Now, Kalimantan Chinese brides

MOVE over, Vietnam brides, here come the girls from Kalimantan.

One matchmaking agency here is offering Singaporean men the chance to choose a Chinese bride from the Indonesian province on Borneo.

And although new in the matchmaking industry, Mr Simon Sim, 50, manager of Mayle Marriage Agency, reckons he already has an edge.

The Kalimantan brides-to-be are Indonesian Chinese, speak various Chinese dialects, can whip up Chinese meals and would find it easier to fit in here, he said.

They are aged between 20 and 30, and come from large farming families in rural villages.

Their parents, who get a dowry of between $1,000 and $2,000, agree to such matches because they want better lives for their daughters, he added.

While agencies offering Vietnamese brides charge more than $12,000, Mayle's wedding package costs an auspicious $9,888.

It includes return tickets to Kalimantan, a chance to pick a wife from among 20 young women, the dowry, a wedding banquet, suits and bridal gowns, and wedding photography.

The bride's Indonesian passport can be ready in about two days. In contrast, Vietnamese brides have to wait for over a month for their passports.

Mr Sim said he and a business partner started the agency about six months ago, after finding out about the communication problems their friends had with their Vietnamese wives.

'There's a language barrier, it can be a strain when they can't talk to their husbands,' he said.

'Matching our local men with girls of the same cultural background will ensure a higher chance of the marriage lasting.'

But agencies offering matchmaking tours to Vietnam say they are not worried about the competition.

Mr Martin Yong, managing director of Mr Cupid International Matchmakers, said: 'We have established ourselves in the industry, we do thorough background checks on the women and our customers trust us.'

Mr Sim says his agency also does its checks.

The women go for a medical check-up to ensure that they are healthy and virgins.

He interviews all his clients, to make sure that they have a steady income and a roof over their heads.

His clients are mostly Chinese-speaking blue-collar workers in their 40s and 50s.

Chinese men make up almost nine in 10 of the 67,000 bachelors in Singapore aged 35 to 49, according to the 2000 Census.

So far, Mr Sim has found wives for two Singaporean Chinese men in their 40s. One works as a driver, the other is a store keeper.

Two more men, in their 40s and 50s, will be making the six-day trip later this year, he said.

One of them, Mr Peter Chua, 41, who will be selecting his Kalimantan bride later this month, said: 'Singaporean women have very high expectations, they want the five Cs and I can't afford that.'

The security officer, who takes home less than $2,000 a month, is now hoping to meet a 'simple, pleasant girl, who is not too demanding'.