Brunei ushered in a new era of development tonight as the $139 million Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge was opened in a historic event in Bandar Seri Begawan.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam officiated the opening of the 750-metre bridge, which links Mukim Lumapas with the capital.
The landmark is the world’s second longest single-pylon cable-stayed bridge, built in a joint venture between local firm Swee Sdn Bhd and South Korea’s Daelim Industrial.
A laser show and fireworks display lit up the night sky as His Majesty announced the official name of the new landmark — the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge — named after his wife, the Raja Isteri of Brunei, who was also present at the unveiling.
The bridge, which dominates the skyline over Brunei’s historic water village, features two dual carriageways and two interchanges, as well as a 157-metre tower topped with a 8.7-metre diametre dome.
The flyover is expected to ease traffic congestion for commuters between Lumapas and Bandar Seri Begawan. More than 18,000 motorists commute daily from Mukim Lumapas and surrounding areas using the existing Jalan Bengkurong Masin and Jalan Tutong roads.
Heavy congestion brought traffic to a standstill in the late afternoon as tens of thousands of people made their way to downtown Bandar to witness the highly-anticipated event, held in conjunction with celebrations for His Majesty’s Golden Jubilee.
Thousands also tuned in at home, as the spectacle was broadcast live on Radio Televisyen Brunei’s channels and Facebook feed.
The celebration was a family affair for many Bruneians.
Jerudong resident, Maryani Hj Kachi, said her aunt came to Bandar as early as 3pm to reserve a spot. She prepared snack and drinks for the family, and laid down a plastic sheet under a tent to seek cover from the rain.
“The turnout tonight was amazing. You can see a lot of people coming down to the capital to be part of the celebration,” she added.
A spectacular fireworks show, akin to the fireworks seen over the Sydney Opera House every new year, illuminated the pitch-black sky, as boats bobbed on the Brunei River below.
The 20-minute display was separated into two parts — the first sponsored by the Tiong Hwa community and the second by Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK).
Three pyrotechnic companies from Australia and China were brought in to stage the fireworks display — planning had started as early as July.
“This is once in a lifetime opportunity to document the event and activities surrounding the Golden Jubilee,” said Ariez Zulhairi Hj Ahmad, a digital media student at Politeknik Brunei. “Our work tonight will be presented to our lecturer next week as part of our assignments”.
Another highlight of the evening was the colourful procession of boats and floats that sailed from Kampung Tamoi Ujong, passing the Royal Wharf and Jalan Residency promenade, eventually gliding underneath the new bridge.
Nestled among the thousands of people waiting along the waterfront was 75-year-old Roslin Hj Ahmad.
“My wife, kids and grandchildren arrived early, as we wanted to make sure we can get the best view.”
The senior citizen said he was excited to have his grandchildren see their very first float procession.
“I don’t remember the last time Brunei had either one of these, it’s quite nostalgic,” he said.
In a speech at the event, the Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong, said the bridge was destined to become a tourist attraction in the near future.
Suhanah Hozaini, a Singaporean who has been living in Brunei for 17 years, told The Scoop she came with her family because she knew it would be a memorable experience.
“This is the first time I have seen so many people in Bandar, and I am seeing people from all walks of life.
“Being able to watch this live is so different because you get to feel the atmosphere. This is the first time I have seen a float procession here and it is very unique — something every one was looking forward to.”
Watch highlights of the event here: