Gerai Perayaan ends tonight
The stalls for the birthday celebration in Bandar will come to a close tonight and not last night contrary to what many believe. As the national flag was lowered down in a ceremony yesterday morning, marking the end of the birthday celebrations for this year, the general public thronged to the Gerai Perayaan last night to enjoy what they thought would be the last night. I think the ceremony must be the confusing factor.
Rows of vehicles lined all roads leading to the stalls, which like in previous years, are located at the parking space in front of the Royal Regalia Building in the capital. I think last night must be the busiest night for the business operators at the stalls as there were so many people around. The stalls have been in operational nightly for the past two weeks. Some business operators started their business hours as early as five or six in the evening until mid-night.
One business operator selling fresh and chilled fruit juices and other beverages that I spoke to said that there were not that many customers on the previous nights but last night he lost count after his 50th customer, and that was only an hour or so after he opened up. A cup of the drink he sold costs Br$1 and an average of three cups were bought per customer; you do the maths on how much he earned last night. It was also a warm night last night so a refreshing drink surely quench one’s thirst.
Apart from beverages, items being sold include the famous sotong tutuk or hammered smoked calamari (always popular during local celebrations) and local delicacies to clotheswear (pirated sportswear aplenty) and even CDs and DVDs (have to check for originals). I think these are what one would normally see in local celebrations. For some it would be a waste of time to go round and round the stalls selling similar items year after year though I would say that this time, the items are getting better. For some, like me, its just the mood, the atmosphere or the air and spirit to be part of the happening though I would not go there every night. Hotels nearby are also benefitting everytime there’s the Gerai Malam as they charged $3 per entry for those who would like to use their parking lots. Business-minded indeed.
A local band who was not performing but more to promoting their CDs was also there last night. Usually there would be stage performances like in the past years but there was none this year due to the H1N1 situation in Brunei. Restaurant operators at the stalls also reported brisk business last night. I was there with my big family and ordering a simple teh tarik and fried noodle took forever but it was fun waiting as the place was really abuzz with people.
The Gerai Perayaan was previously cancelled. From what I was told by one business operator at the stall, their rental fees was refunded by the organiser as the celebrations were put on hold and they were not sure when the celebrations would start. That was quite a blow for them as such festivals is one of the ways for the SMEs to earn profit. But in the last minute, it was announced that the stalls would go on but there wont be any stage performances. So, yes am grateful for this decision too as I could understand the SMEs predicament.
The birthday celebration of His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei is an annual festivity that Bruneians and tourists alike always look forward to. Its like a tradition. This year, due to the H1N1 situation, His Majesty himself has announced that all events held in conjunction with his birthday are to be postponed to a later date. Not sure when this would be as (1) the H1N1 situation still lurks (the authority said that its still mild in Brunei) and (2) the holy month is approaching with the start of Ramadhan might either be on the 21st or 22nd of this month, thats about three weeks away.
So you still have tonight…I will update this post with pics.