All aboard the river museum

sarahjane 27 August 2010 1 comment

Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery small

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).

old lady on walkway kampong ayer small

The boardwalk, Kampong Ayer

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 small

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).

mosque background kampong ayer thumb

View from observation tower

omar ali saifuddin mosque small



Born in New Zealand, Sarah Jane has been travelling since she was 2 years old and has never been able to shake the excitement of learning and seeing something new. Spending non-travelling years at Melbourne University and while working in magazine, book and electronic publishing, she has since made an art of being an expat. Living in her third overseas home in a decade, she now drags her family on regular travel adventures. She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine, Holidays with Kids, Expatriate Lifestyle, Get up and Go, The Age and the Sunday Star Times. Aside from having a keen interest in just about everything, Sarah Jane’s great passions are: food, yoga, the environment, books, family and friends.

One Comment For This Post

  1. Tuan Nguyen Tuan Nguyen Says:

    Xin chao from Tuan Nguyen in vietnam , I am very happy to read your writing. And also more happy to know that you also like my country -vietnam.

    Chao than ai,
    Tuan Nguyen

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