What it’s like to model in Brunei

What do you think of the modelling profession?


Some people seem to think that as long as you have (1) a good camera, (2) a great outfit and (3) lots of ‘likes’ on Instagram, then you are instantly “a model” in Brunei Darussalam.

But this is actually not! Being a model is so much more than having just these 3 things.

This was what Siddiqah Rosli (@siddiqahrosli), a Bruneian who does modelling part time, told ‘Neue’ in a recent interview.

Siddiqah, who currently has close to 4,000 followers on her Instagram account, and two other Bruneians – Jessica Tieng (@jessicatieng) who describes herself as ‘petite’ and Balqis (@aishahyazid) who describes herself as ‘plus-sized’ – are hoping to smash any misconceptions of modelling in Brunei.

Modelling in Brunei: What does the local community think about it? Is it frowned upon?

Siddiqah Rosli (@siddiqahrosli) wearing a creation by @naforrer during the ‘NFormation Campaign’ back in January 2017 (photo courtesy of @moderatefilms)

The modelling community (not industry) in Brunei developed only recently due to high demand for human resource in the emerging local fashion market.

For this reason, I think the matter of “frowned upon” is highly subjective to how Bruneians view modelling in the country.

For example, local fashion designers may see it as opportunities to revamp their brand (having fresh faces or looks), while others may mistakenly see them a nuisance (being vain and full of themselves) on social media. More often than not, they are just trying to promote themselves as aspiring models.

However, I personally think that modelling in Brunei “may” be easily frowned upon if individuals who are serious in pursuing a modelling career do not possess certain qualities or do not monitor what they post on their social media accounts. At the end of the day, what they post up will indirectly reflect their reputation, as far as modelling is concerned.

Modelling is both fun and challenging. It sparks my creativity especially when I have to think of what poses to do next.

It is always rewarding whenever my clients are satisfied with my performance and they actually like the shots.

Every time after a photoshoot, I will always do some self-reflection and think about what I can do to improve at my next modelling gig.

Being a model is not just about being good at posing, having the right facial expression and embodying certain characters, to me it’s about creating a platform, to have a voice and to have audience who will actually listen to what you have to say and at the same time, to help and inspire others. – Siddiqah

Balqis (@aishahyazid) wearing a design by @bazlahannah_boutique

Modelling, in my perspective, isn’t at all frowned upon in Brunei. When I first started, I thought that that was the case so I kept my identity a secret by not mentioning it at all in hopes that no one would recognise me.

But, I guess Brunei really is small so I started getting noticed even though I had only modelled for one boutique.

My family and friends have been nothing but really supportive of my choice. I sometimes get recognised at events, where people would come up to me to say they had seen me somewhere before.

It’s inspiring to know that people like me are accepted even if we do not fit in the typical beauty standard. – Balqis

Petite model … Jessica Tieng (Photo courtesy of @ns72_)

Personally, I feel that the local community seems okay with people modelling. I don’t think it is frowned upon. However, pursuing a career in modelling is difficult in Brunei because there isn’t much of a market here yet. On the contrary, the small-scale fashion industry in Brunei is slowly growing lately. This provides opportunities to aspiring models such as myself to model and gain experiences which is great. Additionally, nowadays with social media, it is easier to network with other people in the modelling community such as photographers and designers.

Some businesses now also take advantage of social media to grow their business such as sponsoring social influencers to make an awareness of a certain product or service that they are providing. Therefore, I feel like in the future there might be more opportunities for growth to pursue modelling in Brunei.

Being a model (although, I still don’t call myself one because I feel like I still have lots to learn) is really fun! You get to meet and work with a lot of different people. It may seem scary meeting new people at first, but you’ll slowly learn to get used to situations like that.

Also, I used to have very low self-esteem and disliked some features of my body while growing up! Surprisingly, modelling actually helped me in terms of building up my self-confidence and self esteem. I also get to learn to love myself more, flaws and all, which is a great. – Jessica

Power of Social Media

Kendal Jenner (Photo: Shutterstock)

Kendall Jenner (@kendalljenner), with 94 million followers on Instagram, is living proof that social media’s influence has forever changed the modelling industry. Last November, she was ranked as the highest-paid model in the world, knocking supermodel Gisele Bundchen (@gisele) off the top spot for the first time since 2002. According to Forbes, Jenner’s earnings totalled US$22 million that year.

Siddiqah spoke about a funny encounter at a primary school classroom where she was assigned as part of a teacher training programme.

