Foreigners savour Istana ‘open house’ experience
Lyna Mohamad & Aziz Idris

LIKE thousands of others at the Istana Nurul Iman, local woman Jia Wei was in high spirits as she waited patiently in queue to extend her festive greetings to Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and other members of the royal family.

This is the second year Jia Wei visited the Istana open house. Last year she took a group of Taiwanese tourists with her, and this year she came with travel agent colleagues.

Meanwhile, Asokan and family have never missed the opportunity to visit the palace during the Raya open house. They have kept this tradition alive for over 20 years now, ever since first arriving on Brunei soil to serve as a teacher at a private school in Kuala Belait.

“It is a very rare occasion to personally meet a leader, something you won’t see in any other part of the world. It is really an honour to come see him. That is why I make it a point to be in Brunei every Raya so that my family and I won’t miss this golden opportunity.”

While he has met the monarch on other occasions, this particular one is indeed special as he views it as a personal invitation to meet a “wise” and “great leader.”

Having visited the Istana open house 21 times in total, he hopes to be able to continue doing so in the future.

Another foreigner thankful at having the experience was Grutaula, who described as “amazing” the chance to personally meet Her Majesty and other royal family members.

Together with her family, Grutaula – who is here as her father is attached with Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd – were unbothered at having to wait in queue as they eagerly anticipated meeting the royalty.

Naj Ford from Bahrain, whose husband has for the last 17 years been attached to a government department here, noted, “I think it is very good for people who are here on holiday, coming from abroad to grab this opportunity and come to greet the queen. I think it is really great,” she added.

Dressed in traditional Middle Eastern attire worn on special occasions, this is her second visit to the palace. - Borneo Bulletin (1 August 2014)