BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - Camaraderie and good cheer were in the air at the sprawling Istana Nurul Iman on Friday (Oct 6) night, as dignitaries from near and far attended a royal banquet to join Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of his accession to the throne.
At the head of the royal banquet hall, replete with chandeliers and golden trimming, sat the Sultan at a 44-seat table - surrounded by fellow leaders and royals from the region and further afield.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had an audience with Sultan Bolkiah earlier in the day, was there with Mrs Lee. They were flanked by Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and United Arab Emirates Minister of State Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad.
During his meeting with the Sultan in the afternoon, Mr Lee conveyed Singapore's congratulations to Sultan Bolkiah on the occasion of his golden jubilee, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Delighted to extend my warmest congratulations to the Sultan on the Golden Jubilee of his reign, which has brought peace and prosperity to the people of Brunei," Mr Lee said in a Facebook post. "We reaffirmed our warm and strong bilateral relationship, and the progress in our bilateral cooperation."
He noted in his post that both leaders had just met in July, when Sultan Bolkiah visited Singapore and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement. The pact allows Brunei dollar notes to be used in Singapore and the other way around.
Both leaders also looked forward to further strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation, Singapore's Foreign Ministry added.
At the royal banquet, representatives from Asean countries turned up in full force in black tie or ceremonial uniform, among them Malaysia's King Sultan Muhammad V, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Seated beside the Sultan was his wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha. They were flanked by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
The star-studded guest list included Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Middle Eastern royalty and Britain's Prince Edward.
At the Sultan's table, guests dined on a spread that included a terrine of lobster, Alaskan crab, and surf clam, and cream of beetroot and carrot soup. There was lobster makhanwala, lamb chanterelle, venison rendang, chicken korma, snapper in egg yolk wrap, soft-shell crab sambal, and nasi minyak or ghee rice with herbs.
The banquet, hosted by Sultan Bolkiah and his wife, was attended by thousands of his citizens as well, among them civil servants and uniformed personnel, who sat in the nearby dining hall and came dressed in white - as is custom for night-time events involving the Sultan.
Sultan Bolkiah was just 21 when he became his country's 29th sultan, and has in the five decades since led Brunei to independence and transformed it into one of Southeast Asia's most developed countries. He is now the world's second-longest reigning monarch, after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who became queen in 1952 and celebrated 65 years on the throne in February this year.