“The first thing that a student said to me when the classroom teacher introduced me to the class was, ‘You’re a model, right? I know you from Instagram.’ It was such a humbling experience. This was when I realised that the students look up to me positively. It is for this reason that I would like to use my modelling career as a stepping stone, where I would be able to reach out to these kids. This is the direction I’m taking … to inspire people,” she said.

Balqis, meanwhile, said that it’s comforting to know that people these days are accepting of people like me who are plus-sized. “Brunei is a small community, and word quickly spread that I had pursued modelling. People here don’t really say things like ‘Oh! Why is she a model?’ People have actually been quite accepting of me,” she said.

What do I need to know if I’m thinking about pursuing modelling?

#1. Be ready for rejection 

It’s not always gonna be a smooth ride – you’re not gonna be booked every single time. The important thing is to never give up. Even though, it may never seem like it, there’s always bound to be a person who will see potential in you, take you under their wing and give you opportunities to help you gain experiences and grow.

“I’m lucky to have a few people who saw potential in me and took me under their wing,” said Jessica. “That’s how I slowly grew in modelling.”

Be prepared to hear this often – “Sorry! You’re not the type of model we’re looking for.”

It’s normal to have rejections. So don’t be so hard on yourself. – Siddiqah

#2. Don’t take things so personal

Sometimes, if you go to a casting and you didn’t get the gig in the end, it’s not because of your appearance or anything like that. Sometimes, it could be just that you are probably not what they are looking for at the moment for their project (they might be looking for a specific look as well). – Jessica

#3. Have a good support system

It’s good to have people around you who will support you during the good times and bad, especially when you feel inadequate and feel like giving up sometimes. At times, you need a good pep talk to get you back on your feet. Being surrounded with good company will also help you boost your self confidence. – Jessica

#4. Getting scouted is not easy

It’s not going to be easy. There will always be people prettier than you. Just because you’ve done a lot of things before, it doesn’t guarantee you the spot. So it’s not going to be easy. Casting calls can be a nerve wreck-inducing affair and a stressful process for any model. At the end of the day, you just have to keep putting yourself out there.

#5. People are going to critique you once you put yourself out there so be ready mentally

Siddiqah told ‘Neue’ that when she first launched her website, someone sent her an e-mail saying, “So you think you’re a model? Keep on dreaming girl!” (Editor’s note: Whoever wrote that mean e-mail … Shame on you!)

“Getting these kinds of comments or people bashing about you either straight to your face or through your friends is normal. And all you have to do is just listen, accept then decide if its beneficial for you to grow as an individual or not,” Siddiqah said.

#6. Strong will and determination are needed to constantly be active in the profession

Don’t give up. Don’t disappear from social media. Keep on updating your Instagram and Facebook.

“They will be times when you will experience a lull in getting booked for modelling gigs,” said Siddiqah. “But the important thing is to stay relevant in the modelling field. For example, doing a photoshoot on your own time so as to build up your portfolio and making your social media accounts stand out to attract potential clients! You will never know who you can reach via Instagram these days!”

#7. Focus more on your personality because a model is nothing without a personality

“You can’t just be a pretty face if you have a bad personality,” Balqis said.

“At the end of the day, you are pretty but your attitude is bad, no one is going to want to work with you,” Siddiqah added. “It’s important to have a shining personality and to remain professional. Know your place as a model during a photoshoot because, people will always remember how you made them feel. How you performed will reflect in the final product – which is your photos.”

#8. Be open to constructive criticism

“Constructive criticism is good, as it makes you improve on yourself more,” said Siddiqah.

“We have this professional development for teachers in schools. One of the topics covered is about growth mindset, where we learn that whenever people start to shoot you down, you just need to take the positive side of things,” said Balqis.

After reading this story ...

Get in touch

Are you a social media influencer or entrepreneur interested in taking your profile to the next level? E-mail Lance.Thoo@Hoco.Agency to explore opportunities to collaborate with ‘Neue’

10 things you shouldn’t do during Ghost Month

The Hungry Ghost Festival is upon us. So be sure not to stay out too late.

This would be the advice given by Chinese parents to their children during this time of year.

For 2018, the Chinese believe that the Ghost Month will last from August 11 to September 9.

The Hungry Ghost Festival begins on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Lunar calendar. For 2018, the Hungry Ghost Festival will fall on August 25 (next Saturday).

‘Neue’ recently spoke to the Chinese community from across Brunei Darussalam to learn about the Dos & Dont’s during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The families interviewed by ‘Neue’ requested that their identities remain anonymous.

Top 10 Dos & Don’ts

#1. It’s a trap

(Photos: Shutterstock)

“We always tell our children if they see a red money packet (ang pow) on the street, they should not pick it up. It could be a dowry of a ‘bride’ from the underworld, waiting for anyone (alive or deceased) to marry her. It’s usually a trap!”

#2. Come home early

“My mother always tells me to come back home before dark and to never go out late or even in the middle of the night because you’re just asking for trouble. Furthermore, the main door cannot be opened after sun down.”

#3. Keep walking

“Never walk out alone. If you hear voices, just ignore and never turn your head around. It is believed that we have 3 lights around us, one on top of our head and one on each shoulder. Turning back would displace these lights.”

#4. Trim your nails

“Having long finger nails is a big no-no! Painting them black is even worse! This will attract evil spirits.”

#5. Those seats are reserved

“At night, we will have food and incense placed on tables outside our house. There will also be chairs on our garden. For anyone who doesn’t know by now, please do not sit on these chairs. They are reserved for the ‘invisible’ guests.”

#6. Avoid water

“It’s been said that people should go swimming, especially at the beach, during this time of the year. The belief is that spirits favour water due to its ‘yin’ environment. People say that some swimmers who have encountered ‘water spirits’ felt their legs being pulled.”

#7. It’s not for you, it’s for ‘them’

“Do not eat or step on the food offerings that are placed by the road side. They are meant for spirits, and eating or stepping on these offerings would ‘offend’ them.”

#8. Don’t whistle

“Do not whistle at night. This isn’t just during the Hungry Ghost Festival. This applies all year round!”

#9. Wear bright colors

“Do not wear dark clothing. It is believed that ‘spirits’ would be attracted to you. Also, no white shoes at night!”

#10. No peeking

“During the Hungry Ghost Festival, do not look out the window or peek behind the curtains to observe people making offerings to the spirits. It is believed that those who are down on their luck would be able to ‘see’ spirits. This is especially so for children.”

Do you know of any others?

Are there any other Do’s and Don’ts for the Hungry Ghost Festival that you’d like share? Do tell us in the comments section below or via Facebook or Instagram.

Do you enjoy ghost stories?

5 Must-See Photos that Prove Brunei is Land of Golden Sunsets

Did you know that some people consider Brunei Darussalam as the “Land of Golden Sunsets”?

This was what Saifulizam Zamhor, the founder of a Brunei-based photography service, Visual Pro (@_visualpro_), said when ‘Neue’ asked him to share some “Instagram-worthy” spots where people could catch a sunset in the Sultanate.

“The sunsets in Brunei are truly something you have to see to believe,” added Saifulizam, an experienced photographer from the now-defunct English-language daily, The Brunei Times.

He pointed out that the usual go-to locations for landscape photography are at iconic mosques such as the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque that can be both found in Bandar Seri Begawan.

What photos would you like to see featured in our next article?


Share your #BruneiSunset photos

Saifulizam has provided ‘Neue’ with the following photos of Brunei sunsets from his personal collection. Enjoy!

“People here in Brunei are lucky in the sense that most of the beaches are easily accessible. Towns here aren’t that far from the shore. The most ideal for people to get a clear sunset shot would be at the beach. However, be warned that you may have to deal with sandflies,” he said.

When asked to share some photography tips with ‘Neue’ readers, Saifulizam said, “Make use of the variety of different landscapes around you for your sunset photos. For example, having a sunset photo with a plane flying across the sky or using greenery (trees) as a foreground.”

“If all else fails, it does not hurt to take a friend who is familiar with photography for your next sunset-spotting adventure,” he added.

We invite ‘Neue’ readers to share their sunset photos by uploading their photos with the hashtag #BruneiSunset.

Be sure to tag @whasneue too if you would like to be featured in our next future write-ups. (Read our previous article, “Is this the best place to see a sunset in Brunei?”)

Get in touch with ‘Neue’

Are you a social media influencer or entrepreneur interested in taking your profile to the next level? E-mail Lance.Thoo@Hoco.Agency to explore opportunities to collaborate with ‘Neue’. Alternatively, you may reach out to us via our Instagram or Facebook social media accounts.

Giant Shark Loose In Brunei

Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad shark movies out there.

Do you believe that low-budget B-movies like ‘Sharknado’ (sharks + tornadoes) and ‘Sharktopus’ (half-shark, half octopus creature) are an insult to classics like Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster, ‘Jaws’?

Then perhaps you need to watch a BIG-BUDGET giant killer shark thriller, ‘The Meg’ (@megmovie), starring British action hero Jason Statham (@jasonstatham).

‘Neue’ spoke to a group of moviegoers who caught (no pun intended) ‘The Meg’ in Brunei earlier this week.

(All promotional photos for ‘The Meg’ courtesy of Warner Bros)

Love it!

Jason Statham and his partner, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, at the premiere of ‘The Meg’ in Los Angeles, California (Photo: Shutterstock)

This is what those who ENJOYED the movie had to say:

  • “I walked into the cinema with very low expectations. After all, it’s another shark movie. I was so wrong. Jason Statham really added value to this movie.”
  • “This movie is basically ‘Jaws’ on steroids.”
  • “I’m just thankful that this wasn’t a ‘Sharknado’ movie. If you’re a fan of Jason Statham, you need to watch this.”

Hate it!

‘Neue’ also spoke to a group of Bruneians who said they would AVOID this movie. This is what they had to say:

  • “Big shark … big deal. So what?”
  • “I’ve been disappointed by movies like ‘Sharknado’ . So I’m gonna give ‘The Meg’ a miss.”
  • “Jason Statham must be in real need of cash if he was willing to be in this movie.”

Will you be watching ‘The Meg’?

How badly do you want to see Jason Statham punch a giant killer shark?

What other shark movies are out there?

#1. Jaws (1975)

A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.

To this day, this iconic movie is still considered as Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece.

#2. The Shallows (2016)

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

#3. Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s disease, a group of scientists on an isolated research facility become the prey, as a trio of intelligent sharks fight back.

#4. Sand Sharks (2012)

A shark who swims in sand terrorizes a tropical paradise.

#5. Ghost Shark (2013)

When rednecks on a fishing trip kill a great white shark, its spirit comes back for revenge, and soon turns its sights on the town of Smallport.

#6. Sharknado (2013)

The first of many Sharknado movies. When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace.

#7. Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017)

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado; Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.

#8. Dark Tide (2012)

Halle Berry starred in this movie? A professional diver tutor returns to deep waters after 1 year, following an almost fatal encounter with a great white shark. The nightmare from the deep is still lurking – more carnivorous and hungry than ever.

#9. Jurassic Shark (2000)

The story of the shark, which has hunted for millions of years. Various scientists try to reconstruct prehistoric sharks and their world from fossil clues. Contemporary footage mixed with cg to create prehistoric sharks.

#10. 47 Meters Down (2017)

Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive. (Source: Internet Movie Database, IMDb)

Are you a shark movie fan?

How many of these shark movies have you watched? Which is your favourite? Which don’t you like? Drop us a comment below or reach out to ‘Neue’ via Facebook or Instagram.

Where can you catch ‘The Meg’ in Brunei?

Cinemas in Brunei where you can catch ‘The Meg’ (as of August 10, 2018):

1. Times Cineplex (@timescineplex)

2. Aman Hills Cineplex (@amanhillscineplex)

3. The Arena Cineplex (@thearenacineplex.brunei)

4. The Mall Cineplex (@themallcineplex)


Feeling Suicidal in Brunei?

“Oh no! Not another one!”

I overheard a group of people saying that at a cafe as they read about another suicide case in Brunei Darussalam.

‘Neue’ spoke to a cross section of the local community over the week to hear their thoughts about this social issue.

Among the responses that caught our attention were:

  • I spoke to my supervisor about it, but I was told to “just get over it.”
  • I need help. But I’m afraid of what people would think of me if I seek professional help.
  • I spoke to my parents about it, but they would lecture me and tell me to “just be happy”.

All the respondents requested ‘Neue’ to keep their identities secret for fear of being shunned by society.

Do you think human resource departments in Brunei are ill-equipped to deal with mental illness in the workplace?


What to do?

In an interview with ‘Neue’, a counsellor who deals with students across Brunei shared the 5 basic “first aid” when it comes to dealing with anyone who is contemplating suicide:

#1. Listen to them, not lecture them.

#2. Acknowledge their emotions and empathise with them and their struggles .

#3. Do not disregard their feelings.

#4. Allow/invite them to express their feelings. Refute the stigma that emotions are wrong. It is not wrong if channeled properly.

#5. Do not be judgmental, show warmth.

How are you?

Feeling suicidal is itself a painful experience, but it is not something you have to bear alone. Reaching out for help is an important step towards getting the help you need to keep yourself safe.

Brunei’s MoH (@mohbrunei) over the weekend released the infographic (above) titled ‘How are you?’ on social media to promote public awareness.

Suicide is a major public health issue with wide-ranging consequences encompassing social, emotional and economic outcomes, the MoH said in its social media post.

