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Brunei – people maketh a country

February 10, 2009

While thinking about this post, a famous New Zealand Maori proverb came to mind:

He aha te mea nui  o te ao

he tangata, he tangata, he tangata

In a rough translation this quote can be read as:

What’s the most important thing in the world

it is the people, the people, the people.

People have an ability to make a small country big or reverse; a big country small. Often they don’t realise their power, it just happens naturally. Put it down to being a part of the culture they live within. Brunei is no exception. This is a strong assertion on my part, but I have evidence which I will share with you. Evidence and personal experience.

Thailand may be dubbed the land of smiles, but Brunei should state itself to be the land of long stories. Bruneians, once you engage them in conversation, love to talk. Their stories vary: light hearted fun, religion and history, family tales.

Share a part of yourself and you have a friend. Names are unimportant in this kind of friendship. It may be a short encounter, but the memory lasts longer than the conversation.

by Cate

by Cate

Her story: Sarda – 65 year old grandmother to 25 grandchildren. Works seven days a week, 12 hours daily, at her fruit stall in the local market. Sometimes takes Sundays off for a family wedding, favourite fruit – small sweet oranges. Doesn’t uses skin care products, wouldn’t give me her secret to having a near flawless face.

The casual nature of Bruneians reminded me a lot of  New Zealanders. Although most two legged kiwis are camera shy. They will seldom approach a camera or someone holding one. Bruneians – not all – are naturally photogenic.

by Cate

by Cate

His story: name unknown, kitchen hand for a small restaurant. Hobby – to stand watch for tourists with cameras; and seek them out.

Wants his picture to be shown in America. I promised him to do better than that.

Rating a trip has many influential factors. Sometimes its the weather, the hotel, or the food. But I’m sure most of us will agree that a good travel experience, domestic or abroad, relies heavily on the warmth and hospitality of the people. Even the little ones add value.

by Cate

by Cate

Small story: name unknown, ten years old, loves kittens (even though they were straggly strays), three brothers, grandparents own a riverside cafe, speaks no English, camera shy.

Hope you enjoyed the short encounters. I’ll introduce you to some more characters in a future post.

PS. I know some readers have a lot of questions about these places.  I plan on doing an information post at the end of each country. This will include travel information and tips for first time Asia travellers. Keep checking in regularly. You can also contact me on my email address : caffeinatedtraveller [at] gmail [dot] com.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. February 10, 2009 8:21 pm

    This is a fantastic idea. I think I will keep mind of it, taking pictures and coming up with character sketches of the people I meet. Actually spending time to get to know them – and now having direction for that.

    Thank you very much for this post.

  2. Bear permalink
    February 10, 2009 10:24 pm

    Wonderfully said! I recall sunrises, wildly lit valleys, endless roads. But when it comes down to it, my fondest memories are of people interactions like a local buying me an ice cream to say it’s all okay as I was wondering why the military had stopped all the buses — or when a flight attendant just said to go to my seat and she’d bring me a lot of cold water after running across the San Fransico airport in less than 15 miunutes to make a flight.

  3. Bear permalink
    February 10, 2009 10:50 pm

    Oh yes, you have a talent for people photos in particular and I am envious 🙂

  4. February 11, 2009 1:05 pm

    PB- getting to know some locals can lead onto other experiences. Sometimes you get invited into their home, or they show you a hidden side of the place you are visiting. I’ve had many opportunities in my travels: teaching english to a Tibetan cafe owner, having a beer with a local in a very local bar in Burma watching soccer on tv. Plus you get to take some cool shots, and write some good stories.

    Bear – thanks for the double comment and feedback. I know you are one of my regular readers but it is extra good to hear when a post has made it into the “great/excellent category”

  5. Jas permalink
    February 11, 2009 3:48 pm

    It has always amazed me how just a brief encounter with someone for even a few minutes can change your life. And how time spent with people you’ve known for years has little to no impact.

    Good photos. I especially like the stories. Both make for a very interesting blog.

    • February 12, 2009 8:54 am

      Brief encounters are lasting as its the first and last impression you have of them. Always good to hear your views Jas.

  6. Erica Johansson permalink
    February 16, 2009 11:09 pm

    What a great idea. And I love the quote. The people is the most important in the world, that couldn’t have been more true. I wish I had remembered to take more photos of people during my past travels instead of shots of buildings, interiors and views.

    • February 17, 2009 10:41 am

      Erica – its a good quote isn’t it and so true. I tend to flock to locals when I travel but its easy for me because I live in Asia. It gives me an inside edge on how to approach Asian cultures.

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