From the outside looking in

30 01 2010

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (BSB) Master Plan is being drawn up by an expert team of foreign consultants. Okay. So what else is new?

I went to Sibu last weekend and the Sarawak Port Town is thriving and much cleaner than a couple of years ago when I last stopped over there. I remember the last time I visited it, Sibu (a much smaller town than BSB in status but much bigger in population) proudly hosted an International Miss Tourism World Pageant! Fancy that… 😉

Brunei Darussalam has successfully hosted this year’s regional travel industry players’ get-together, the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) this month. And the ancient yet modern Kampong Ayer as well as the country’s proud heritage of its Eco-Tourism spots took center stage in the eyes of foreign delegates.

I’ll be driving to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah’s capital city, probably tomorrow en route to Penang on Monday since I prefer the direct flight from KK International Airport rather than having to transit in Kuala Lumpur. It’d also give me the opportunity to visit Sabahan friends and relatives as the popular expression in Malay goes: “Sambil menyelam, sambil minum air” (Whilst diving, taking in the water, too). 🙂

Also, visiting KK can be an eye-opener for most Bruneians on how bustling the tourism industry seems to be taking off in Sabah these days. Not to mention the much-improved Master Plan of the city area. I doubt “Mat Salleh” master-planners deserved to be given due credits for the vastly-improved planning of the whole works which have rapidly taken place in KK in recent years… enough said.

Oh I get it… the idea of appointing an expert team of western consultants is for BSB to be on par with developed cities i.e. not to be compared with neighbouring ‘backward and typical Asian’ cities or ‘cowboy’ towns next door — fair enough. At the end of the day, simple but well-planned old-fashioned townships like Sibu, KK or even Miri for that matter rake in millions of tourism dollars. BSB is still a long, long way to getting there — in the Ivy League of such (minnows) tourist havens — and it’s a fact! Show me the billion-dollar mark for Brunei tourism and only then will I factually believe that foreign tourists in droves have arrived in the Abode of Peace… 😛

I still think that the larger masses of the Bruneian public need to be seriously engaged by the relevant authorities and city planners as important stakeholders in any final decision-making process. By larger masses, I mean not only limiting to 100 or a couple of hundred people! 😦

Back to the issue of BSB Master Plan, I gathered that several lucky authoritative senior government officials have been ‘sponsored’ by the winning ‘tenderers’ to go on junket trips for sightseeing/study tours of a few of the world’s most successful and beautifully-designed city landscapes. Well and good because that’s the best way to learn from world-class cities with great reputation and polished refinement to copycat 101.

Like the famous English saying goes: “The proof is in the pudding“. The rest of the success story (?) remains to be seen…

P.S. As it stands now, BSB is already one of the most livable capitals of the world — certainly not the top 10 but definitely hovering in the top 100, perhaps. So it’s just a matter of common sense to ‘Master Plan’ it the “Melayu Islam Beraja” (MIB) way taking into account our unique culture and naturally-green environment plus surplus budget to work with? Simply try to make day-to-day living as convenient as possible for the people and a cheaper cost of living, too.





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