Sleepless in Brunei? No way says guide-book
By May Ling

Cafe De Royalle along Jalan Sultan in the capital is listed as one of the top 10 things to do in Brunei for visiting delegates.

That is mentioned in the East Asia Insurance Congress (EAIC) guide to delegates attending the major three-day meet in the Sultanate starting on Sunday.

More than 1,000 international participants have arrived for the conference which will take place at the International Convention Centre, Berakas where Brunei Chief Delegate Mr David Wong and others from the region will address the gathering.

The publication among other things, apparently concerned with nothing to do for visitors at night in mind, asks: Sleepless in Brunei?

"Fret not, night owls will appreciate the 24-hour establishments in the country. The Royal Cafe at Jalan Sultan is the only 24-hour restaurant in Brunei not located in a hotel and is a popular hangout among expatriates," the publication mentions.

"The city is also known as a DVD heaven, with its wide variety of movies at affordable prices.

"Another item at the top on your shopping list is Tongkat Ali.

"This natural herbal enhancer can be easily found at most tourist shops and Brunei offers five very potent forms."

Round the clock Arena Snooker House, in Gadong the "biggest in all Borneo" also gets a mention for the night owls.

Other things to do are a water taxi ride in Kampong Ayer, Jerudong Park Playground, Belalong National Park, the Brunei Museum, the Royal Regalia Building, Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and the golf courses.

Why has this prestigious body chosen Brunei for an important international event like this?

Ms Wendy Koh, Editor Asia Insurance Review had this to say:

"Critics may snub Brunei as being the smallest insurance market in Asia, but if its palatial offerings are anything to go by, the tiny Sultanate is worthy of sitting up and taking notice.

"The nation of just 370,000 in population and 18 insurance companies has finally been granted its day in the spotlight to host the 23rd EAIC 2006.

"And with a fresh commitment from the Ministry of Finance in the form of an Insurance Law promising to mold financially stronger, professional and consumer-oriented insurance companies, the Brunei insurance market looks set to expand, albeit by baby steps.

The Asia Insurance Review team spent three whirlwind days touring the magical Kingdom. With its rich cultural and natural assets of vast virgin tropical rainforests and its rich Malay culture, traditions and colourful history dating back centuries and reading like the pages of an adventure epic, replete with tales of Sultans, Princess, Pirates, Headhunters and Swashbuckling European adventures, the little slice of paradise perhaps "Asia's best kept secret".

"EAIC delegates from neighboring cities will welcome the pristine, green, airy and well maintained garden city free of crowds, traffic jams, pollution, noise and trepidation found in the region's other capitals.

Dato Hamdillah H A Wahab, Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources who is Chairman of Brunei Tourism Board says, "We are therefore elated to be hosting this 23rd East Asian Insurance Congress 2006 in Bandar Seri Begawan, a fitting location for an insurance industry meeting, as Brunei's safety and security record and protection from natural calamities makes it a safe haven."

Dorothy Newn Chairperson, 23rd EAIC Organising Committee adds, "The General Insurance Association of Brunei Darussalam and the insurance industry as a whole are greatly honoured and delighted to host this Conference from July 30 to August 2, 2006."

"The theme for this conference, 'East Asian Insurance at the Crossroads of Growth and Profitability' will hopefully set off the thought buttons in our minds. It promises to generate very interesting, and I am sure, beneficial discussions would serve the EAIC and its members well in the long term.

"The Conference will, at the formal and informal sessions, address critical issues facing the life and non-life insurance industry today with an emphasis to seek solutions for these issues.

"We have specially timed this Conference to coincide with the 60th Birthday celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. This will give delegates the real opportunity to join Bruneians in this most joyous and memorable occasion.

"The whole country will be bedecked in the best of auspicious colours and decorations. It will be truly a memorable visit especially for those visiting our country for the first time.

"After the Conference, stay a while longer and visit some of the most exquisite and amazing "treasures" of Brunei Darussalam, the Abode of Peace and move beyond the borders to the nearby Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak," she said. - Borneo Bulletin (29th July 2006)