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“Venice of the East” in the Capital City of Brunei

“Venice of the East” in the Capital City of Brunei

Interlinked by walkways and bridges to create a contiguous area, Kampung Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan is a historical settlement you must visit in Brunei. Located in the bountiful Brunei River, array of traditional stilt villages were erected dating back around the 15th century. Literally translated to ‘water village’, Kampong Ayer was the de facto capital of Brunei Empire centuries ago.

Accessible by water transport via perahu tambang or commonly known as water taxis in Pusat Bundar (City Center), you can easily go and explore the water villages. Head over to the Kampung Ayer Cultural Museum and Tourism Gallery first where you can learn more about the history of the water village-- how it came to be, cultures and traditions as well as its development that made it what it is today. Just outside the museum, you can climb the watchtower and have a glance of how extensive the place is. Amazingly, the maze-like pathways created by these linked bridges provide an insight on how these water villages stood the test of time. The one facing the city is just one water village and there are more areas with this kind of settlement throughout the mouth of Brunei river.

The modern Kampong Ayer have more than the basic utilities like water supply, electricity, television lines and even internet access. They have their own schools from primary to secondary as well as mosques, police and fire stations and clinics. They are a complete, independent communities on their own.

The History of the Water Village of Brunei

Known as the “Venice of the East, Kampung Ayer was a major port in the 1500. As the capital of the Brunei Empire at that time, social and economic functions were done in the vicinity of these interconnected bridges and houses. Coastal trading, fishing, crafts-making and cottage industries thrived in Kampung Ayer as maritime activities and related economies were the main source of income. Other industries were also developed through the years making each water village unique based on their economic activities. Blacksmithing village for Kampong Pandai Besi, goldsmithing village for Kampong Pandai Amas, balat-making for Kampong Pebalat, roof-making village for Kampong Pengatap and so on.

The Unique Feature Of The Capital City of Bandar Seri Begawan
Aside from the water villages in Kampung Ayer, the capital city of Brunei boasts a mangrove forest within its proximity. A mesh of nature and heritage that Bruneians can be proud of, something you cannot see at any capital cities anywhere else in the world. You can access the mangrove forest using water taxis around the water village and jetty ports. The preservation of these water villages as well as the mangrove forest is an admirable achievement in itself, a testament of how tradition, culture and nature can go hand-in-hand through sustainable planning and conservation efforts.