Linda's Brunei Bonus

Linda Elriani, in her first Kaleidoscope article,
reports on the WISPA women's tour first visit to Brunei ...

As a player who’s been on the tour for many years now (some might say too long!), we often visit many countries and cities time after time, but our recent tournament in Brunei was a great chance to visit somewhere new!

On first impressions Brunei is a strange, empty country (with a total population of 300,000), but having spent a whole week there, I soon changed my mind.

Yes, it is lightly populated, and it doesn’t have much of a tourist industry, but the people we met who ran the tournament did everything in their power to ensure we left Brunei satisfied.


The main venue was fantastic as it was a very wealthy establishment called the Jerudong Country Club which has amazing facilities of 2 permanent all glass squash courts, 9 hole and 18 hole golf courses, polo fields and huge stables, bowling alley, snooker room, a banqueting hall occasionally used by the Sultan (and he did while we were there!), an in-house band and swimming pool. Pretty impressive facilities for a squash tournament!

Right next door to the country club was a fun park which was apparently ordered to be built by the Sultan for the people of Brunei…… very generous!

On the Thursday night after the quarter finals we had our own personal tour of the fun park! No queues (not that there were many anyway!), but it was so exciting to be driven on buggies round the park and go on rides only with your squash friends and no-one else around. We went on each ride twice before moving onto the next one. I wrongly thought the rides would be very average and tame, especially having recently got back from my honeymoon in Orlando, and having the rides there to compare with them, but the rides were in fact both scary and FUN!

We were lucky enough to have full-board and were fed at the Jerudong Country Club each and every lunch and dinner time.

After one lunch we were sitting playing scrabble when we heard a loud but strange noise, and as we turned to our side to check out the situation, to our horror we realised a huge 4 to 5 foot iguano lizard had fallen from a ledge above us and landed right next to our table!! After a huge scream from Fiona, Jenny D and myself, and hurried movements away from the area, the lizard scuttled off in the direction of the club house, making its way down some stairs towards the squash courts – Is this lizard merely a squash fan wanting to watch some top women’s squash and get some autographs we thought – or was it wandering lazily along and randomly fell off a big ledge to be greeted by high-pitched screams and turmoil!? Either way the lizard was eventually caught by some workers from the club in a huge dustbin and taken outside again and released back into its own habitat.

There was plenty of wild-life to be seen, as we were also regularly visited by local monkeys which were most entertaining and definitely less scary than the lizard!
We were also treated to other great meals, of which my absolute favourite was one we had at the Empire Hotel which is a 7 Star!! (which I didn’t know existed). There was a buffet which consisted of the most delicious seafood – 15 King Prawns later, I’d had my fill!!

We even missed the chance to go 10-pin bowling at the hotel, because we spent so long at the buffet enjoying the food and the surroundings. The hotel is out of this world. It’s definitely not just a hotel, it has a country club attached, 18 hole golf course, villas, apartments, 10-pin bowling alley, a squash court, gym, sauna, spa bath and ice pool, cinema and theatre, and the most amazing grounds and swimming pools. There’s talk that they’re going to try and put us in the Empire next year ….. Fingers crossed!

Our final day in Brunei which was the day after the final, we had the chance to go horse riding on some of the polo ponies from the stables at the Jarudong Country Club. They have nearly 300 horses in their stables which in itself is very impressive.

So Vanessa (the Brunei champ) Fiona, Becky and myself got up early and traipsed off to the stables. I’d never been horse riding properly before and nor had Becky or Fiona so the grooms certainly had their work cut out! First we went round the country club to the polo fields and the great highlight of that being that the Sultan himself was out practising polo in the next field with his daughters! Next we went down to the beach and rode towards the Empire Hotel. An hour later we arrived, very hot, very sweaty but having had a really fun time. The ice-cold flannels and water that were there to greet us were very much appreciated. On the way back we tried going a bit faster and broke into a canter for part of the way….. I think I’ve unintentionally developed a brave new way to ride! I managed to stay on my horse, but believe me it was not pretty!

