A traditional water village in Brunei Darussalam’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located right in the shadow of a luxurious palace. The contrast between these lifestyles could not be more apparent than here at Kampong Ayer.
Kampong Ayer – meaning literally “Water Village” – happens to be one of the main tourist attractions in Brunei Darussalam. It has an authentic charm to it and the 39,000 or so people who live here are also very charming and very welcoming towards the masses of tourists who descend on their doorstep every day. You can hop on a ‘water taxi’ from the palatial Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkieh to Kampong Ayer at any time during the day, and you can see for yourself the class difference evident in this part of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Although you could easily just ask your water taxi driver to sail you past the actual houses at a whim, it is always interesting to try and check things for yourself, up close. From afar, you can of course ascertain that the houses here at Kampong Ayer are built on stilts on what is part of the Brunei River, but why not meet the people who live in these stilted homes? It could be construed as somewhat unethical to encroach on a real community in such fashion, but I guess it’s really not that much different to visiting the Soweto township in Johannesburg or even another similar water village like this one, called Kampong Phluk in Siem Reap, Cambodia. And at Kampong Ayer at least, the locals really don’t seem to mind. In fact, many of the adults here seem to wonder what all the fuss is about, anyway!
For additional reading and many more cool photos of Kampong Ayer, head over to this blog post from The Confessions of a Travel Addict. And another brilliant overseeing of the delights of Kampong Ayer is achieved in this blog post by William Temple!