What Really Happened at Singapore Blog Awards 2013

6 July 2013 was my first time attending the Singapore Blog Awards. It’s like what was being quoted in the promotional video, the Singapore Blog Awards is more than an award ceremony, it is also an annual gathering where bloggers can come together to mingle and know each other.

Other than the enthusiastic emcee Elaine Kuek (from OKTO) cracking a few jokes on stage and the Best Dressed Award competition, there wasn’t any entertainment on stage. But fear not! Cos we bloggers are a fun-loving batch of people who are good at self-entertaining.

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Many bloggers showed off their best moves on stage in an attempt to wow the audience and win votes for Best Dressed.

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For a minute, Colin Chang was the roadside Char Kway Teow boy offering free packets in exchange for more votes as Best Dressed. 

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Smith Leong attempting to do a striptease, fortunately for us, he was stop by the mata (police man). 

Below are 9 secrets bloggers used for self-entertainment, please do not try them at home.

Method 1: Camwhoring with friends

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Camwhoring is fun and it can be done with different kinds of hand gestures, with the V being the forever popular pose. 

Method 2: Self-cam / self-pic

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Tired of asking someone to help you take photos? Technology has allowed most cameras to be versatile with an option for self-cam. Why take photo alone when you can take with a friend, right?  

Method 3: Posing (with or without the backdrop)

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Obviously Smith Leong is a poser. And he does it shamelessly everything, with or without a backdrop. Ying Zi (left, below) demonstrating the correct way of posing with a backdrop. 

Method 4: Bring your partner with you to the event 

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Don’t like to take photos? No problem, just ask your boyfriend or girlfriend to attend the event with you. Pretending to be talking about secret and everyone will leave you two alone.

Method 5: Surprise birthday party

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A sweet surprise for our Minute Man, Colin planned by Music Girl, Mint Leong. Even the emcee paused for a minute to sing and wish our boy, ‘Happy Birthday!’

Method 6: Take photo with your award (only if you are a winner)

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If you have it, flare it. No winner can escape other people asking for them to pose with their awards. 

Method 7: Posing with random objects, i.e. GOOD MORNING Towel or spatula 

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Random props are fun items. Joyce and Colin showing you that a towel and kitchen utensil are more than just daily items. 

Method 8: Take photo with celebrity filmmaker, Jack Neo

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If I wasn’t so busy taking photos of them and helping them take photos, I would have also requested to have my photo taken with Jack Neo. After all, I grew up watching his Monday entertainment nights on Channel 8.

Method 9: More photo shots after the event

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After the event, I went with Regina and Karen for a drink at Liang Court. After that the girls wanted to have more shots taken with their sponsored apparel by the river side.  

Personal thoughts on Singapore Blog Awards 2013

I really hope that next time, Omy.sg can allow bloggers, who are selected to cover for the event, access to the VIP area, so we can take portrait shots of the VIP and invited guests. My disappointment is that I didn’t managed to take a good picture of the guest-of-honour, Mr Lawrence Wong (Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth / Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information), and the two judges who were present (Keith Png & Walter Lim).

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Light-hearted moments: Mr Lawrence Wong playing Scissors, Paper, Stone on stage with Jasmine Koh (left picture above) from Scissors Paper Stone Blog. And Mr Wong checking out Ai Sakura’s sexy back (right picture above).

Singapore Blog Awards mark MalcolmSunny.com 1st Year Anniversary

Last year, under the encouragement of a friend, Darren Ng I registered my previous blog malxc.livejournal.com for the Singapore Blog Awards. Needless to say, I didn’t even manage to get shortlisted as a finalist for any category.  Unsatisfied with just ranting about personal issues I faced, I started MalcolmSunny.com to scribble my happy thoughts. 

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A year on, blogging has certainly opened up a lot of opportunities for me. To begin with I got to know many friends. I remembered meeting Christina and Jeremy during last year’s Singapore Twitter Frenzy at Wave House, Sentosa which shaped my thinking of blogging. Previously I had always viewed my blog as a personal online journal for me to share my feelings with friends.

My interest in lifestyle blogging started while I doing marketing for Singapore Flyer and studying part-time at SIM University. Initially started out as a channel for me to hone my writing skills, blogging has become an integrated part of my life and a passion now. It has opened up more opportunities for networking, invitations to exclusive product launches and previews as well as trips overseas.

