The Water Village of Brunei
The Water Village in Brunei or locally known as Kampong Ayer is the largest water village in South East Asia and perhaps in the world. Made up of many smaller floating villages, Kampong Ayer is located in the heart of the Sultanate’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan – one of the major tourist tourism attractions in Brunei.
Tracing back to its history, it was said that the Water Village was first built during the reign of Brunei’s first ruler Awang Alak Betatar (Sultan Muhammad Shah after converting to Islam) but at a different location not at the current Water Village. It was probably during after a decade of civil war that broke out between Sultan Muhyiddin and Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin that the Water Village is relocated to its current place now. An Italian explorer named Antonio Pigafetta dubbed the Water Village as ‘The Venice of the East’ in 1521.
The Water Village was once a very populous settlement but some of the dwellers moved inland due to the national housing schemes being provided by the government. In the 1980’s, there were approximately 40,000 people living in the Water Village. According to the Brunei’s 2012 census, the people living in the Water Village decreased to a total of 13,162.
In the modern day, the Water Village has many facilities. Schools have been set up for the students of the Water Village. Police station, fire department, clinics and mosques are also available in the village. Interestingly, there is also petrol station for the water taxis (boat rides offered by the locals). The houses there are not much different from those on inland because piped water and electricity are supplied. National housing schemes enabled some house owners to renovate or expand their houses, ensuring more comfortable lifestyle.
An annual event, the Brunei Regatta is held at the Water Village. Visitors can witness the classic traditional boat and speedboat race through the river like those in 1950 to 1970’s. This year’s Regatta was held on 1st March 2015 with the participation of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei and other members of the Royal Family.
To show how the Water Village looked like in the past, the floating Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery was opened for tourists in June 2009. Not only the Water Village is a tour destination but it is a symbol of well-preserved history and culture of Brunei.
How to get there? The locals would ride on water taxis which cost around BND$1.00 person per way. Tourists are charged a bit higher if they want a tour around the Water Village by the water taxi operator. Going there via a guided tour by a tour operator is another alternative. This would ensure safety, with life jacket provided, better quality of explanation regarding the village and a local’s house visit with tea break is included. Sunshine Borneo Tours and Travel is one of the most recommended Brunei tour operators that organize visits to water village, or alternatively, to combine with a city tour in Bandar Seri Begawan. Click to view tour packages: