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All the about Pkchukiss's life in the Singapore Armed Forces

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Temburong, Negara Brunei Darussalam

It has been a long time since I updated this blog. To some who fear the worst, let me assure you, no, the headache did not kill me. I was away in Brunei Darussalam for overseas training, and I touched down back in Singapore only just this morning. It was quite an adventure that I went through, I must add.

We were shipped to Temburong via a fast craft (the only legal way to reach that isolated part of Brunei without entering Malaysia, and exiting it again into Brunei, and directly into the murderous heat of the Borneo jungle terrain.

The main city is Bangar, which is a small town in itself. I had quite a rude shock when I noticed the absence of traffic lights in the whole area. We travelled down to Kampong Lakiun, where the training camp is located, and were initiated unceremoniously to the relics of Singapore army's past.

Longhouses greet one's eyes, with sponge foam double deckered beds lining both sides of the walls from one end of the building to the other. A narrow corridor serves the whole house, with ineffective fans always fighting a losing battle against the 36 degrees heat outside. From then on, the only relief from the heat would come around mid-afternoon, where the North East monsoon would bring with it temperature lows of 25 degrees, which soon proved to be a problem at night, especially when I had to stay out in the jungle at night.

Probably in keeping with the tradition of torturing trainees, we could only steal precious few hours of sleep each night that we were in camp, for the preparations and inspections for the next day's training took up much of the early night. I looked wistfully as the other platoons slept while we scouts busied till 1 am, waking up at 4 am to start the day.

Probably the most enjoyable moments I had for the whole trip were those of the 4 day 3 night navigation exercise in the Bruneian jungle. By day, we climbed up and down multiple steep slopes, some of which were so tough to conquer that we had to stop every 200 m to rest our breaths. By night, we cosied inside the hammocks, and slept the night away (which was from 6 pm to 6 am; we were not allowed to travel after sunset for safety reasons), and woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the next checkpoint.

Most unforgettable was the night we spent inside the swamps. After travelling through virgin vegetation (we had to hack our way through thorned plants, and battle persistent insects while struggling to keep our footings), we were forced to harbour inside the brackish water for the night. Certain parts of the swamp were quicksand, and threatened to swallow us at the first opportunity. When we finally reached the end point the next morning, I had a sense of achievement that I could never have gotten back here in Singapore. The feeling of helplessness, continuously proving that humans are but an insignificant part of the jungle, is truly a humbling experience. After spending one whole night cursing in the dark, we were in awe at what we can achieve if we set our minds to it.

Sad to say, I did not get to climb Mount Biang as per the schedule due to some serious case (sorry I can't say much, I am being gagged here). Instead, I spent the rest of my stay in Brunei doing surveillance. What a boring way to pass time!

This trip has made me appreciate my country more. The connectivity that we have, the easy access to entertainment and services cannot be found in Temburong without a vehicle. When my plane hit Singapore's coastline, I was full of pride as I snapped pictures of the coastline (perhaps I can share it after I develop the film). Have you ever gotten the same feeling whenever you get back to your own country after a trip overseas?

Ok, that's all I can write in my jet lagged state (don't tell me that there is no time zone difference - the sunset and sunrise timings are sufficient clues to the physical time zone difference!)

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