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Thanks to Omy.sg, I was given the opportunity to experience Brunei and it was during that trip that I got to know Karen, Andy, Tiffany and Deenise. Besides catching up like Bruneian bloggers, we also exchanged tips on blogging and social media.

I’m very proud of my travel mates. In fact, all four of them were the finalists for this year’s Singapore Blog Awards. Karen and Deenise were also nominated for several categories.

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Held at Shanghai Dolly, I spotted familiar faces and friends like Smith Leong, William Tan, Elrica, Mint Leong, Regina Chow, Joey Ong, Darren Sim, Hong Peng and Tse Lyn who were the finalists for the main and special categories for this year’s Singapore Blog Awards. Blogger friends like Joyce, Valentine, Colin and Damien were there to cheer them on too. Luke and Shirley were also the finalists but I didn’t manage to spot them.

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And now, the moment you have been waiting for, the results of Singapore Blog Awards 2013:

Main Categories

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Panasonic Best Photography Blog winner – Christina Gao

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Exabytes Best Individual Blog winner – Grace Tan

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Levi’s Best Fashion Blog winner – Jaslin Tan

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Nanyang Optical Best Lifestyle Blog winner – Jasmine Koh

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Best Family Blog winner – Ai Sakura

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Best Food Blog winner – Tony

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Best Travel Blog winner – Sock Peng

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Best What-The-Hell Blog winner – Willy

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Best V-log winner – Ninja Girls

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Best Microblog winner – Spin or Bin Music

Special Categories

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Panasonic Best Beauty Blog Top 3 Winners – Karen, Elaine & Elrica

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Panasonic Best Cooking Blog Winner – Celes

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Panasonic Best Eco-Challenge Winner – Ivan Kwan

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Glossi Best Modelling Blog Winner – Karen

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JBL Best Pop/Music Blog – Mint Leong

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Levi’s Best 501 Interpretation Blog winner – Claire

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Qoo10 Best Online Shopping Blog winner – Mitsueki

Congratulations to all the winners! 

Thank you Omy.sg for extending the invitation for me to cover for this event, click here to read their Chinese article for 新加坡部落格大奖 Singapore Blog Awards 2013.