That final afternoon of our Far Eastern tour we were taken to the water village. Not knowing where or what we were visiting we had a pleasant surprise when we saw it was in fact a very interesting 500 year old village built on the water. The first settlers in Brunei were fishermen and they built their homes on the water. The government has ordered the village to be preserved in the name of history.

After a delicious meal overlooking the harbour we were treated to a boat tour of the village and surrounding areas. The people do still chose to live in the water village and some even have property on the land as well – most of them have their cars parked on the waterside, so it certainly doesn’t seem to be poverty that leads the majority of these people to live there.

The water village has its own school, mosque, hospital and police, so you can say it’s pretty self-sufficient. It was an enchanting ride to be steered through the narrow gaps between the houses on the water and see how some of the Brunei people live and have lived over the years,

We could even see the Sultan’s palace from the water with its pure solid gold covered dome. There are apparently 1700 bedrooms in the palace, which is obviously very impressive, if not a bit unnecessary!

Sitting on the water you could see the two extremes of Brunei…. The Sultan’s Palace and the somewhat shanty accommodation of the water village, but it does sound like their king has done, and does do many many good things for his people.

So I’ve left Brunei with lots of very good memories and an extremely different view to the one I arrived with. It is in fact a peaceful and beautiful country with a low crime rate and even though I did miss the hustle and bustle of people and shops etc there is a lot to be said for an almost tranquil way of life.

After all if you want some excitement (and alcohol) there are many places only a half-hour flight away; like KL, Bali, Philippines and Bangkok.

Lastly I just want to say a huge thankyou to everyone we met in Brunei for making us so very welcome. I hope we left the Brunei people excited about women’s squash and that they’ll want us back again next year…. Here’s hoping.

Linda Elriani

Vanessa - a deserved Champion


Results & Reports



The fun Park









Obviously our main interest on the trip was our squash, but it is nice and welcoming when a tournament makes it so easy to take part in activities away from the squash court, but still not interfering with our match preparation

THE FIRST ROUNDS were a great insight for the Brunei people into the increasing depth in women’s squash nowadays. All the matches were of quality and some in particular were pretty closely contested. The match between Vanessa and Shelley was a great combination of hard hitting, taking the ball early and the use of the short ball. Another match that was close was between Tania and Becky, with Tania clawing her way back from 2-0 down to 2-1 and a very edgy fourth game with Becky eventually coming out on top after needing about 10 match balls to do so.

The longest match of the evening, and the only 5 setter was Fiona and Vicky’s match. This match was very entertaining, with 2 very different styles and both very effective when given the chance, but it was Fiona’s precise short game, holding of the ball and steady lengths that won her through to the quarter finals in the end.

THE QUARTER FINALS while good to watch were all much more one-sided than the first rounds, with higher seeds prevailing in each of the 4 matches. It seemed to be a day when the top seeds played to their full potential. I was very pleased to get past Fiona into the semi, especially having seen her play so well the day before.

THE SEMIS AND FINAL were played at a different venue, the National Stadium, which has a 3 sided glass court with a plaster front wall in the main arena and another 6 glass back courts in an adjacent room.

My match with Vanessa I felt was an exciting and hard fought match, with Vanessa’s tricky boasts taking their toll on me by the 4th game, especially with the National Stadium being incredibly hot and humid.

Rachel’s match with her sister Natalie was a bit more one-sided but still exciting as they has some long rallies because they both move so well. There was the added bonus for Rachel, that if she managed to beat her sister and reach the final (which she did) she’d move up to the World No1 position, in the Aug rankings, for the 1st time in her career!

THE FINAL between Rachel and Vanessa was again very entertaining. The first 4 games were mostly dominated by one or he other player, but the 5th game was a perfect ending to the match. Entering the court for the fifth and final game they were both tired, especially with the heat ... was Rachel going to put out Vanessa with her deceptive angles and movement, or was Vanessa going to keep to her plan and hit great precise lengths and lobs, either forcing the error or creating the opening herself. At 8-8 going right down to the wire, it was difficult to know either way, but Vanessa battled through to become the very deserved Brunei champion.

Results & Reports