a tour of many gifts
Out of all my freelance stories I thought I would write about this one as the entire tour and Brunei in particular, turned out to be the most unusual but also one of the most memorable places I have ever been. We were on our way from Singapore airport to Brunei in the middle of what was a month-long tour around Asia. It started out with a panic among the orchestra that we would have to spend four.. yes four whole days without alcohol! (Brunei is a dry country.) After much research by the brass section it was discovered that we could consume the banned substance in our hotel rooms if we brought it into the country. So to set the scene there we were arriving in Brunei airport our shopping bags clanking together with wine bottles thanks to the Singapore duty-free shop. It would have been difficult enough to manage our luggage for a month away, instruments and the alcohol but as we passed through customs we were then greeted with a lovely traditional gift of a bunga telor which is a flower arrangement with..yes really…a raw egg tied to a very long stick. So there we were trying to look grateful while juggling luggage, instruments, bottles and eggs. I have to say that Brunei was stop 6 in a long tour of about 10 countries in Asia and everywhere we arrived there was a gift waiting for us in our hotel room. Lovely, except that our luggage was packed for over a month of travel to multiple climates and there wasn’t room for jade carvings, framed fabric, paper kites, Chinese tea sets….well you get the idea. Now an egg. There was a theory floating about the orchestra that maybe it was all some sort of elaborate game by our sponsors Toyota and maybe there would be a car given as a prize at the end for all the collected items…(sadly not.) The eggs didn’t make it past the coach from the airport….smashed raw eggs all over us as we turned up to our 5 star hotel. Having woken up to our new gift of a 12 x 14″ framed map of the country we went down to breakfast then boarded the coach to the home of the sultan of Brunei for a reception. This was an unbelievable estate with a zoo, park and garage with endless rows of antique cars and motorcycles. His family were very nice end entertained us for the rest of the morning. At the end of our visit we were given boxes (about the size of a watch box) wrapped in bright yellow paper. The Sultan had been known to give Rolex watches to other visiting orchestras so the boxes were opened with eager anticipation. Initially there was a sigh of disappointment as we had opened what looked like to be the gift of a silver pin with the Sultans face on it. The boxes were heavy though and on further examination the pins actually turned out to be solid bars of silver….
As a side note and guess where all of the gifts collected over the tour ended up? When I went to open my bass box before every concert during the tour out fell wood carvings, jade lions, framed fabric, paper kites and Chinese tea sets. Luckily no eggs and sadly….though I think we bass players earned it by transporting the excess luggage across southeast Asia…..no solid silver bars.