Brunei: Royal Empire State of Mind

In the last part of this travel series, Malcolm ventured into the finer side of life with a night stay the grandest hotel in Brunei, his two cents worth on the service by Royal Brunei Airlines as well as his experience as “Prince Charming” when he rode a horse through the woods.  DSC02601 If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned about my flight experience with Royal Brunei Airlines, well, I’m saving the best for the last. The royal treatment from Royal Brunei Airlines began before our departure flight. Upon reaching Changi Airport Terminal 2, we were welcome by Royal Brunei Airlines’ Country Manager for Singapore, Ms G.Wen Lim who gladly ushered us to the Premier Check-In Lounge for our check-in. IMG_1615 The Premiere Lounge is usually reserved for those flying First or Business Class but we had the privilege to experience the express check-in service. This new lounge offers premium passengers of participating airlines the exclusivity of checking in at a private lounge with direct access to the immigration area. Passengers also get to enjoy the lounge’s luxurious facilities, including lounge seating, light refreshments, television and a variety of newspapers and periodicals. IMG_1618 We’re given specially assigned seats and I was seated on the front row and there were a lot of leg room for my long legs to stretch during the 2-hour flight to Brunei. Religion (in particular, Islam) is an integrated part of Brunei’s culture and before taking off, there is an in-flight blessing. I was actually looking forward to it as it’s an cultural experience to me. IMG_9346 IMG_9349 Royal Brunei Airlines offer a wide selection of special in-flight meals to cater for different needs. I pre-selected the Low Calorie Meal while Tiffany had the High Fibre Meal. On the return flight, I chose to go with the regular selection. One travel tip to share, always order a special meal, in that way, you always get the food serve to you first. IMG_1635 Low Calorie Meal (above) – with grilled salmon, salad and fresh fruits  IMG_1636 High Fibre Meal (above) – With chicken breast, seasonal vegetables and fruits  IMG_9543 Normal In-flight Meal – Beef (above) with cake and coleslaw  IMG_9544 Normal In-flight Meal – Chicken (above) with cake and coleslaw  Upon our arrival at Brunei International Airport, we were welcome by Royal Brunei Airlines Communication Officer, Muaz Al Rashid and our tour guide, Tom Chong from Sunshine Borneo Tours. Tom has been a wonderful guide, very knowledge in terms of his country’s history and culture and very professional. He was always the first time to arrive and had to wait for us to get ready. IMG_9377 IMG_9326 Fast forward to the last evening of our tour, we arrived at Brunei’s most magnificent hotel – The Empire Hotel & Country Club. This was my love-hate part of the trip. I seriously wish I had arrived in the grandest hotel in Brunei in style, with my suit on and looking hot for a date, but instead I was dressed in wet T-shirt with damp shorts after our snorkeling trip. DSC02409 I tried to behave nonchalant when the hotel staff served us our welcome drink and attempted to soak in the beauty of the sunset as the backdrop of the lobby balcony. Soon after, we were personally escorted to our individual rooms where we’ll get to enjoy for the night. DSC02466 DSC02413 DSC02416 Having worked for The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore and stayed a few times there, the feeling of stepping into The Empire Hotel’s room was still very impressive. Indeed, it is comparable to a Ritz but with a style of its own. I went under the warm shower to clean off the sea water and still had time to make myself a mocktail consisting of Perrier and mango juice from the mini bar, with compliments from the hotel. DSC02446IMG_9491 IMG_9490 While waiting for our van to pick us up to meet the Bruneian bloggers, we spot a car with the Singapore flag. Upon enquiry, we realised that President of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan was in Brunei for meeting and he was staying in the same room as us. What chance! