectacular, we never seen anything quite like it before." Both are first-timers in Brunei and would like to come back for a longer stay. "We are definitely coming back and today must be our lucky day because we didn't know about the event."

Stella from Netherlands travelled from Sarawak and was on a stop-over in Brunei. She told the Bulletin that it was a coincidence she was in town yesterday. "A story I can tell to my family and friends back home," she said.

Tourists Kira and Kathrine from Denmark were also surprised to find out about His Majesty's get-together. They were spotted along the road leading to Lapau where His Majesty made his rounds to shake hands with his subjects.

Both of them managed to shake hands with His Majesty and members of the Royal Family. "The Sultan asked us where are we from. We were so nervous meeting and greeting the Royal Family of Brunei. We managed to take a photo too!" said both of them.

Scottish tourist Naomi was unaware of the ceremony. "Bruneians are extremely friendly, I think they got it from the Sultan!" she said with a smile.

Being her first time here, she was intrigued by the culture and religious landmarks such as the SOAS Mosque. "That will be my next destination," she gestured at the mosque as she happily snapped photos.

Brunei's culture and heritage were also of interest to the 'Supreme Master TV' crew, who are on an 11-day visit to the Sultanate from Taiwan. The crew's cameraman said, "We are here to show Brunei's culture and heritage to an international audience." - Borneo Bulletin (26th July 2010)