Oh dear. Another round of travelling. This time to Brunei. It was in June 2002.
The travelling this time was honestly quite depressing. Remember, we didn’t have smartphones or internet access then. Once we left Changi Airport, we knew that we would be in a world far far away and there was no turning back. Even though this trip was also 2 weeks long, same duration as the Thailand trip mentioned in the previous post, this time we would be placed in the middle of thick jungles in Borneo, away from civilisation.
Let me explain the journey there.
2 hours flight from Changi Airport to Bandar Sri Begawan. It was a morning flight.
Upon reaching, we boarded a bus that brought us to a jetty by a river. There we boarded a boat they called a water taxi.
Brunei is separated into 2 parts with Sarawak, Malaysia in between. So we were on one side of Brunei and heading to another side. At that time it was only accessible by boat. 45 minutes ride to the Temburong district. The boat travelled across a bay and then entered a river where we travelled upstream. It was surreal. We knew we were going deeper into the rural areas far away from the other side of Brunei, even further from the city of Bandar Sri Begawan and definitely just forget about Singapore….
The boat stopped at a small town called Bangar in Temburong district. There we took the army truck, another 35 to 45 minutes ride to Lakiun Camp.
Anyway as I was typing this, I googled and found out that there is now a bridge connecting the 2 parts of Brunei. So you can drive across now.
The bunk buildings look like chicken coops. They were long buildings with low roofs. It was also very cramped with double decked bunk beds. The fellar sleeping on top would have his head hitting the roof if he sits on the bed. Yup, that low. I tried. It was kind of claustrophobic for me. I took the bottom bed. And also it was very very cramped.
The spaces outside was very wide though. Wide wide open spaces with forests as far as the eye can see. It was very depressing. We knew we were there. There was no turning back. No calls home. No texts. Nothing. Just there.
We settled down and soon it was time for dinner.
Well at least this was interesting. As I walked to the cookhouse, I met with a BMT mate, Chan Meng Seng. I’m impressed with myself as I can still remember his name. I was so excited to see him and said hi. He was doing his training as a recce trooper there. He said hi back to me and gave a puzzled look. And then he walked away with his mates. I think he has forgotten about me. I was a bit sad and I can still remember this until today.
So we walked up to the cookhouse. The meals were nice to be honest. It was nicer than the normal cookhouse food. I found out that there were cooks who cooked the food. Hahaha. Of course cooks la right? I mean, SAF cooks. The real SAF cooks vocation. I heard of this vocation before I entered NS. But when I enlisted, I found out that it was already phased out as SAF started using private caterers for the camp cookhouses. But here, there were real vocation SAF cooks. I think they were doing their reservist duties and volunteered to go to Brunei. Cool. Really…. the food were nice.
The cookhouse was like a village or kampung dining thing. Wooden building. The distinct smell of wooden buildings in the evenings. There were also a lot of cicadas flying around. Those huge dumb insects that flew anywhere without any sense of direction. They just bumped into people and pillars and walls. They were quite huge for insects. About the size of a ping-pong ball. Imagine them flying everywhere. I remember one of them flew to a ceiling fan, got sliced into 2 and dropped on a friend’s lap in front of me. On our last night, in Brunei, some of us did some things to the cicadas. But since it is 2022 now and there are more people who are “woke”, I cannot type what we did here. If you want to know, you can always talk to me personally. Just say these 3 words; Brunei, Cicada, Lightstick.
There was also a canteen beside the cookhouse. It sold snacks and some light food. It also had a TV. Why I can remember that this trip was in June 2002 is because, we watched World Cup matches here at the canteen.
And then, I saw an old friend. I saw Wan Cing Cong. He is the guy you can read in my post about BMT. I’ll put the link here.
We were so happy to see each other. Apparently after BMT, Wan was posted to OCS and then sent straight to Brunei as Quatermaster Officer. I think that was kinda sad. Meaning he had to stay in Brunei for about a year and a half. He was quite sad about it but he got used to the life there. He said he could take block leave and go back to Singapore once a while but it was very rare. His only escape to civilisation was to the small town where we alighted from the boat about 45 minutes away. That was pretty much it. When I said being in Brunei was depressing, I think Wan had it worse. So naturally we were so happy to see each other. As an officer, he had his own bunk, like his own room with aircon and tv. He brought me to his bunk and said I can look for him anytime when I was free as he was a permanent staff there and would always be in camp.
The first day passed and after dinner we settled in our bunks. Training begins tomorrow. Still, it was depressing and I can still feel it as I am typing this. But when training started, I realised it was not too bad and Brunei actually was one of the most fun overseas training trip. All of it will be in the next post next week!
Next Week : Topography and Mission Exercise
Categories : The Army Series
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).