“The factors that lead an individual to suicide are usually multiple and complex. Mental disorders such as depression may contribute to suicide risk. Substance abuse is also another significant risk factor. Social difficulties such as debt, financial and relationship problems may also contribute. Effective suicide prevention requires participation from multiple government and non-government sectors, and from the community as a whole.

“There is evidence that public awareness and understanding about suicide plays a significant role, and may encourage those at risk of suicide to seek help. It is very important that you get help from someone. Speak to a friend or family member that you trust. Go to see a doctor or a psychologist. Professional help is easily available in Brunei.”

What are the warning signs?

The Samaritans of Singapore, a non-profit dedicated to providing confidential emotional support to individuals facing a crisis, thinking about suicide or affected by suicide, in its website listed out some of the warning signs of someone contemplating suicide:

When they start saying the following:
  • “My family will be better off without me”
  • “My life is meaningless anyway”
  • “If you don’t love me, I’ll kill myself”
When they start doing the following:
  • Giving away treasured possessions and saying goodbye
  • Researching suicide methods
  • Writing suicide notes (including emails/diaries/blogs)
Whey they start feeling the following:
  • Emotional outbursts
    (anger, sadness, irritability, recklessness)
  • Loss of interest
  • Humiliation or anxiety

Who to call?

Last Friday morning ‘Neue’ readers contacted us to ask if there was a 24-hour helpline for people who are contemplating suicide.

Sadly, there is currently no such public helpline available.

However, help would be available at the nearest Accident & Emergency Department, where medical staff would ascertain if a mental health specialist would be required.

The community received some welcome news over the weekend when Brunei’s Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that it was developing a national hotline for suicide prevention.

In the mean time, as the relevant authorities are working on this development, vulnerable individuals can still reach out to helpline 141 or call the Talian Darussalam hotline 123.

#StandOrange for a Cause

Hoco Agency team sporting the colour orange to show their support for orangutans

Hoco Agency’s (@hocoagency) rocking those orange colours to show support for a group of orangutan orphans in an awareness campaign (#StandOrange) they helped build for the upcoming docu-drama series, “Orangutan Jungle School” on the Love Nature 4k channel.

Yes, we’re talking about an actual school in the jungle, except this one’s for orangutans only. Orangutans who have lost their parents, relatives and friends to poachery and the pet trade. Orphans who now have to learn to survive before they can live free in the wild again.

That’s where #StandOrange comes in.

#StandOrange urges you to take a stand together, to show support and encouragement for a community that has suffered so much. To give these orangutans the spotlight they deserve on Love Nature 4k, by sporting an orange-coloured t-shirt as your ‘Outfit of the Day’ (#OOTD). Except, it could also mean ‘Orangutan of the Day’!

Would you like to #StandOrange and show your support too?

Well, you can do just that by simply digging up an orange shirt from the attic (like I did), wear it on August 4 (Saturday), snap a picture of yourself on Instagram, and hashtag #OOTD and #StandOrange. Oh, and be sure to tag @lovenature in your posts too!

Wear orange on August 4 (Saturday), snap a picture of yourself on Instagram, and hashtag #OOTD and #StandOrange. Don’t forget to tag @lovenature in your posts too!

Let’s work together in lending these unsung heroes of nature the voice and ears that they deserve.

By the way, if you can watch Love Nature 4k wherever you are and you’re reading this, you should definitely check out “Orangutan Jungle School” when it premieres on August 5.

I’m not kidding. Despite what these orangutans have gone through, they sure have got a lot of surprises left in them. I can’t remember how many times they made me laugh or cry, just by learning to move on in life without their parents.

Orangutan Jungle School

Love Nature 4K (@lovenature) will be launching a new docu-drama series about young, orphaned orangutans and their path towards rehabilitation so that they can one day live free in the wild again.

These beautiful, kind and gentle creatures will attend a special school called the “Orangutan Jungle School”, where graduation is a ticket into the deep, uncharted jungles of Borneo.

“Orangutan Jungle School” will follow the lives of this group of orphaned orangutans as they progress through a unique forest school system in Nyaru Menteng, Borneo, Indonesia.

Located in the region is the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), an NGO that manages the largest primate rescue and rehabilitation project in the world.

The show will introduce audiences to BOSF’s team as they rescue these great apes that have been displaced from their habitat due to forest destruction, separation from their mothers or being kept illegally as pets, and teach them the necessary skills to return to the wild.

The orangutans have a chance for a future of freedom, but they must complete various stages of their education – including five stages of forest school and pre-release islands – which will cover the essentials for survival.

