There are so many places in Asia that are listed in â€œTop Places to Visit.â€ Unfortunately, one would seldom see Brunei Darussalam in this list. It seems that people hesitate to visit this rich country.Â Because of this, only very few get to experience true blue Bruneian hospitality and culture.
When visiting Brunei, visitors can choose from a number of accommodations. There are luxurious ones like The Empire Hotel and Country Club where you can literally live like a sultan for a day. There are also the less expensive hotels like the Traders Inn Bandar Seri Begawan which would be suitable for those who are a bit budget conscious.
Aside from relaxing accommodation, one can also count on Brunei Darussalam when it comes to both breathtakingly beautiful attractions and interesting sights that one does not get to see every day.Â My partner and I were on our way to visit the classy Yayasan Shopping Complex when we chanced upon a place that really made us pause and take a second look. The place that caught our attention was the Water Village (Malay: Kampong Ayer) which is also known to some as the â€œVenice of the East.â€Â Â This village, over a century old, is located in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and can be found right in the middle of the Brunei River.
Kampong Ayerâ€™s history dates back to as early as the 16th century when there are documents from several travelers that made mention of a village that lived on top of the water.Â In the years that followed, the community served as the center of trading of products and other natural resources in the region.
But visitors must not be misled. Even if Kampong Ayer looks like a slum area from a distance, the people of Kampong Ayer can enjoy some forms of luxury and modern amenities.Â Residents own bicycles while some own motorbikes. Houses also have air conditioning, satellite television, electricity, and internet access.Â Believe it or not, a local who is a friend of ours told us that a lot of residents also own cars which they park at the entrance of Kampong Ayer. Now, isnâ€™t that interesting?
During your stroll in Kampong Ayer, you will occasionally hear loud roaring engines of boats, also referred to as water taxis, which travel along the river and provide rapid transport. These water taxis come in different sizes and some resemble long wooden speed boats. They can accommodate quite a number of passengers depending on the size. These boats go up and downstream to bring children to school or to show some tourists the surrounding cityscapes.Â One thing that we learned from our visit to Kampong Ayer was that river transport was still very much popular in Brunei. There are boat services to Labuan, Sundar, Lawas, Limbang and Temburong.
If you are adventurous enough, then make sure that you take a ride in one of these water taxis. There are cases when drivers of the water taxis charge a bit higher for foreigners and tourists.Â Make sure that you use your charm to negotiate your fares before riding in the water taxi. You would not want to be charged an outrageous amount for the short boat ride.
Currently, the Government is making use of the countryâ€™s resources in preserving Kampong Ayer and improving the way of life of its residents.Â The Government of Brunei Darussalam is making sure that Kampong Ayerâ€™s valuable heritage is protected and conserved by providing the village with improved facilities such as repaired foot bridges, clean water, telephones, and concrete jetties.Â By doing so, Kampong Ayer can remain one of Bruneiâ€™s popular tourist attractions for many years to come.