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But too bad I didn’t manage to get a photo with him. But one of my friends who is working in Brunei was invited to a dinner with President Tony Tan the next day. How lucky! DSC02462 DSC02464 After having breakfast like a king, we were all excited about the next part of the itinerary which is the site inspection of the hotel. We were first brought to a deluxe room at the other side of the wing. DSC02471 DSC02472 DSC02473 Of course, all of us were mesmerized when we came to the Empress Suite. The suit itself is bigger than the 4-room flat I live in. And we also had the chance to view an Ambassador Suite, of which our President was hosted in one Ambassador Suites. DSC02480 DSC02482 DSC02484 DSC02503 DSC02505 DSC02508 DSC02599DSC02586 DSC02597 DSC02587 DSC02588 DSC02590 DSC02593 We also had the chance to view one of the resorts and a tour of the sports and health facilities before a good exchange with Brunei Tourism officers over lunch. I gave my personal comments on how Brunei should showcase not just their eco-tourism but also as a multi-destination for golfing and scuba diving. DSC02525 DSC02527 DSC02540 DSC02541 DSC02542 DSC02544 DSC02549 DSC02563 DSC02553 DSC02557 A short break after lunch and we were  on our way for the final activity before departure –  horse riding at Royal Brunei Polo & Riding Club, which is just 5 minutes drive away from The Empire Hotel. It was my first time being on the back of a horse and doing a “gangnam style” through the woods. I felt like a prince being escorted on a horse through the forest in a fairytale. DSC02625 DSC02661 DSC02639 DSC02635 DSC02641 DSC02649 DSC02658 DSC02667 DSC02668 The entire journey has been an eye-opening experience for us, and I feel very honoured to be selected as one of the participants to go to Brunei and to share it’s hidden treasures with my readers and friends. DSC02603 Special thanks to Brunei Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines for the generous hospitality. For more information: Brunei Tourism – www.bruneitourism.travel Brunei Tourism Logo Royal Brunei Airlines – www.flyroyalbrunei.com (website), www.facebook.com/royalbruneisingapore (Facebook) Weekend & diving SIN edm 600px The Empire Hotel & Country Clubwww.theempirehotel.com Royal Brunei Polo & Riding Club is located at Jerudong BG3122, Negara Brunei Darussalam. Tel: +673 261 0524 Email: rbprc2007@gmail.com IMG_4788 Check out my previous travel posts on Brunei and what my travel companions had to say about this trip: Malcolm Sunny’s blog posts The Charming Night Glow of Brunei Conversations with Mother Nature at Ulu Temburong National Park A Tour of Brunei’s National Treasures Andy Storm’s blog posts Brunei: A Kingdom of unexpected treasure Day 1 Brunei: A Kingdom of unexpected treasure Day 2 Brunei: A Kingdom of unexpected treasure Day 3  Brunei: A Kingdom of unexpected treasure Day 4 Tiffany Yong’s blog posts Flying with Royal Brunei Airlines Ulu Ulu Resort: Digital Detox made FUN Luxury Stay at Empire Hotel & Country Club Renzze’s blog posts Part 1: From Singapore to Brunei Part 2: Brunei Night Experiences Part 3: The Journey into the Pristine Rainforest of Brunei  Part 4: Finding peace in the heart of a rainforest Part 5: Peering above the Rainforest Part 6: Venice of the East – Kampong Ayer Part 7: Under the sea in Brunei Part 8: Meeting with Brunei Bloggers Part 9: The Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei Part 10: Horse Riding and a sweet farewell Deenise’s blog posts Discover Brunei: Brunei by Night – Mosque Visits and Night Markets Discover Brunei: Ulu Temburong National Park Discover Brunei: Canopy Treetop Walk, Cultural City Tour and Snorkeling Trip Discover Brunei: The Empire Hotel and Dinner with Bruneian Bloggers Discover Brunei: The Final and Bitter-Sweet Goodbyes  Discover Brunei: Travel with Me And View Brunei Through My Lens “Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

