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Meeting Brunei’s Royal Family: An Event to Remember

Meeting Brunei’s Royal Family: An Event to Remember

When my good friend Claire and I were planning our first travel together, we initially considered going to Taiwan. But learning that she might have future plans to go there with her boyfriend Rem, I told her we can consider another country. I suggested the BruneiKota Kinabalu, Malaysia route as we both have never been there before. It was also cheaper as these two destinations doesn’t have that high tourist numbers compared to others.

I remember telling her that my friend Paolo visited these places last year at the end of Ramadan festivities. And so we agreed and booked a week-long travel. We were already aware that Brunei’s Sultan opens the palace grounds for a few days. They were allowed to meet the royal family up close and shake hands with them.

The thought of meeting a real life Royal Family made me more excited as I am somewhat of a royal fan. I follow the lives of European and Asian royalty and nobility every now and then.

But this was a bit different.

So when the day came of visiting the Istana (palace), I was behaved but quite excited. My Filipina host in Brunei was with me the whole time. I was grateful for the companionship since it took us hours before we even had a glimpse of the members of the first family. And even if it was just for a mere seconds, I knew it will be one of the highlights of my traveling life.

On my first day in Brunei, Gel, my host, and I went to the palace at sharply 7 AM. I heard that many will come but since we went on Sunday, the crowds were crazy! We decided to come back the next day and it was a good decision as the crowds were noticeably thinner.

It took us just minutes to enter the gates towards the banquet line. Yes, there’s a banquet line! You see, the palace offers free banquet for all. The food was catered on white warm plates trimmed with royal designs. The dishes served were Malay food so there was not much adjustment on my side. The food was delicious. Aside from the main course of rice and several viands, different types of desserts and drinks were also available in the dining area. Unlimited for the latter! What a delight for those with a sweet tooth!

There were two huge auditorium-sized waiting areas. There were designated waiting zones for the two genders, male and female. It was organized as security personally (I assume) on walkie-talkies usher the lines on when to proceed to the next waiting area. As I’ve said, it took us hours before our turn but I didn’t get that bored as everything was new to me. The hall was a feast to the eyes. It was grand and exquisite and fully air-conditioned too. Festive music was being played over and over again, drowning out the hushed conversations. I couldn’t understand a word but the lively music was enough to make me sway to the beat. 🙂

It was nearly twelve o’clock noon when we were finally guided in another long line leading to the room where the royals were waiting. I was able to catch a glimpse of the Sultan coming out for a break. He was flanked by the royal guards and other male members of his family. Sorry, but photos were not allowed at that point. The female crowd were allowed to shake hands with the female members of the royal family. Greetings were led by Queen Saleha and Crown Princess Sarah. I felt the warmth and sincerity from the Queen and the Princess’s handshakes and smiles. I think they really enjoyed greeting thousands of people even if meant standing for hours.

I was giddy as a kid when we went out from the greeting hall. We were even given a boxed baked goodie (brownies!) upon our exit. Each person receives one box! I noticed that children were given an envelope which contained BND 10 as I was told.

Claire was unable to join me in this trip because she got ill (she’s better now!). It was unfortunate but when I told her that I didn’t regret pursuing my first solo travel, she was happy for me. It was a different experience, one that I will never forget. But of course it would have been nicer if Claire was with me.

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