Monday, August 07, 2017
Berbuka di Brunei
As a follow up to the Brunei trip in April, I'm back there to begin some detailed work. Turns out that the client was convinced with my MD's goreng-goreng. Oh, great. By default, Bandar Seri Begawan is already quite laid back, but to visit during the fasting month is to experience things at a few notches lower. Best of all, Brunei's hudud-ness and Syariah-compliance has increased drastically in recent years with very obvious effects. During the fasting month, nobody is allowed to eat or drink in public, by law. It applies to Bruneians and visitors, regardless of religion. If you're caught, you could be fined up to a few thousand dollars, but it's usually around BND300. Food and beverage outlets are allowed to operate, but you just can't eat on premises. Feel free to pack your food and eat in some hidden location. At the hotel, my complimentary breakfast was served in a meeting room instead of the usual cafe. Not only that, a partition was placed at the entrance, and all the blinds were pulled down. During lunch, we would pack our food and eat it at one our company apartments. Felt like visiting a secret club every afternoon.
However, the lack of food during the day time is replaced by an abundance after sunset. Every evening at about 6:30 PM, a cannon will go off between Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and Taman Omar Ali Saifuddien, a reminder for sungkai (buka puasa to Malaysians) or chow time. All-you-can-eat buffets are very popular with Bruneians during the fasting month. My colleagues and I also ate our hearts out at I-Lotus Restaurant which is a great place for grilled seafood. Unlike Malaysian seafood BBQ buffets, they don't take ages to fulfill your order. Fish, clams, razor clams, squid, big cockles, chicken, beef, and lamb, all for just BND18. Burp!
Leftover food during fasting days ends up being reported as major news. Truth be told, its the bad business during the fasting month that should be reported. I would think that many restaurant operators struggle with all those restrictions. Sooner or later, Malaysia will start looking like this if we do not resist.