Istana ‘open house’ an experience like no other
Hakim Hayat & Achong Tanjong

VISITORS to Brunei said they were indeed lucky to be able to meet His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and other members of the royal family during the ‘open house’ at the Istana Nurul Iman.

Expressing admiration for the royal family for the hospitality extended to the people on the occasion of Hari Raya at the palace, they said they were not disappointed with their Raya experience.

A group of Thai visitors here on a business trip said they were amazed by the openness of the monarch, and that it is very rare to see the people invited to join in on the festivities with their head of state.

Itthikon Soichanban, the managing director of a recycling company based in Bangkok, expressed delight at being given the opportunity to meet His Majesty.

“We’re lucky that the Sultan is welcoming everyone today and we feel privileged to meet him.

“I think it is the perfect way for the Sultan to meet the people of his country and tourists like us. We are very impressed and very pleased with the well organisation of the event,” one of them said.

Meanwhile, two German men here as part of a production crew filming a TV documentary programme on Brunei’s wildlife, told the Bulletin it was a different experience for them, before going on to add that they were glad to be given the opportunity to step foot into the palace and meet the royal family.

“We are here for a week and we have been visiting interesting places such as the mosques and of course the forests to see the wildlife. It was very nice to meet His Majesty and the food was amazing. I loved the cakes. We had a big breakfast,” Matthias Gliian said.

His colleague, Wiliam Helmbrecht, thumbed-up the ‘open house’ concept, saying that it is a “noble and generous tradition for a king to open his palace and let the public in. Not every leader does that.”

First-time Japanese visitor Mariko Sasamoto, here with a group of 48 people on a tour package, said she was impressed with the richness in culture and tradition Brunei enjoys.

“Although the food is similar to the neighbouring country, the difference here is the kindness and hospitality of the people. Even Her Majesty was so kind to ask about our visit here” Sasamoto added.

A visitor from Kazakhstan, Valeny Shabunko, described the experience at the palace as “amazing,” adding that he especially loved the traditional Malay cakes.

“Although Brunei is a small country, it is quite rich, its people are very friendly. This concept of the open house at the palace is a great idea. The Sultan is showing his humble side to the people.” he said.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian businesswoman who has for almost 40 years operated a hardware company in Brunei, said that every year she contacts her ex-schoolmates -both from Malaysia and Singapore – to invite them to celebrate Raya here.

“This is because I want to bring them around to sample the open houses here, and the one at the Istana Nurul Iman, where they can meet the royal family.”

“My friends from both Muar in Johor, Malaysia, and Singapore are here to visit the palace,” she added. - Borneo Bulletin (1 August 2014)