The Journal

Explorations, expeditions and experiences



The rhythm of Brunei – Gulingtangan

Gulingtangan orchestral music of Brunei has always amused me. The metallic melody reverberating from the wooden instruments is soothing to the senses. Often played on board the Royal Brunei Airlines, the melody lingers long after the journey ends.

Traditionally, anyone who owned the orchestral set was considered noble and wealthy. Gulingtangan music is used for royal celebrations, opening ceremonies that involve royalties and official events. It also acts as leisure or entertainment during ceremonies such as Hari Raya celebrations, weddings and get-togethers.

One of my Masters students, Abdul Zul’adly Bin Haji Mohaimin (Zul) is part the gulingtangan orchestra. He and his team deliver lessons and conduct performances at several events in Brunei.

Gulingtangan (literally ‘rolling hands’) is a series of small gongs in a casing made from the special wood of timbaran. The gongs are struck with wooden sticks to create melodies. It is played with other traditional instruments in the orchestra, typically consisting of Gongs, Canang Tiga, Tawak-tawak, 2 sets of Gendang Labik along with Gulintangan set. Modern musical instruments may also be added on to the ensemble. Although songs and instruments have evolved to include modern music, Gulintangan is at the heart of the orchestral band.


Traditional music of a region evolves with the human experience and helps trace the roots of culture and tradition.

The traditional Brunei rhythm consist of

  1. Irama Gulingtangan (traditional Gulingtangan rhythm)

which includes Kudidi, Gabungkok, Avasan, Seri Rama, Raja Lalu, Sakai, Hujan Lari, Raja Sehari, Seri Rama Bovan, Abut-abut, Gelombang Bertaduh

  1. Lagu-Lagu Brunei Asli (Brunei traditional folklore songs)

which include Alus Jua Dendang, Dang Mengalai, Kampong Ayer, Zapin Tar, Tudug Dulang, Adai-adai, Samalindang, Dong-Dong Oma, Indung Anak among others.

Below are some of the musical performances created by Zul and his team:

Kampong Ayer
Joget Seri Kenangan
Raja Lalu

Pooja Shivanand and Abdul Zul’adly Bin Haji Mohaimin

Weekend getaway to Kuala Belait, Brunei

‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ – John Keats
Made time to step outside and witness the beautiful nature in the neighbourhood we seldom enjoy – a magnificent rainbow unfolding during the drive to Kuala Belait (KB), the extraordinary grandeur of golden hue dazzling across the skies during the beautiful sunset by the beach.

Drive to KB from Bandar after work over the weekend is refreshing. The towns of Seria and KB are lovely to just walk around, sight the iconic nodding donkeys which pump out oil, enjoy sunset by the beach and eat good food. Enough to get recharged for next weeks duties.

KB view2

The beautiful beaches in KB offer a breathtaking view of the sunset and vibrant colorful skies.

Tip: carry insect repellant to ward of sand flies on the KB beach.

KB beach

Take time to soak in nature’s delight. Its splendid beauty having a profound effect on the senses, rejuvenates and heals.

Whenever in KB, we stay at the Seaview Hotel. As the name suggests the rooms and service apartments here offer a resplendent view of the sea. The rooms on the second floor are carpeted and cozy. They have a promotion on weekends. Easy access to Coffee bean and supermarket in the ground floor.

Tip: ask for seaside rooms. The other side faces cemetery.

KB also has quiet places of culinary delight. We had a scrumptious Indian meal at the popular Zaika Restaurant which serves authentic north Indian cuisine. Their Masala lassi is ma favorite!

KB Zaika.jpg

Dinner was a lovely surprise at the beautiful locale of Ricardo’s La Galeria serving Mexican food. The ambience was colored with Mexican theme and enlivened with soulful music. The tacos and virgin mojitos are great.

KB Ricardo

If you wish to eat authentic lip-smacking, finger-licking, Indian aloo parantha, poori bhaji, chhole bature with jeear dahi and masala chhaas for breakfast (lunch and dinner), A4 restaurant on Jalan Mckerron, is the place to go to.

Tip: Just make sure you go on empty stomach! The yum food will stuff you to breathlessness.


Greenery of the Kuala Belalong forest

The dense green forests of Kuala Belalong in Temburong Brunei is a rich source of oxygen. You don’t feel tired even after climbing the 42 meters high and 150 meters long canopy, equivalent to 21 floors. The refreshing feel of fresh air and energy is sublime!


Speed longboat ride to Temburong

The exhilarating longboat ride to Temburong to explore the pristine rainforest at Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei. The breathtaking greenery soothes the eyes, the fresh air fills the lungs and the sheer speed of the longboat on the river spurs an adrenaline rush.

Canopy walk in Temburong

A climb onto the jungle canopy at the Ulu Temburong National Park is adventurous and refreshing. The view of the jungle canopy is breathtakingly beautiful. The National park is situated in the Temburong District of Brunei Darussalam, which can be reached by an exciting long boat ride.



Ambuyat  – The delicacy of Brunei.

Ambuyat is the traditionally indigenous, calorie-rich carbohydrate staple of sago starch. This gluey-starchy dish is made from sago powder (ambulung) which is extracted from the pith of Sago Palm (Metroxylon sagu). As part of the Global Discovery Programme by Dr. Yabit Alas in Universiti Brunei Darussalam, I had the opportunity to visit the Ukong Sago Factory in Tutong District managed by Mr. Yong Ming Leong. The bark of the sago tree is debarked using an iron rod. These pieces are grated by a machine. The mixture is washed with water in pulping process to separate the starch from the fiber. This water is then collected into a tank where starch settles down at the bottom over a period of 24-48 h. Starch sediments are dried into powder form . This powder is called ‘Ambulung’ which is packaged and sold in the Market. Ambulung is cooked by continuous stirring into a homogeneous mixture in hot water until it becomes glutinous. This translucent glutinous substance is edible and locally called ‘Ambuyat’ and is a local delicacy.


Haikus from my coffee-table


Hot coffee, chocolate cake. Fresh haikus I bake. – PS

The guitar strings playing music, remind me of my mother. Not too tight, not too loose. – PS

Shore embraces sea, sea cleanses shore. Separate and connect. – PS

Raw mangoes on the tree. Rain droplets on my cheeks. I smell home. – PS

Strong and quiet, the tree gives me shelter. Dad seldom speaks. – PS

Tranquil night, I face the moon. My shadow falls behind. – PS

Oxygen enters me, carbon dioxide comes out. I am worth it. – PS


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