For citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam, particularly native Lumapas residents such as myself, the recently completed Sungai Kebun Bridge is of great significance. It’s a major development for the country, being the first of its kind to ever be constructed. It also symbolizes a major milestone which will be celebrated by the nation, namely His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei’s 50 Years Accession to the Throne (Golden Jubilee) which will be celebrated in a few days’ time and going on for a week, starting 5th October 2017.
The bridge stretches for about 750m and connects the greater Bandar Seri Begawan (capital) area to Sg. Kebun and thereafter Lumapas, which are separated by Kampung Ayer (Water Village). Previously, residents in the surrounding Sg. Kebun and Lumapas areas would have to travel a considerable distance, taking up anywhere between 30-45 minutes just to get to major Brunei-Muara district hotspots such as Gadong, Kiulap or BSB. Because Sg. Kebun is also located on the banks of the Brunei River, many used to take the boat to get to Bandar. I have lots of memories crossing the village on boat just to get to the Yayasan Mall or even news duty on some Sunday morning where the Bandar roads would otherwise be closed off to the general public due to Bandarku Ceria (Lively City program).
For me the bridge installation means being able to get to RTB in less than 15 minutes by car, where previously I would reach my news job in 20-30 minutes. To reach my day job at the bruneihalalfoods headquarters in Mata-Mata, I’ll still probably use the established route from Lumapas through Bengkurong and Bunut as Mata-Mata is in-between. When I tested using the bridge to work this morning, it took me about 20 minutes, pretty much the same as when I take my usual travel path. This has yet to be determined though after checking out the eventual traffic flow on both sides once things have settled.
My family and relatives can’t stop gaga-ing over the whole ordeal. I was driving home on the landmark while my parents and cousins were going on about their experience on the bridge in the group Whatsapp chat last night. It’s already spurring a lot of excitement and curiosity, bringing people’s attention to the bridge itself and the residential areas around it. I used to get comments about how far Lumapas is and sometimes assumptions about it being very cut-off from the rest of the country in terms of activity, infrastructure and facilities. Little do people know, there is life in Lumapas and Sg. Kebun such as major schools (Awang Semaun and Saiyyida Umar Al-Khatab Secondary Schools for example), Court Furniture, Soon Lee, Shell petrol station, restaurants and lots of mini marts. Mind you, Lumapas houses a number of sub-divisions and a total estimated population of 20,000 residents. When the original Lumapas residents talk about the area, we get specific about the part being referenced – whether it’s Tarap Bau, Lumapas ‘A’, Lumapas ‘B’, Kasat, etc – indicating how vast the mukim (sub-district) is.
According to recent news releases, the Sungai Kebun Bridge will be open to the public until the October 12 where renovation work on the road network system around Bandar Seri Begawan will be carried out thereafter.
I’m not complaining. We’ve been waiting years for this.