Besides the breathtaking palaces and charming mosques of Brunei there are other interesting and unique places like Kampong Ayer, the largest village on the water. The village is 1300 years old, and is located in the heart of Brunei River. Among the posh atmosphere of this rich country, Kampong Ayer might look like slums from afar, but this sight is quite misleading.
Kampong Ayer was dubbed “Venice of the East" in the 16th century by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. According to the historic reports, it was a trading center for food, spices, local exotic fruits, crafts, and especially works of copper masters. Nowadays, Kampong Ayer consists of 42 smaller villages with buildings on stilts. The borders between the villages are imaginary, and you can't know for sure which village you are in, unless explicitly told.
Residents of Kampong Ayer lead very self-sufficient lives and have many modern amenities and facilities. All houses have air conditioning, electricity, internet access and satellite TV. Almost all the villagers have bikes, some have motorcycles and even cars, which they keep in the parking lot at the entrance to Kampong Ayer. Inside the village you have water taxi – the fastest and most reliable transportation in the area. Water taxis are different in size, and some resemble regatta boats. There are school boats to take kids to school, and, of course, tourist boats.
Kampong Ayer is connected to the coast by multiple bridges, that also serve as a kind of “streets” inside and between the villages. Like in any other populated location, there are all kinds of facilities and institutions – mosques, schools, police stations, gas stations, fire department, tourist information center, and what not. The only difference that all of those institutions stand on stilts.
There are two ways to see the village – by getting a 30-40 minute boat trip or by going by foot. The best option is to combine the two – you will get to explore the outside and the inside of Kampong Ayer.
Brunei government tries to preserve Kampong Ayer as a valuable heritage of Brunei and improve the lives of the villagers, by restoration of the bridges, buildings, supplying clean water, providing electricity, phone lines and other necessities for the citizens. Today the village is blossoming with its 30,000 population, which is a 10% of the entire Brunei.