By Lyna Mohamad & Hj Minor Absah
Nearly 30,000 people from all walks of life thronged the Istana Nurul Iman yesterday at the start of the three-day royal open house to greet Their Majesties and other members of the royal family.
It's the joyful time of the year again when the palace is open to the public irrespective of their belief and position.
The Istana Open House is very much a part of the country's tradition, which over the years has also been a key event for tourists.
Yesterday, 29,019 (17,549 in the morning and 11,470 in the afternoon) visitors thronged the Istana to meet and greet His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and other members of the royal family.
Also present were HRH Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and HRH Paduka Seri Pg Anak Isteri Pg Anak Sarah, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and HRH Pg Anak Isteri Pg Anak Hjh Zariah, HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah and Pg Bini Hjh Faizah, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik and HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen.
HRH Princess Hjh Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah, HRH Princess Hafizah Sururul Bulqiah, HRH Princess Hjh Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam, HRH Princess Hjh Norehsani and grandchildren of Their Majesties were also present.
Amongst the many thousands of well wishers to greet the royal family were foreigners, either residing in the country or currently visiting, who grabbed the opportunity to join the locals to meet and greet the royalty.
Shuttle buses ferried the visitors to the palace gates. Posters of proper dress codes were posted on the shuttle buses and at the entrance to the palace. Special seats were in place for elderly citizens while a booth was set up for paramedics.
Prior to exchanging greetings with the royal family, the visitors have to register their names and pass through security checks before being entertained to a lavish spread of food and drinks.
Amongst the first to exchange greetings were Pengiran-Pengiran and personnel from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and other uniformed personnel.
In an interview with the Bulletin, a visitor, a local Chinese mother of three, said that it was her third consecutive year visiting the palace. She along with her children hoped to be able to visit and greet the royalty personally at the open house every year.
Another mother of two from Limbang, Ruyap anak Sangau, also said that ever since she and her family were aware of the Istana Open House, they have always made it a point not to miss the golden opportunity, which does not happen elsewhere. She said that she usually leaves home as early as before six in the morning just to avoid long queues at the border.
Twenty-seven-year-old Yiew Meng Hong from Sibu, Sarawak, who happens to be in Brunei coincidentally, was delighted and proud to be able to attend this rare event to get up close with the royal family, especially Their Majesties and the opportunity to visit the palace.
What came as a surprise to him and his family of seven was the sumptuous spread of buffet for visitors, which he said portrays the generosity of His Majesty.
He also said the Hari Raya card from His Majesty was something that he would treasure.
Johnny Wong, a counsellor from Sabah, travelled to Brunei by road, which took him over seven hours. A similar story is that of Bapak Ali from Indonesia who came to Brunei to experience Hari Raya in its royal splendour.
According to Wong, the officers at the palace were extremely helpful, not to mention the huge feast that awaited them, and of course, the opportunity to meet the royal family.
- Borneo Bulletin
(15th Oct 2007)