Brunei Darussalam


© Jan Shim Photography

Coming from a sleepy town of Seria where traffic patterns are as predictable as the time shops close for the day, traffic patterns in the big city have somewhat become just as predictable but oftentimes the morning rush hour catch me off guard even though I had intentionally left home 30 minutes earlier. Pictured above is one of a number of bottlenecks along the Tungku-Link road, the road that leads all other road that may also be congested.

I made more trips to Bandar Seri Begawan in the last four years as a photographer than I ever did when I was an IT professional. I’ve been commuting between Belait district and Brunei-Muara District for 17 years and you would think by now I must have gotten used to it. Well, I would be lying if I said it gets easier with time. This is one exception to that rule I subscribe which is also often suggested.

I personally know folks who have for been commuting a lot longer than I — try 25 years of the daily grind. I’ve also been in several accidents and countless near misses and took its toll last year when I closed my eyes for a few seconds too long. This happened not once but twice and I wasn’t about to invite a third. Both times I think I was coming home from a Chinese wedding having left home for 20 hours since 5am when the vehicle swerved onto the grass shoulder which thankfully there were no trees.

By December 2006 in a move that surprised my of my clients, I informed my contacts that I could no longer shoot their events and was planning to do more work closer to home. By and large, I had effectively passed up on corporate events and weddings as these were the big ticket events that placed these stress on me, previously untold. Slowing down and reducing my commutes meant that my blogs were given a chance to pick up speed and my kids and significant other could once again find their dad at home when they’re back from school and also from tuition. Of course, not accepting wedding shoots also meant that I was also there for them during the weekends.

How do the many others who persevere every single day of their life maintain their sanity despite the monotony?


  1. Collecting road tolls isn’t a solution that may be effectively applied to this situation. People are going to work in the morning rush hour and having to pay to enter what may be the only most convenient road to their office only aggravates the road user and the congestion issue remains at large.

    Reportedly, more cars have been sold lately and if this momentum of conspicous consumption keeps up, we will quickly run out of roads to accommodate our need to commute.


  2. not a fan of commuting although its part of the job, helps to have munchies in the car 🙂 and i go through this jam everyday too.. *sigh* i need to migrate LOL..


  3. i sympathize motorists stuck in traffic as i, myself really despise being stuck in one!! especially in the mornings. i am rather fortunate that i don’t start work til 8:30am and i get to miss the early morning traffic on the tungku link road.

    oh how i miss the early morning tussles in the london tube, the singaporian mrt.. you are able to get from A to B without the use of a motor vehicle.

    brunei doesn’t need ERP; what brunei needs is to plan and execute an efficient public transport system that can expand in line with the future growth and development of the nation. this may take a long longly time to materialise.


  4. Well, most major U.S. cities have both private and public roads, but the traffic isn’t much better because the private roads (ERP/Tollways) are costly if you use it everyday and most people don’t want pay. However, the cities love to build them instead of providing better mass transit because private roads pay large amount of tax to the city for allowing them to collect and build private roads.

    Anyways, here is a picture of what traffic is like for my daily commute in the U.S.

    But what I saw in Shanghai was even more shocking.

    So be thankful Brunei only has total population of 380,000

    P.S. ERP also stands for Enterprise Resources Planning systems …hee!!


  5. @ Yaz,
    You are so right! I wish I didn’t have to own a car but unfortunately it has become a necessity. We all go through phases in life where the very first car you own is a pride and joy and eventually it becomes a liability. I tell myself and even try to psych myself into believe that as long as I need to get to my place of work and that an alternative means of transportation isn’t available, the car remains an “asset”. So an asset it is and I’ll glad accept that since there’s no monthly installments. Still, vehicle ownership costs money and whatever else that’s attached to owning one such as yearly insurance, periodic maintenance, risks of accidents and stress from long commutes yet out of necessity, we MUST OWN one!

    There was that time when owning a car was considered therapeutic and i had four years of daily therapy in my Subaru Impreza WRX Sports Wagon. Anyone who’s ever been in one knows what I mean but fun aside, owning a sports car costs even more money and completely unnecessary. I could afford it at the time yet after four exciting years, fun lost its appeal and reality kicked in and found new interests and moved on.


  6. @ Jenny,

    It’s good to hear from someone in the States. I’ve only been there once and that was during my honeymoon 11 years ago–travelled from Hawaii to LA to Las Vagas and hopping from one hotel to another in a coach full of other honeymooners from Singapore.

    Since then I’ve travelled extensively for work and leisure having visited (besides USA) Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China more than once and realised the problems with commuting and traffic jams are a universal problem. Traffic jams are perhaps the only universal truths that pervades through all cultures, race, religion and car ownership. 🙂

    The picture of your daily commute instantly brought me back to the best American movie ever OFFICE SPACE (stars Ron Livingston & Jennifer Aniston)! The only other thing better than watching it countless times is actually owning a copy of the original DVD courtesy of a good friend in the States. And the only thing bad about owning the DVD is losing it (AARRGH!)


  7. Hi Jan,

    I’m very surprised to hear that you have actually seen OFFICE SPACE. Some of the scenes in the movie was actually shot in the city I currently reside in with my hubby and my cat…lol!! Let me know if you want get another copy of the DVD. I’ll be happy to get it for you.

    Wow!!! It’s funny you mention Hawaii. I jsut bought tickets to visit Hawaii again this Dec. It’ll be the second time I visit Hawaii since I had the flu the 1st time I visited back in 1999.

    And all those countries you have been, I plan to visit in the next couple years. I wasn’t really into traveling much until I went on a 10-day road trip to LA, Catlina Island, San Francisco, and Napa Valley in 2005. Since then, I make an attempt to go visit one country every year and so far my husband and I have visited Greece and China.


  8. Hi Jenny,

    Yeah I get that all the time, especially from an American. Office Space is the the thing to break the ice or tension. Nothing else gets you “BRO” status as quickly as this! I look forward to a follow up version some day. My all time favourite, WALL STREET (Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen)

    The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that GREED—for lack of a better work—is good

    Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spiprit.

    Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind.

    and the best accidental discovery was easlier this week when I was flipping through FORTUNE magazine (October edition, I think) and there was a full page insert of Michael Douglas/Gordon Gekko and a promise of Wall Street 2 called MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. Whoa!

    I’d love to visit the USA again some day (with my camera, of course). I’ve found the many things that I’ve taken for granted, places I’ve visited at least once, photography breaks the monotony given the opportunity to look at it differently through the lens. Hawaii was the first point of entry into the States for me and was such a culture shock to see so many tanned Asians whom I understand were mostly Japanese (historical reasons dating back to the war). Another shock was discovering just how cheap Calvin Klein clothings were when compared to the inflated prices back then when CK has just hit stores in Asia!

    Check out my travel gallery in case you hadn’t noticed the TRAVEL tab up top.


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