Monday, April 25, 2005

Excerpts from a Brunei Diary

Day 1 :: We arrive in base camp to discover, much to our surprise, that there actually are SAF barracks more rundown than ours back in Singapore.

Even if we did have to go to another country to find them.

Our longhouses are right at the top of the hill - joy.
There aren't enough lockers, so we are forced to keep our kit under/next to the double bunks. This does nothing to ameliorate the cramped conditions. What lockers there are have all been vandalised with ominous messages promising eternal suffering, ripping of hair and much gnashing of teeth.

And that's just the ones in reference to the camp food.

Discover the toilets are infested with giant cicadas with suicidal tendencies - they fly around blindly, hitting the walls, ceiling and you. All but the bravest lose inclination for a shower.

Day 2 :: Compass course. First impression - Ohmygod this place is hot.

Day 3 :: First navex (navigation exercise). Realise that an alarming number of knolls are of the variety which need to be climbed on hands and feet and sometimes even with the help of a toggle rope, and descended on the seat of your pants.

Despair of ever making it through 17 more days of this.

Thank God we'll probably never have to go to war in Brunei.

It starts raining torrentially just before we harbour, resulting in a cold, miserable night.

Day 6 :: Swamp topo. An assault boat (glorified name for what is essentially a metal bath-tub) drops us off along a river bank - not a river bank as in, picnic-on-the-river-bank, rather, the mangrove variety.

We hop off the boat and promptly sink waist deep in mud. Morale sinks exponentially. Wish we had brought money with which to bribe the boatman to drop us off nearer the endpoint.

Extricate ourselves only to find the morass extends quite some distance inland. Wonder what happens if everyone gets stuck at the same time.

Eventually reach dry ground (dry is an extremely relative term). Stinking mud is replaced with impenetrable thorns. Everyone gets a good workout with the parang.

Kick myself for not having bought full-finger gloves. My fingers resemble shredded meat more and more as the day goes on.

What appeared as a stream on the map has been swollen by rain into a fast-flowing river. With much trepidation we load the live rounds issued - purportedly to protect against crocs, but which are seeming more and more like a quick end to the misery - and combat-swim across the river. Someone is almost swept away.

Later we find ourselves waist-deep in a very large, stagnant pool of water. With water running low, the endpoint still an eternity away and no streams on the map, I attempt to strain the particle-filled brown water into my bottle with a wet tissue. The water can't get through, so i just fill the bottle and pop in a puritab. Drink some, constantly repeating "what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger". Try my best to ignore my traitorous brain placing emphasis on the first half of the phrase.

As the dusk cut-off timing for pickup draws closer we strike back out towards the river bank as we reach the endpoint. At one point we are neck-deep in water, with a soft mud bottom. Try to avoid thinking about sinking into the mud.

Eventually reach what we think is the endpoint - we can't get a GPS confirmation - with exhausted relief. Radio in for pickup. Blow our whistles wildly as we hear the boat approaching, approaching, approaching...Then it passes us and the sound of the motor fades in the distance. We've overshot the endpoint. Our point man suddenly takes an intense interest in the ground at his feet.

Part 2 coming soo...when i can get off my ass to write it.


MaKan GuRu said...

Brunei sucks! i am so happy i was a lowly corporal and a VM so I never had to go there. I heard Ex. Wallaroo is a freaking blast though.

Lionel said...

i was a corporal. i went to brunei. ok la, quite fun. probably because i was from mortar, and theoretically you can't fire a mortar in the dense jungles of brunei, so we were made to be mock enemies for the exercise. heh.

lun said...

lance: was that JCC?

Agagooga said...

I was a corporal and I went to Brunei.

I spent most of the time in camp though :0 C9L2 loh!

Lance said...

lun >> no i'm just a buck corporal. mainly navex/missions. no survival package like in jcc.

agagooga >> how did u keep yourself entertained? the canteen is total crap and there certainly wasn't any swimming pool there or whatever, hah.

The Malester said...

Will never forget what one of the "art works" in the bunks proudly proclaim... "I know I am going to heaven cos I have been to hell and back"

Agagooga said...

Well, I was banned from the canteen do. Damn 42SAR...

I ran out of reading material. Boo hoo.

Sleep, stone, slack lor.

kureshii said...

whoa, a tiger for this guy, for finally managing to find words for the brunei experience.

it depends on when you go, too. go during hte hot season, and the weather gets memorable. go during the rainy season, and the weather becomes even more memorable.

imagine waking up at 5.30am, and looking out at the forest on the bus on the way to the start point you see a thick layer of mist with emergent canopies poking out occasionally.

at night you have to bring your clothes in, otherwise the mist will soak them throughout the night.

mt biang has to be climbed to be experienced. my instructors jokingly refer to it as "4WD terrain", with good reason, though i doubt an actual 4WD would be able to climb that.

if you're lucky, the boat drops you off at high tide, otherwise you have to climb a muddy and slippery bank seemingly held together only by mangrove roots.

the ground is considered dry as long as the soilmud doesn't stick to your boots and make it seem double its actual size.

don't bother with full-finger gloves, they diminish yur grip. just be really fucking careful where you grab, and don't clamour wildly for the nearest vine when you slip and slide down a steep slope. i didn't need toggle rope at any point in time, but that's because there were so many natural raopes around and on the ground.

getting dirty is the least of your concerns - after the first hour you get so dirty you really don't give a flying fuck anyway. most people are more worried about staying dry. a small minority are concerned with staying alive (usually the signaller(s) in the group)

azzurri81 said...

