Don’t expect to travel down quaint canals. Nor should you assume that you’ll be guided along slowly on a gondola. You certainly won’t be walking across intricately decorated bridges and through wide open places.
While Kampong Ayer isn’t Venice, the stilted village certainly makes for a drift-worthy day of sightseeing.
Bandar Seri Begawan
As Brunei’s capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan is located at the northern region of Brunei, on the island of Borneo. With a population of 140,000, the city is home to a number of mosques, reflecting the nation’s Muslim majority. In addition to its religious structures, the metropolis holds the many museums that one would expect with a country’s main settlement.
But where significant cultural buildings are fine for a rainy day of indoor activities, it won’t be long before visitors seek a more intriguing destination. Fortunately this type of site isn’t all that far away.
Immediately south of Bandar Seri Begawan, the village of Kampong Ayer is not unlike any other small settlement. Standing on stilts in Brunei Bay, the fully-functional community has shops, schools, a police station, and a hospital, all located along a 1.9 mile (3km) stretch.
When visiting Kampong Ayer by boat, remember to treat it with respect. The functioning society will not slow down for a floating tourist who wants to enter and explore the various facets of the stilted town. That being said, your trip can go beyond sitting in the boat and observing.
Drifting Through the Village
Built at a cost of around $2.4 million US, the Kampong Ayer Cultural Centre is an educational facility for Kampong Ayer’s visitors. Detailing the cultural history of both the village and Brunei as a whole, the center will occupy a good 30 minutes of exploration. Beyond the informative displays, an observation deck allows guests to view the village from an elevated platform.
For a more personal perspective of Kampong Ayer, get yourself signed up for an organized tour. These tours will often have pre-arranged visits to residents’ houses, allowing you to check out the facilities and maybe even try some local cuisine.
Recognizing the demand for floating tours, boat operators have placed a premium price tag on trips. Look to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $25US for an hour long voyage. With this steep cost, it may be worth meeting some tourists who have the same plans as you do.
When To Go
Don’t expect to get away with a precipitation-free trip to Kampong Ayer. That being said, there’s no bad time to visit. Heat-seeking tourists should plan on arriving between May and August, while those who are keen on cooler conditions should arrive between January and March.
Temperatures in Bandar Seri Begawan will range from lows of 72°F (22°C) to highs of 91°F (33°C). Keep in mind that humidity will make it feel a fair bit warmer. As mentioned above, your trip is bound to include some rain. The typical month will see around 190mm of precipitation.
Getting There & Around
Look to fly towards Bandar Seri Begawan by using the Brunei International Airport. Located a short distance north of town, the airport receives flights from a number of Asian origins.
- Mid-range accommodations: $70-110
- Meal: $9-20
- Beer: $4
- Look to get around to surrounding communities by boat.
- Save money by opting for the city’s decent public transportation.
- Dress conservatively while walking around Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Be surprised to see boat operators trying to up the price on your trip.
- Turn down food if you are invited into someone’s house.
- Expect to find alcohol in Brunei. You are however, allowed to bring it in and drink it in private.
- Kampong Ayer is recognized as a collection of villages rather than one single entity.
- While Kampong Ayer’s older houses are built on wooden stilts, the new ones are constructed with concrete.
- Brunei’s government provides free health care for its citizens.
Feature Image Credit: e_chaya