The new Kampong Ayer Gallery
A recent addition to Brunei’s tourist scene is a ‘living’ museum on stilts above the water. The purpose of the museum is to highlight the water village life that sprawls all around it.
Brunei’s water village has several claims to fame. First, it is the largest stilt water village in the world containing around 30,000 thousand residents. Second, archeological evidence suggests it is more than a thousand years old. And third it was at Kampong Ayer that the first European, Magellan, made contact with the Brunei (though the village was a little further along the river back then).
Having guided a number of visitors there, a tour around Kampong Ayer is definitely one of the highlights of Brunei travels, if not ‘the’ highlight. Zipping about aboard a ‘flying coffin’ (aka water taxi) is unlike other traveller experience.
Up on the boardwalks locals wander past. Electrical poles and TV satellite dishes punctuate the landscape. Residents fish from boats in the river. Back on dry land the enormous gold dome of the town’s great mosque rises behind the jetty. And, if you’re lucky, your driver will take you past the Sultan’s palace and under the boardwalks at a speed that will keep your interest up.
Water taxi taking a break
The Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourist Gallery has many draw-cards − aside from its interesting archives. It is a cheap and fast water taxi-ride from the town center (around $2); it has an observation tower with 360 degree views over the water village and it is situated inside the water village (meaning if you fancy walking about the boardwalks a little then you are already there).
View from observation tower