Actually, I don't believe Brunei was that bad, shagged-wise. As long as you don't go to Holland too much, it's pretty ok. I thought Taiwan was tougher because it was more vertical. Brunei was just dirty and morale drops really low because the only thing to look forward to is getting out. Toilets were ok and at least you can get water from a tap and not run to designated water-fillup points like in Taiwan or worse, wait for water to come like Thailand. I remember my Brunei trip had some ominous beginnings when our SQ flight there had problems in the plane before take-off when the electricity kept getting cut off suddenly. Haha, precursor of things to come...

Lance said...

kureshii >> as a lsv driver i'm thinking that brunei is beyond 4WD terrain. either the terrain is too close or its just plain too steep and muddy.

well the swamp was really, really muddy i assure you. definitely muddy enough to sink in...and we seem to have climbed different knolls, too. ;-)

i don't see how you can stay dry in brunei - even if you go during the dry season there are still lots of small streams around.

Agagooga said...


Lance said...

4 wheel drive

Isaac said...

i was a goddamned signaller. brunei no fun. no no. if its not your clothes getting hooked on thorns, its the frikkin antenna bringing down ants on you. and its not he lightest thing in the world either, the signal set. oh well, ORD lo.

Lance said...

ah yes isaac...i've heard a lot about your adventures in brunei... ;-)

BeginToEnd said...

People, my reservist unit has intentions of not having Brunei in our oversea training! So we did think that SAF finally had some brains or welfare for her soldiers.

Why I hate Brunei!!

1) Insects. There's a never ending swarm of such creatures either crawling or flying around. Cicadas doing their Kamikaze isn't at all respected!

2) Rain. My experience was that it rains everyday, in the afternoon around 3-5pm. Never fails for my trip than. And still damn bloody hot!

3) Food. You'll crave for SFI ration when you are there.

4) R&R. There is nothing of that sort! That's if you like nature walks!

5) Accomodation. One of the worst. Its a POW enviroment for me.

6) Time. The time passes extremely slow if you happen to do nothing. And to be interested in Encik's Brunei stories?

7) Drinking water. During exercise, you drink from the river with a wonder tablet. You'll have to forget who pee'ed in it.

8) Last light. It always comes so early!

9) Hantu. You think abt the pontianaks or spirits during topo when we are left to fend for ourselves.

10) Give me Mandai or LCK anytime!


kureshii said...

brunei is shitty. yeah, taiwan sucks because of the water shortage in heng chun camp, but otherwise the weather is so good you can feel your combat fitness increase considerably. brunei is just bloody wet, bloody muddy and bloody demoralising.

strangely though, i found vegetation to be more of a hampering factor in taiwan than in brunei. in brunei most of the vegetation is primary forest, with minimal undergrowth. where there is undergrowth, it tends to suck big-time.

and i'm not talking about 4WD vehicles. maybe i should've called it 4LD (4-limbed drive). actually quite accurate; if you watch an SAF soldier climb mt biang or any other steep slope, you'll see what my instructors meant. "engaging 4WD gear indeed" - amazing, the kind of analogies they come up with.

Agagooga said...

I don't know how the permstaff can stand the food there. Both the canteen and cookhouse suck.

Lance said...

well the jerks running the canteen can, apparently, whip up some zhi-char type dishes which look halfway palatable. only for permstaff of course.

Beach-yi said...


Perm Staff can tahan there cos can order food from the coffeeshops near the jetty. :) Plus the fact that most of us there are well acqainted with Mr Indo Mee in a mess tin.

kureshii said...

i found lancer food quite okay what. the canteen is overpriced, but at least tastes decent. and their ice-cream ice kacang is to die for.

i like starlight and lancer cookhouse food. has this homecooked feel. i eat at home quite alot, so that helps. their fish dishes are pretty palatable. the rice has this glutinuous property that may put off some people, but me and my cadet friends loved it. maybe because our training cohort is smaller - 02 X Coy (-), as compared to battalion overseas training exercises/ATEC.

SwiftDog said...

I love brunei, but well that's cus i'm pong.

Jack Chen said...

This discussion of Lancer brings me back some memories.

The canteen is vastly overpriced, further compounded with the fact that our currency is actually on par with theirs. Makes you wonder what kind of expenditure an average Bruneian has.

You get really well acquainted with the many insects. From those that can kill you to those that simply bump into you like you were a wall or something. Cicadas will always remind me of Brunei.

I had a platoon mate who is an Ah Beng who tape some comskote to a cicada and 'walk' the cicada around the bunk.

There was also this guy who found a scorpion among the concertina. Burned soem comskote on the sting of the tail and then we put it in a box as our nature exhibit. It was actually more like a box where we hold impromtu matches of insect fights. The Scorpion sucked big time, probably hunger contributed.

From those cooks at the cookhouse during that time, The big boss of the camp like to eat chicken and so EVERY SINGLE MEAL ate at the cookhouse involved chicken and if I recalled, nothing else at all.

Lancer was a place that probably warrants a visit but you move on after some time.

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