Monday, 30 March 2009

The Evergreen Forests of Brunei Darussalam

It is hard to imagine all of this greenery would one day go away as scriptures and scientific journals have had it in their revelation chapters. And, to think that I am living in a civilisation in the midst of all its great biodiversity. Pretty amazing, don't you think? If you are interested in going on an adventure of forest-covered ceilings, check out this website.

When I first saw this picture, the Singapore Airlines (SIA) food menu booklet instantly flashed in my mind. The booklet cover was cleverly designed with bunches of broccoli and pieces of other veggies nicely arranged to look like a forest. And, this here is the bird's eye view of those broccoli bunches. And also, this here is our famous view of the canopy walk of the virgin Borneo rainforest.

Breathtaking view of the forest in ripples with the clouds

As precipitation took place, it didn't succeed in taking away the mystical beauty of the greens with its marshes and swamps.

The Pantai Seri Kenangan (Seri Kenangan Beach) is magically located on a long, narrow spit which separates the South China Sea and Tutong River.

Forests surrounding lakes of oceanus green

Lo and behold, Brunei in a perspective that I have never seen before.

Photos taken by a friend who wished not to be named.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

A Helicopter Ride in Brunei

As sunlight was washing up on the skies of Brunei, a friend took along my camera for her helicopter ride around Brunei. Wanting to share her pictures of the wonderful aerial views of Brunei, the following series of blog posts containing them are being put up.

Airfield at the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) Headquarters

Helicopters on the airfield

Aircraft technical staff busy about their daily routine to prepare what looks like a UH-1N Twin Huey chopper for flight

An RBAF personnel overseeing the take off

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The "Turn Pencils Into A Library" Project

The "Turn Pencils Into A Library" is a charity project run by the Thai SSEAYP Alumni (ASSEAY) where two pencils are sold at the price of 10 baht to raise money to build a library. When enough funds is collected to build the first library, the project will continue to fund for other school libraries around Thailand.

During my recent visit to Thailand, I have purchased a bag of these pencils from M to help with the fundraising in Brunei. Instead of selling them, I share with friends, colleagues and students about the project as I present these pencils as gifts to them.

Friday, 27 March 2009

CSS, PHP 5 and Advanced PHP 5 Training Session

Training Courses:
1. Cascading Style Sheets (24th-25th February 2009)
2. PHP 5 (16th - 18th March 2009)
3. Advanced PHP 5 (23rd - 26th March 2009)

Over a time span of about a month spread over three sessions, Universiti Brunei Darussalam's (UBD) Computer Science lecturers conducted training courses on CSS and PHP 5 to a class of 12 participants who are staff members in the various departments of the Ministry of Development. These courses aim to provide the participants with the necessary tools and know-how of developing presentable and efficient web applications together with databases and other extended libraries.

Like all training sessions conducted by the UBD FLOSS team, these sessions are intensive and involve many hands-on exercises that allow many practical opportunities for the participants to learn.

Lecturers on stand-by to guide the participants

Awarding of certificates

Group photo of facilitators and participants

Monday, 23 March 2009

An Old World Map, Coffee Art Painting

When I was at Chatuchak (JJ Market), I purchased this old world map which I thought was really quite something. Check out the details of this thing. I love what technology can do. It is not only "making the world flat", it helps make the distribution of this ancient map possible! Trying to get an original piece of this, if I can find one at all, will cost me the millions which I can never have in my lifetime. And there it was among the hundreds of ancient maps of all sizes and places in a little stall at the JJ market and for a few hundred bahts, I found this!

I thank coffee art painting, a contemporary style of painting. Before the actual coffee art painting process, it first involves the processes of scanning and printing the outlines of the map on ordinary paper, which is where the technology bit comes in. To give it that archaic brownish look, black coffee is painted over the paper before it gets hanged and dried. The final touches to the map would be painting the images with colours and that beautiful gold ink.

In just A4, so much is being contained; the little depictions of the elements Water, Fire, Earth and Air, the moon and sun eclipse, constellations in the northern and southern hemisphere, little notes about places that were unknown at that time. It's fascinating to read the olden names of places and the little notes were written in old English. It's quite an addition to my collection of artsy stuff. Me likes!

On the eastern part of the globe, we have Asia, Africa, Europe and Australasia. Antartica is in both eastern and western parts.

And here we are, covering a small land mass over the earth, South East Asia

Some bits of astronomical notes on the planets and stars. Suddenly, I feel like I'm in one of them fantasy movies as I try to comprehend the heavens (the movable one and the christian one) that is beyond the universe. Hmm.. is what they refer as movable a heaven of a different dimension? How exciting. I have many theories cooking up in my head already!

It says here it is a figure of the sphere. I am not sure if the frames around the sphere had anything to do with the line of rotation of the earth as it orbits around the sun.

Here we have the eclipse of the moon.

The element, Water

The element, Earth

The element, Fire

The element, Air

Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Computer Science Students at Work

During the IAI training held in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), I had my camera with me to cover for the event. Due to this, I took some photos of the students who are working on the robots for the Abu Robocon Competition to be held in Tokyo. Before they get to go to the competition, they have to compete and win in a national competition against the Jefri Bolkiah Technical school in August.

