For 1,300 years, people have inhabited the stilted water village of Kampong Ayer. Since that time, it has been dubbed the “Venice of the East,” but in many ways, its bizarre water structures are in a league of their own.
Today, Kampong Ayer is not only still standing, it is blossoming. More than 30,000 people live in the city, bringing the total population to 10 percent of the entire country of Brunei. Although it’s classified as one village, it’s actually a cluster of 42 smaller villages, interconnected by 18 miles of footbridges. The buildings sit atop stilts on the water’s surface, and the village has electricity and even air conditioning.
Kampong Ayer connects Brunei to its past, as people in the area have been living on and off the water throughout its history. According to many accounts, Magellan visited the village in the 16th century, and is credited with coining the phrase “Venice of the East.” Even though many of the structures seem small, the village is also equipped with hospitals, schools, shops, and restaurants.
Know Before You Go
Wooden speedboat water taxis ferry passengers between distant points across the village. The water taxis often depart in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in Bandar Seri Begawan.