Kampong Ayer: The Water Village
Although it is a little-known travel destination, Kampong Ayer in Borneo’s Brunei Bay area is the world’s largest water village. According to Lonely Planet, it has likely existed for over 1,000 years. At one time, Kampong Ayer’s population exceeded 40,000 people.
Unique History of Kampong Ayer
The complete history of this water village is still mostly a mystery. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many adventure tourists are drawn to it. As reported in the Brunei Times, a poem called “Syair Awang Semaun” is the only element leaving us with a significant clue about its history. The poem talks about the formation of the village and paints it as a relief. Since old legends vary from aligning the village’s origin with the beginning of the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei to it possibly being mentioned in the Chinese Annals, it theoretically could have existed for as little as 600 years or more than 1,400 years.
Kampong Ayer Today
In contrast to the other water villages in South East Asia, Kampong Ayer is the only water village that is not completely on a river. To maintain the original structural idea, homes in Kampong Ayer are built on stilts. In a news story from the Brunei Times, a Legislative Council member expressed the idea of encouraging more people to move to Kampong Ayer instead of seeking housing on land. Since many of the government housing schemes exist on land but only a few exist in the water, the government plans to build more to help preserve the heritage and population of Kampong Ayer. As the community continues growing, tourism is expected to increase.
Visiting Kampong Ayer
This village is commonly called “the Venice of the East” by tourists and travel bloggers. The best way to access the village is via the boats on the Yayasan waterfront, which is near the Royal Regalia Museum. When the days are hot, it is best to travel there in the morning. Boat rides in the waterfront can be cheap or expensive depending on a traveller’s bartering skills versus accepting a price quote. Expect to pay about 10 BND or less with decent bartering skills.
Kampong Ayer Points of Interest
Boat guides typically explain the history of the area while they chauffeur you through the waterways. Although Brunei is one of the wealthiest nations, the stilt homes are simple but intriguing to see. You can see the famous and ornate Omar Ali Mosque. You can also see one of the world’s only gas stations built on water. You can see a forest, floating schools and a floating fire station. Be sure to get out and walk along the wooden walkways and bridges before leaving.
Finally, always remember to tip the boat driver after the excursion. Since boats are typically available on demand, a Kampong Ayer visit can be short or long, depending the length of your stay in Brunei.
Want to experience this fascinating water village for yourself? Make the most of your Kampong Ayer adventure with a stay at the Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam, conveniently located within easy reach of this amazing attraction.