These guys have been working on the robots a few months back. Under the supervision of a lecturer who is a robotics enthusiast, they would come in anytime during lecture-free periods and on Fridays to work as our office space has now turn a corner and a cubicle into a makeshift robotics lab. As a testing environment, white tapes of grid were pasted on the carpet to gauge the robot's line-following performance and a ramp is in place for the test as well.

It is interesting to watch the students saw wood and metal, and drill screw holes into metal sheets to make parts that piece the robot together, throwing in the law of mathematics and physics to make things work

The green poster on the board is the floor plan of the competition where an autonomous robot is to work with a remotely-controlled robot to carry a third robot using a Japanese palaquin called a Kago. The trio are to overcome obstacles to get to the goal area where the third robot is to hit the three Victory drums there. The rules are found here.

Here is a student programming algorithms into the robot to give it its behaviour.

In another lab, final year students N and B were both stressing out on their final year projects and on preparation for an ASEAN ICT conference in Thailand on the use of ICT to promote ASEAN spirit.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Chatuchak Market (Jatujak, JJ Market), Thailand

A bit of blogging here to take myself away from work. I've been working on the use of ADODB and PHP to access MySQL databases all day. Phew! I should be putting up a blog post on the training sessions Universiti Brunei Darussalam is conducting for the Ministry of Development but, I have yet to take some pictures of those training sessions.

Anyway, bigR managed to squeeze a trip to the JJ Market into our busy schedule in Thailand. This time round, I went to an entirely different part of JJ Market which I didn't cover during my Thailand homestay. We managed to get a few cool stuff with just about an hour and a half to spend here.

I tried taking photos with the camera resting on my stomach so as not to look conspiciously intrusive but the pictures ended up mostly blurry. Here's one of the favourite things I scout for when I travel, paintings! I got an A4-sized old world map instead.

M found a nice belt in this little store here and I thought I could sneak a shot from the corner of the store.

More street markets outside JJ Market as vendors lined their merchandise up to the stairs leading to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). bigR bought a nice orange, wooden paintbrush holder for his marker pens. He wanted a green one but it didn't look as nice as the orange one.

From the Mo Chit station, we took the MRT to get to Novotel Hotel to meet Mr Chai, the Thai SSEAYP Alumni (ASSEAY, Association of the Ship for South East Asian Youth) to talk about our project.

Bangkok is just extremely crowded with people and busy everywhere.

Just a random photo of a parking lot next to the Mo Chit MRT station.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand

The Dhammakaya temple is located also in the Pathumtani Province, next to the V star centre across a stretch of road. Immediately, I took an interest in its spaceship-like structure. More importantly, the gold part of the temple is called the Dhammakaya Cetiya (stupa) and is the symbol of world peace. This monumental landmark holds the largest mass meditation for Buddhists and peace-loving people from around the globe. The construction of this temple is very much intriguing. To read more, click here.

The cetiya is designed to hold a million Buddha statues, each taking a space 15cm by 15 cm. At the moment, only 300,000 are built. With the economy crisis, it may take longer to fill up the rest of the cetiya with the other 700,000. You can have one built with your name under it for a certain sum of money and that really sparked up the skepticism in me. As much as it is amazing and interesting, a big part of me feels genuinely disappointed as I thought about what great use the money could have been. I was told that this is a gesture of faith but I personally do believe that acts of faith can be performed in many better ways. I couldn't stop thinking about it for a while until I came up with a justification, that sometimes people need physical affirmations. The only agreeable and good thought I consoled myself with is that people stay united for a good cause.

I managed a shot from the car as we were leaving the area.

This construction site is to become a mega huge amphitheater for meditation purposes. I apologise for the bad shot, was trying not to take the barricades by the side and attempted zoomed shots instead. If you look close enough at the tiles around the big '4', you'll notice 32 is the biggest number and indeed, they have 32 of these similar structures as the one you're seeing. And, yes, that seems like a cemented version of the blueprint. It's SOOO HUGE, this place.

V Star Centre, Pathumtani Province, Thailand

After our breakfast, we went on an hour trip from Khao San to the Pathumtani Province, which is located north of Bangkok, to check out V Star Centre, the tentative venue to run our project. The V Star Centre is a place where youths, called Virtuous Star members, gather to meditate and participate in activities. While the main buildings are in place, some others are still under construction.

The administrative building which also houses conference rooms and halls.

The building is new and clean. The facility rooms are spacious and suitable to run retreats, conferences and other activities. They are equiped with PA systems and projectors.

A hall that has been used as a dining area.

A room where a youth camp was in session. We were asked to introduced ourselves and bigR briefly talked about our project to them, hoping to draw them in either as participants or volunteers. I actually felt overwhelmed by the energy of these youths. They were excited to meet us as their eager smiles reached out to us. They responded with enthusiasm in their voices and laughter. It felt like a church youth retreat in my mid-teens all over again.

This is the female hostel building. Shoes are to be kept outside.

From the size of the building, it seems that a thousand people can fit in it!

This room on the first floor is furnished simply with beds aligned in neat rows. It could fit about sixty to eighty people in this room. As residents are here to meditate, the facilities are simple, basic and clean. The rooms on the ground floor are for facilitators and mattresses are provided instead of beds.

Right outside the administrative building lies a huge lotus pond with bamboo trees on one side and patches of green on the other.

It was lunch time and youths were seated in cliques on the grass by the pond to have their lunch.