The docu-drama series also offers a deep insight into each orangutan personality (and there sure a lot of bright ones), while highlighting the plight this endangered species faces, and the fragile ecosystem in which these great apes live.

You can make a difference

You can help secure the future of orangutans. Every penny you donate – whatever gift you decide – will make a huge difference to preserving the lives of Bornean orangutans. If you would like make a donation to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, click here.

5 Travel Scams To Look Out For In Vietnam

A good friend of mine recently took a much-needed vacation.

It was his first trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Unfortunately, his dream holiday took a rather unexpected turn when he became the target of scammers.

My friend, who requested not to be named in this article for fear of being ridiculed by his colleagues, said, “It was terrible! You should write a story warning people about the many scams out there!”

1. Taxi drivers who overcharge

“My impression of Ho Chi Minh is that it is full of tourist scams. For starters, a shady taxi driver charged me a ridiculous amount for a short trip from the airport. What was supposed to be a 50,000-dong trip (about 2.10 US dollars) became a 200,000 dong trip (about 8.60 US dollars), about four times higher than what was stated on the taxi meter,” he said.

How can you avoid this?

Be sure to decide on a price with your taxi or bike (‘Xe Om’ in Vietnames) driver. By deciding on a firm price before you ride, you can avoid the awkward encounter when it’s time to get off.

2. Money switching

(Photos: Shutterstock)

“Some taxi drivers will use sleight of hand to switch whatever money you give them for smaller denominations,” he said, adding that the most common version is switching a 500,000 dong note (about 21 US dollars) for a 20,000 dong note (83 US cents), which is easy to fall for since they’re both blue.

How can you avoid this?

Familiarise yourself with the many different currency notes of the country you are visiting. Also use small notes when paying your taxi driver, for example, use more 20,000 dong notes rather than 500,000 dong notes.

3. Expensive polishing

While at a touristy location in Vietnam, keep an eye out for shoe polishers. Tourists will be approached by shoe polishers. After negotiating a price, the shoe polisher will return asking for double the agreed amount. Most times, they will say that the agreed price was for ONE shoe. In the event that you do not fork over the money, you can be sure that the “muscles” from syndicates aren’t too far away.

How can you avoid this?

A firm but polite and friendly “No” (Khong in Vietnamese) is sufficient for most of them. If you are approached, don’t be afraid to refuse firmly before moving on. The trick is just not to give in.

4. Extra charge for your bags

A common scam that is often used by shady bus companies is to tell foreigners that they have to pay a FEE when their bags are getting loaded under the bus. Most foreigners will just pay the small fee to avoid all forms of confrontation. We would like to stress that there is NO SUCH THING as a “baggage fee” in Vietnam.

How can you avoid this?

Where possible, make all your bookings via your hotel or tour operator.

5. Disappearing act at massage parlours

This scam is normally targeted at foreign men “looking for a good time” while overseas.

In this scenario, a beautiful woman on the street will try to lure men to come inside a massage parlour. However, once they have paid, the “beautiful woman” is suddenly nowhere to be found and would be replaced with someone who looks nowhere close to what was promised.

You could be charged extra for absurd things while at the massage parlour such as a glass of water, towels and even music.  The worst case scenario is that gangster would step in if you refuse to pay.

How can you avoid this?

We highly recommend doing your own research online for reputable establishments.

Emergency numbers

Keep these numbers handy if you’re planning on visiting Vietnam – Police (113), Fire (114) or Ambulance (115).

We’d love to hear from you

Do you agree with this list? Do you know of any other travel scams that people should be wary about? Drop us a line in the comments section below or reach out to us via social media.

Have you ever been cheated out of your money by a scammer while on vacation?

Brunei’s Ultimate Nasi Katok?

*This story was written in collaboration with our local friend from Bruneian Eats.

Lots of variations of Nasi Katok available at SDK Restaurant in Rimba. (Fun fact: Did you know that you can also order instant noodles here?)

For just one dollar, can you get yourself a satisfying meal? In Brunei, yes you can!

What can you get for one dollar, you ask? How about a packet of ‘Nasi Katok’?

But where can you find Brunei’s ULTIMATE Nasi Katok? We believe that it could be SDK Restaurant in Rimba (@sdksignaturefoods on Instagram, see map below), which serves a wide range of unique variations of Nasi Katok.

We were informed that this is the Nasi Katok stall is a popular food joint for students of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB).

(Courtesy: Google Maps)

How to get there?

When you enter the Rimba area, look out for Jalan 99, where Sekolah Menengah Rimba II is located.

Upon entering the Jalan, keep following it until you see Simpang 148 and turn in.

Once in Simpang 148, you will come across house No. 22, which is what you’re looking for.

When you enter the house, you will see a giant banner with the different types of Nasi Katok on offer. Convinced by the banner, we ordered their popular Nasi Katok buttermilk, their original and the honey flavoured one. You can also choose your sambal sauce preference (we went with original).

Original Nasi Katok

Original Nasi Katok

The original Nasi Katok was much like most other Nasi Katok, with a piece of deep fried chicken, sambal sauce and rice. As with all the other Nasi Katok offered here at SDK, the chicken had a very slight crunch and a great savoury flavour. What made the Nasi Katok here different was that the sambal sauce was thicker and sweeter with a more prominent onion flavour to it. We felt that the sambal even had a mild char aroma to it. As we had chosen original flavour, the sambal was not spicy at all. When combined with the savoury chicken, the whole dish was a great balance of sweet and salty, which made us crave for rice.

Buttermilk Nasi Katok

Buttermilk Nasi Katok with a side order of ‘pusu’ (anchovies)

In addition to what the original Nasi Katok had, the buttermilk Nasi Katok also came with the addition of a runny, buttermilk sauce coating the chicken. Again, this buttermilk sauce had a combination of sweet and salty flavours. Additionally, it had a hint of butter and milk aroma, which added a creamy and richer taste. We also loved the hint of curry scent from the addition of curry leaves in the sauce.

Honey Nasi Katok

Honey Nasi Katok

Similarly, the Honey Nasi Katok was different from the original in that the chicken came covered in a thin, honey sauce. What we enjoyed the most about the honey sauce was that it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet, was light tasting and had a mild, sweet honey scent to it. Without a doubt, they had achieved a great balance of flavours once more.

Overall, we enjoyed each of these Nasi Katok so much that we had to get more for takeaway. We especially enjoyed the variety of flavours offered here and would surely experiment with different types of sambal next time. Furthermore, we were amazed at how everything here still cost the usual $1 for each Nasi Katok! (How is this even possible?! See also: Is it possible to survive with just $5 a day in Brunei?)

Do you agree with what you read here today? Is this really the place to find Brunei’s ULTIMATE Nasi Katok? Have you had any of the Nasi Katok here before? If so, do let us know what your favourite flavours are!

If you’d like to recommend other Nasi Katok stalls, drop us a comment below or reach our to us via Facebook or Instagram.

*You can follow ‘Bruneian Eats’ on Instagram by clicking here. To visit the ‘Bruneian Eats’ blog, click here. To read her previous write-up, click here.

The End of Football has Begun

For the next 4 years at least

(Source: Shutterstock)

It’s been over a week since the world witnessed France taking home the 2018 FIFA World Cup trophy.

As a 20-something female, I’ve never played football a day in my life, unless you count backyard fumbling with teenage guys who really had no choice but to take on the clumsy girl who didn’t know ‘own goals’ was a thing just to make even teams.

And yet, on the night of July 15, as French President Emmanuel Macron (see photo below) punched the air in clear victory, I yelled in triumph with my father and sisters when France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup, along with half of Brunei Darussalam, with the rest groaning in defeat after understandably rooting for the underdog Croatia.

(Source: Shutterstock)

If there’s one thing that unites Bruneians other than our love for food, it’s probably our love for sports and health-related events (I’m looking at you, loyal ‘Bandarku Ceria’ folks). Many of us grew up with dads and uncles who had healthy football team rivalries; the legendary “Manchester United or Liverpool?” question still makes us laugh fondly as we recount memories of our families being divided for one night thanks to a bunch of guys throwing around a ball for 90 minutes.

All eyes on World Cup

For nearly two months, the World Cup was really all that the world was talking about. Even people like me, who hasn’t watched an English Premiere league match in years, was swept up in the fever. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to participate in the bouts of discussion about players I’ve barely heard of, much less their talents on the field. And the memes. (Honourary shoutouts to Messi and Neymar.)

Bruneians may not be known for their sports prowess, but there’s a number of groups dedicated to the array of sports available, ranging from the nation-loved football to other popular sports like basketball and badminton. It’s also interesting to note that somehow humanity has made throwing a Frisbee around into a team sport, and there’s an interest in that over here as well.

World Cup’s over… Now what?

And with the end of the World Cup comes a lull that seeks to be filled; and home health establishments should be taking that opportunity to promote their services. Football may not be the sport for everyone, but the beauty in sports is in the eye of the beholder: there’s a lot of them out there, curtailed to any individual’s preferences.