Brunei: Mother Nature and Ulu Temburong National Park

A holiday is not always about urban shopping and eating. Sometimes we get out to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. In this travel series, Malcolm discovered that the beauty of Brunei lies in its unspoiled primary rainforest – the ultimate place to disconnect with technology and to reconnect back with life. 
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A holiday is not always about shopping. Unlike Singapore, Brunei is definitely not a shopping destination. 70% of Brunei is covered by primary rainforest and Ulu Temburong National Park covers 50,000 hectares of pristine rainforest and is home to one of the best biodiversity in the world.
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Brunei is an excellent place to escape. Ulu Ulu National Park Resort, located within Ulu Temburong National Park, is the perfect place to recharge. Some termed it “technology cleansing”, while others coined it “digital detox”. To me it’s simply about ‘disconnecting to connect’. Being away with the disturbance of emails and SMS allows us to reconnect with our life, nature and self. Bring along your loved ones to this one of its kind resort and watch your relationship improves.
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We checked out from Rizqun International Hotel after consuming a hearty breakfast buffet spread at the hotel’s cafe and hopped on our tour bus for a quick 5-10 minutes ride to the jetty.
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The trip to Ulu Ulu Resort is an adventure in itself, as we need to go on three different modes of transport to get there. First, we boarded the speedboat at Kianggeh Jetty and proceed to Bangar town. During our water journey, we actually passed through Malaysia’s marine border. Thanks to an agreement signed between the two countries, we no longer need to disembark to get a stamp on our passport if we stay on the speedboat.
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Upon arrival at Bangar town, we were all fascinated by the stray cats that roamed near the boat terminal. Only after several photo shoots of the community of cats, then we decided to get on our van for the land transfer.
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En route, we made a pit stop at a local convenience shop to purchase a pair of rubber shoes, which our tour guide Tom fondly referred to as “Kampong Adidas” meaning “Adidas for the villagers”.
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Brunei, like Singapore, is not a agricultural society. Along the way, we passed by houses of locals but no sight of paddy fields in the rural areas. The economy of Brunei is supported by the export of oil and natural gas, and because of this factor, the government of Brunei does not need to cut down the forest for additional resources.
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Our van reached Batang Duri, where we got off and proceeded to put on life jacket to prepare us for the long boat, or temuai, up the rapids to the national park.
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This is where my conversation with Mother Nature began. The calls of hornbills infused with the whisper from trees and chatter from the rapids formed the melody of the rainforest as the gentle rain acted as the conductor of this orchestrate.
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I took a deep breathe and inhaled in the fresh, crisp air  and exhaled out from the green lungs of Brunei’s thousand years old rainforest. It’s not that there’s nothing to do in Brunei, rather we chose to come here to do nothing. Many corporate organisations understand this theory and choose to conduct their team-building activities at Ulu Ulu Resort, as they can be free of disturbance from technology and distraction from work.
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Upon our arrival, we were asked to sign the record book followed by welcome drinks with local snacks. Once we had regained energy, it was time for a tour of the resort and to select our choice of room to sleep in that night.
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Our lunch that day consists of a simple but delicious buffet meal with a large plate of big, fresh and juicy prawns specially prepared for us. The prawns are so big, they looked like a close relative of crayfish.
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We spent the next hour soaking in the scenery of the resort and self-entertained ourselves by taking photos of ourselves and pictures of others taking photos.
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When we had felt less bloated from the delicious lunch earlier, it was time to ride up the rapids for tubing. Tom, our guide, gave us a safety briefing and what to take note of if we fell off the tube. The water is not extremely deep, most parts of the river is only waist-high but there are some parts that are deeper than two metres.
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Guess what, I was the only one who fell off the tube, and it’s not just once, but TWICE! And I was holding onto my tube for support while the rest cruise leisurely down the river.
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The second part of tubing was a trek to the “fish spa” waterfall. A refreshing change for urbanised creatures like us. I got nibbled by a small fish which caused me to scream, much to the amusement of my blogger friends. After which, it was time to head back to the resort for wash up and dinner.
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Even though Brunei and Singapore are in the same time zone, dusk comes earlier as Brunei is on the other end of the time zone. Once the sky had turned into night, we made our way to the long boat. Once we were away from the lights of the resort, we were greeted by a sky full of stars.
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Night activity that evening was a trek to the “fish spa” waterfall. During our night jungle walk, we were able to spot several different types of frogs, spiders and a couple of fireflies.
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Morning call was at 4.30 am. After a simple meal of hot beverage and biscuits to fuel up, we were on our way for the Canopy Walk. We trekked in darkness. Even with our torchlight, we had to be mindful of the steps. The initial part of the journey was a short walk through the forest, while the remaining part of the journey was ascending the wooden steps.
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This was a different kind of jungle survival. At the top of the hill, most of us were breathless but there was a final mission. We had to scale the scald-folding staircase to make it up the canopy top. Once we managed to ascend up the staircase to heaven, we were dazzled by the 360 degree view of Brunei’s green emerald.
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Some other activities available at Ulu Ulu National Park Resort include kayaking and rafting. Packages start from B$290 per pax for 2D1N. Option of day tour package with canopy walk is also available at B$150 per pax. For more information, visit www.uluuluresort.com
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Strangely, none of us experienced any “withdrawal symptoms” from technology and with so many activities to do, it was time well spent at the resort. Highly recommend all to try staying for at least one night at Ulu Ulu Resort, and allow yourself time to unwind and relax from the hectic Singaporean lifestyle. Grab a book to read or simply choose to do nothing and relax with nature.
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Brunei’s natural beauty is not just restricted to its rainforest but its underwater holds many hidden treasure. The surrounding waters of this small country is home to over 20 wreck dive sites. Four of them are World War II shipwrecks, five are technical shipwrecks and eight of them are in shallow waters less than 20 metres deep, making Brunei a wreck diver’s haven.
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That afternoon, we checked in at Poni Divers located at Serasa Sport Complext on Serasa Beach. Our experienced instructors gave us a briefing before we embarked the boat to Pelong Rock for snorkeling.
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Pelong Rock is located only 20 minutes away from Muara Port by boat and has great reef diving. Even for snorkeling, every direction away from the rock offers a view of different coral systems.
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This trip to rejuvenate our soul was made possible thanks to Royal Brunei Airlines and Brunei Tourism.
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For more information on Royal Brunei Airlines
“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

Brunei: Charming Night Glow of Bandar Seri Begawan

To many Singaporeans, simply mention Brunei and their instantaneous response would be, “It sounds boring. Is there anything to do there?” In this travel series, Malcolm explored the Abode of Peace and shares the hidden treasures from the last sovereign Malay Sultanate in the world.

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My alarm  woke me up. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. I made a quick trip to the bathroom to freshen up before making my way to the hotel lobby. I had two hours to shop and explore downtown before the agreed time to meet up with our tour guide. It was my first day at Brunei and I was curious to find out more.

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We were hosted in Rizqun International Hotel. Conveniently located  in the central business zone of Bandar Seri Begawan and connected to The Mall – one of the main shopping venues in the capital of Brunei. This four-star hotel welcomes travelers with its elaborated glass art decorations in the lobby. The swimming pool complements the needs of family with young children. Published rate for this hotel goes from B$320.00 but they run promotions from time to time with room rates starting from B$145.00 per night.

