Veteran tour guide shares his culture, life experiences
When Henry Chan traveled abroad in the late 1990s, only a few people he met knew much about his native country Brunei.
Today, the veteran tour guide in the Southeast Asian nation says there is a growing number of international tourists, especially from China, making the trek to Brunei.
“The whole world is trying to lure high-spending Chinese tourists, and Brunei is no exception,” Chan, a third-generation descendant of Chinese immigrants, said in fluent Chinese. “But I am not doing the job for the money, given that living standards are high. I don’t have a lot of pressure here.”
Chan, one of about 20 tour guides in Brunei of Chinese heritage, said the government takes care of many social welfare costs, including housing, education and healthcare.
“I hope to share Brunei’s culture and my life experiences with visitors as well as to learn from them,” said Chan, who said he has a large home with three housekeepers.
Chan first worked as a chef specializing in Cantonese cuisine after graduating from college, but after Brunei expanded its tourism market in 2000, he noticed the growth in foreign visitors. Six years later, he became a part-time tour guide, a job that dovetailed with his main occupation then as a photographer.
He said most Chinese tourists prefer group tours instead of traveling individually because of the language barriers and Brunei’s undeveloped public transport system. Annually, Chan receives about 80 tour groups from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Guiding groups from the three regions means varying his approaches, he said.
“I try my best to speak Chinese with different accents when dealing with people from different regions,” said the multilingual Chan.
Bruneian tour guide Henry Chan (center) talks to tourists in Kampong Ayer in October 2011.