Tamu Kianggeh an indelible part of Bruneian identity

National 2 minutes, 37 seconds


TAMU Kianggeh at the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, may be a hive of activity on Friday and Sunday mornings, but underneath the colourful umbrellas and tents, it struggles to stay relevant and compete with the modern supermarkets.

This reporter took a stroll along the market and chatted with some of the vendors there. There are some hundreds of vendors in the market both young and old.

Jamilah Hj Omar said the number of visitors to the market had decreased over the years.

Business is slow during weekdays, but picks up towards weekends, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, she said.

“The others, who have been here for more than 10 years say they used to be able to sell their products/goods quickly. Now, there are more vendors selling similar products to fewer visitors,” says Jamilah who runs a booth that has belonged to her parents for three years now.

“I took over from my parents because my mother is taking care of my father who is sick. I am here from around 6-7am to about 4pm, after which will go and pick up my children from school,” she said.

Jamilah sells bananas, budu (fermented seafood and vegetables), varieties of local rice as well as various products used in cooking such as coconut oil, turmeric as well as vegetables.

In the face of modernisation, Tamu Kianggeh struggles to continue to be the go to place for people looking for items that are truly Bruneian, made by the locals and locally sourced. Visitors can also purchase goods that come from Kota Kinabalu and Sipitang, in Sabah, Malaysia.

The Tamu Kianggeh is one of the best places for visitors to sample Bruneian cuisine. Visitors will also have the choices of various local traditional and handmade handicrafts such as parang (machete) or tudung dulang (decorative food cover) or even kapok bantal (pillow stuffing).

Some items such as belutak (traditional sausage) and kupang (a type of shellfish) used to be only available at the tamu. However, supermarkets now do offer these items on their shelves for their customers.

“The only difference is perhaps buyers can get it a little cheaper here,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Jamilah has high hopes that Tamu Kianggeh will continue to be part of Brunei’s identity that will transcend the the passage of time.

Tamu Kianggeh has always been part of Brunei’s history. Due to this, Jamilah said it was important to preserve the market.

“Our visitors are not only locals but also foreigners and tourists. They come here because they know they can get interesting things here, that is why the tamu needs to be here and improved,” she said.

Another vendor, 56-year-old Nadsiah Batang hasbeen selling produce at the tamu since the 1980s.

“I remember that when I first started selling here, my eldest son was just four years old,” said the mother of four. Now Nadsiah runs her booth with her husband and youngest son.

She shared Jamilah’s sentiment that the tamu need to continue. It is my source of livelihood, and it is also a part of the Bruneian identity, she said.

The Brunei Times