If you find the hotel’s wifi service pricy, simply hop over to The Mall to purchase a 3G SIM card. There are many shops selling mobile phones and related services. 3G SIM card are available at B$30, comes with a value of B$5. We also got a top up card of B$10, which last us through our 4 days 3 nights trip in Brunei. Special thanks to our friends at Royal Brunei Airlines who understood the needs of social media addicts like us, who cannot live without updating our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and included the 3G SIM cards in our welcome package.

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Surprisingly, The Mall and the surrounding areas of the town have every brand we have in Singapore. But instead of a spam of cookie cutter outlets in the malls of Singapore, most of the common brands have only a single shop in Brunei, at least that is true for McDonald’s.

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I was able to spot Giordano, Pizza Hut, KFC and even Jollibee in Brunei. And Sushi Tei has recently opened an outlet in Bandar Seri Begawan. I also spotted a number of men in their traditional costumes. In Brunei, it is not uncommon to see men wearing Baju Melayu as an alternative dress code for work. Unlike Singapore, our Malay men normally only wear it during major celebrations like Hari Raya Puasa.

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A chat with my tour guide, Tom from Sunshine Borneo Tours, I found that there is no goods and services tax (GST) in Brunei and Bruneians do not need to pay any income tax. Basically,they get to keep what they earn! Education is free up to university-level. Also medical and petrol are heavily subsidized as well. Bruneians only need to pay a token fee of B$1 per consultation for healthcare and if the medical assistance is not available in the country, they are sent overseas at the government’s expenses.

Another interesting fact is that Brunei practises ‘No Plastic Bags’ days  from Friday to Sunday. I was rather surprised and certainly impressed with this oil-producing country. Our thoughtful tour guide also made it a point to remind us to bring a reusable shopping bag with us.

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We began our Brunei by Night by first filling up our tummies at Portview Seafood Restaurant, a popular spot for locals. It is extremely busy at the end/beginning of the month when people received their paycheck. The restaurant offers an unobscured view of the water village at the opposite site of the bank.

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Dinner that night consists of a sumptuous seafood steamboat. Fresh prawns, fish and crab caught locally were arranged neatly together with fishballs and crab sticks on a bed of cabbage and greens waiting for us to drop them into our choice of tom yum soup or chicken both.

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After dinner, we took a stroll towards the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin (SOAS) Mosque. We froze in awe and paused for photographs as the view of the gigantic honeycomb of gold came into our view. I had seen many mosques in Singapore and Malaysia but seeing the SOAS Mosque glowing at night was a very special experience.

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Do you know that there is an International Quran Reading Competition? The national Quran reading competition in Brunei is held annually at SOAS Mosque and I heard that the winner of the Quran reading competition will be rewarded with a lifetime monthly stipend of B$2,000 courtesy of the government.

Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, or JAME Mosque for short, is the largest mosque in Brunei and is considered one of the grandest monuments in Islamic culture.  It was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sultan’s reign. We managed to make it in time to snap a few postcard worthy photographs before the mosque closed for the night.

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By the request of TIffany, we made a side trip to Fitness Zone Health Club. This gym is opened by Brunei-born Taiwanese celebrity, Wu Zun (formerly) of Fahrenheit. We heard that sometimes overseas fans of this popular singer/actor will travel to Brunei and camp outside the gym in hope of catching a glimpse of their idol. At least, Tiffany didn’t have to sleep outside Fitness Zone that night.

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The final highlight of the evening was the trip to the night market at Gadong shopping area, located 5-10 minutes walk away from Rizqun International Hotel where we were staying. It offers a glimpse into the local cuisine culture and as bloggers, we entertained ourselves that night by making funny poses and engaging in food photography, much to the amusement of the locals.

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We spotted a stall selling B$1.00 Nasi Katok, a dish of hot rice served with a side of spicy sambal, and a piece of chicken or beef or pusu (anchovies). Nasi means rice in the Malay language and Katok means knock. Back in the old days, there was no 24-hour eateries, so the only way for a hungry person to get a midnight fix was to knock on the doors of a food outlet and get the owner out of bed. The sleepy owner will then prepare a simple dish which evolves into the present day Nasi Katok. (Click here to read more about the story of Nasi Katok.)

