Kampong Ayer – the Venice of the East
DUBBED as ‘Venice of the East’ by Italian scholar and explorer Antonio Pigafetta in 1521, Kampong Ayer is considered the largest stilt settlement in Southeast Asia, as a self-contained community equipped with mosques, restaurants, shops, schools and hospital.
According to the 2012 national census, Kg Ayer is home to an estimated 13,162 people. The water village is linked by more than 29,140 metres of foot-bridges, and consists of 42 contiguous stilt villages.
The six mukims (districts) collective known as Kampong Ayer are Mukim Sungai Kedayan, Mukim Tamoi, Mukim Burong Pingai Ayer, Mukim Peramu, Mukim Saba and Mukim Sungai Kebun.
The government, through the District Office, has provided the water village with facilities including concrete jetties, piped water, electricity, telephones, a police station and a marine fire station in order to preserve Kampong Ayer as the country’s heritage.
Visitors can start off on a unique journey by taking one of the many water taxis — which costs from 50 cents to a dollar — that ply daily between the jetty in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex in the centre of town to the water village.
A good place to start your visit and get acquainted with Kampong Ayer’s celebrated past and its cottage industries, is the BND $3 million Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery.
The riverfront complex, which opened in 2009, focuses on the history, lifestyle and crafts of the people living in the water village over the last 600 years.
The centre consists of two different areas: a thematic display that features local handicraft, paintings and dances, and a video section showcasing a documentary on Kampong Ayer and The Making of the Cultural Centre, produced by Radio Television Brunei (RTB).
Visitors will be also able to scan the city skyline from the centre’s observation tower and watch the water taxis crisscross the river like brightly-coloured butterflies as they ferry people from one end to another.
There is a souvenir kiosk available at the gallery and visitors can choose from a variety of paintings and handicraft that are on sale. The gallery opens 9am to 5pm from Saturdays to Thursdays with the exception of Fridays, when it opens from 9.30am to 11.30pm and 2.30pm to 5pm.
Take a walk around Kampong Ayer and see a variety of houses, painted shades of blue, pink, orange and yellow.
Among the vibrant housing is Kunyit 7, a friendly retreat with stunning views of the capital. For more information on this fantastic home stay experience click here.
Are you interested in viewing this fascinating destination? Then, click here to check out our full day city tour.
Article adapted from Brunei Times article on the 11th of August 2014 “Kampong Ayer: Gateway to Brunei’s past”.