Not a fan of throwing around a ball? Perhaps an MMA class might be your thing. Not sure if you want to spend money just to sweat? Perhaps hiking would be a better option for you.

My mom picked up badminton… Coincidence?

My mother doesn’t understand football, but recently she’s picked up badminton again after two decades of not stepping onto the court. It might not solely be the power of the World Cup, but there’s something to be said about the influence an international sports event has on a middle-aged lady who books a court for two hours a week to “sweat out her stress” when there was zero inclination on her part to do so for the last 20 years.

As for me, I probably won’t start playing football anytime soon, either. But I’ve been meaning to get a gym membership one of these days, maybe even join a dance class. Maybe the late nights of watching football taught me something about hand-eye-leg coordination?

We’d love to hear you from you!

Has the World Cup made you remotely think about getting healthy? Or are you still disappointed that you didn’t win a car, thanks to the likes of Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain being knocked out so early?

Top Bah Kut Teh picks in Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia

*This story was written by our local friend from Bruneian Eats.

Growing up in Brunei Darussalam, I’ve only ever known one type of ‘Bah Kut Teh’ (pork rib dish cooked in broth). However, after travelling to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia) and Singapore, I’ve been exposed to different variations of this beloved dish.

Where do I get my ‘Bah Kut Teh’ fix in Brunei?

One of my go-to places for ‘Bah Kut Teh’ in Brunei is Yit Sum, which is located at Bangunan Menglait 1, Kg Pengkalan Gadong (Photos: Bruneian Eats)
Yit Sum’s ‘Bah Kut Teh’

Knowing ‘Bah Kut Teh’ in Brunei as a dark coloured, herbal soup dish packed full of different cuts of pork, it has always been one of my familiar favourites. One of my go-to places for ‘Bah Kut Teh’ in Brunei is Yit Sum, located at Bangunan Menglait 1, Kg Pengkalan Gadong.

Always served bubbling hot in a claypot, it is guaranteed to warm me up on cold nights. Furthermore, the herbal flavours are often just strong enough to leave a hint of bitterness in your mouth.

When combined with the soy sauce added in the soup and sweet soy sauce served on the side, the flavours balance each other out nicely.

Perhaps the most pleasant was that the offal in the soup also had no foul smells and were cooked to tender. That being said, other more meaty cuts did tend to be a little on the tough side.

How about dry ‘Bah Kut Teh’ in Kota Kinabalu?

Banner displayed at Da De ‘Bah Kut Teh’ store in Kota Kinabalu
Da De’s ‘Bah Kut Teh’

At Da De ‘Bah Kut Teh’, located along Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu and close to the Gaya street markets, my idea of a soupy ‘Bah Kut Teh’ was laid to rest.

Though their neighbouring restraurant, Sin Kee was popular, a local driver told us Da Dee was equally great and less touristy. Furthermore, we managed to try their champion, award-winning dish of dry ‘Bah Kut Teh’.

This dry version consisted of various cuts of pork, mainly pork belly, mixed with cut okra and some dark sauce. The sauce coated everything evenly to produce a sticky, slightly bitter, sweet and salty film. Having been served in a sizzling claypot, it also had a charred aroma and pleasant burnt bitterness which added further depth of flavour to the dish. Furthermore, every bite of meat was tender with no offal smell.

Soupy ‘Bah Kut Teh’ in Singapore 

Storefront of the eatery at Outram Park in Singapore that serves ‘Bah Kut Teh’
Soupy ‘Bah Kut Teh’ served at Outram Park

Although my idea of a soupy ‘Bah Kut Teh’ was brought back to life in Singapore, the version they served at Outram Park, along Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Complex, was rather different. Other than being given a choice of preferred meat cuts (I got pork ribs and loin), the soup was lighter in colour and almost clear. In terms of the flavour, the soup had a lighter and smoother taste with a prominent white pepper flavour and very mild herbal undertones. Moreover, the meat on the pork ribs were fall-apart tender and juicy while the loin had a softer and more succulent texture. My preferred way of eating the meat was to dip it in some dark soy sauce they provide on the side to add an extra level of sweetness and saltiness.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed these three versions of ‘Bah Kut Teh’ and was beyond thrilled to have tasted such variations of one dish.

Have you tried out the ‘Bah Kut Teh’ at any of the places mentioned? Did I leave out some of your favourite ‘Bah Kut Teh’ spots? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to ‘Neue’ via their social media accounts such as Instagram and Facebook.

*You can follow ‘Bruneian Eats’ on Instagram by clicking here. To visit the ‘Bruneian Eats’ blog, click here. To read her previous write-up, click here.