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After having some snacks from Gadong night market and tea in my hotel room, it was time for us to turn in for the night. I will be sharing about Ulu Ulu Resort and Ulu Temburong National Park tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Thank you Royal Brunei Airlines, Brunei Tourism and Omy.sg for sending me to Brunei. And blogger friends Andy Storm, Deenise Glitz, Karen “Renzze” Ashley and Tiffany Yong for sharing their travel photos.

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For more information about Royal Brunei Airlines and their fares, please visit their website www.royalbruneiair.com or check out their Facebook page www.facebook.com/royalbruneiairlinessingapore

P.S. – There are no public bus or train service in Brunei. You may take a taxi to an attraction but it will be difficult to find a cab back to your hotel. The best way to explore Brunei is to book a tour package.

“Save time, pay less, travel more – Get cheaper air tickets and hotel rooms with Wego.com“.

I’m going to the Emerald of Borneo!

While the majority population were getting gear up to meet Psy, Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber and other international stars at the first ever Social Stars Concert, I’m excited about flying off to the Emerald of Borneo and close encounters with the proboscis monkeys tomorrow!

During a recent conversation with a friend, he made this observation after his recent trip to Taipei. “Take away Taipei 101 and the city feels like any other,” he commented. Indeed, for me, most big cities look and feel the same, remove the major landmarks and shopping bazaars, and what’s remaining are the skyscrapers overlooking downtown like security officers guarding a red carpet.

This is why I feel that Brunei is so special to me – offering us a chance to be close to Mother Nature and the great outdoor again. In comparison, Brunei is 5,765 kilometres square while Singapore is only 710 kilometers square, and 70% of its land mass is covered by lush rainforest. Besides oil, I believe clean air is also in abundance at the Emerald of Borneo.

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[Photo credit: borneoadventure.com]

Geographically separated from peninsular Asia by the South China Sea, Brunei lies on Borneo – the 3rd largest island in the world. Brunei occupies only 1% of Borneo, sharing the island with Malaysia’s Sarawak and Sabah, and Indonesia’s province of Kalimantan.

Besides sharing the same currency rate as Singapore and occasionally receiving the Brunei dollars while shopping, I know little about this Southeast Asia neighbour of ours. I made a trip to the library but was unable to find any guidebook specifically for Brunei, which encouraged me to discover more about this mysterious country when I arrive there.

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[Photo credit: idreamofdurian.com]

Besides being the home of proboscis monkey, the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is a juxtaposition of water villages with the grand palace, Istana Nurul Iman and majestic mosques as its backdrop. Many of my friend laughed when I show my excitement for Brunei, a country many guys only recognised as the training ground for jungle survival during their military service.

No doubt, a holiday to Brunei is unlike the usual city sightseeing, shopping and eating which we experience in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. As a lover of nature, I had been to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah and I am really looking forward to discover what this country of less than half a million population has in store for us.

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[Photo credit: theempirehotel.com]

I have seen the draft itinerary and I am thrilled that we will be staying at different accommodations every night. From the elegant Rizqun International Hotel to the rustic-charmed Ulu-Ulu National Park Resort, and rounding off the trip with a night stay at the majestic Empire Hotel & Country Club, I’m atingle to check out the various facilities of these hotels and resort.

The pre-planned activities include a mixture of culture and outdoor – a night tour of  SOAS mosque and JAME mosque, trekking through Ulu Temburong National Park, a day tour of the water village, relaxing time at Serasa Beach, plus diving, snorkeling and horse riding. With an itinerary is packed with so many stuff to do, we dare to say that a holiday in Brunei is only just about M&M (mosque and museum).

The fun part of this trip is that I will be going with four other bloggers, Andy Storm, Tiffany YongDeenise Glitz and Renzze (click here to read her pre-trip blog post) but I haven’t met any of them before. I’m looking forward to the interesting experiences together.

Special thanks to OMY.SG and Royal Brunei Airlines for sending me there. Royal Brunei Airlines fly to all the major cities in Southeast Asia and East Asia, as well as Dubai, London and Melbourne. They are currently running their 38th anniversary celebration with promotional fares to six destinations. Sales period until 31 May 2013. 

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[Image: flyroyalbrunei.com]

Remember to check out Royal Brunei Airlines’ website for your next holiday, at www.bruneiair.com