Brunei: Kampong Ayer (Water Village) and Wild Monkeys

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On May 14, 2008, on our second day in the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan (which everyone just calls "Brunei" as it was just called "Brunei Town" before its name was changed to Bandar Seri Begawan), we went to Kampong Ayer (Water Village) which took up most of the morning and afternoon and then walked around the "downtown" area a bit before returning back to my cousin's house.

My aunt and cousin lives in Brunei and it was fortunate for us that my aunt had a spare Toyota Vios car or else we could not have gone anywhere as there is no public transportation system at all. My sister drove the car (they drive on the left side of the road) and I was the so-called navigator. I had to rely on an old map book that the oil company Shell had produced a number of years ago for their expatriate workers.

Because Brunei is an oil producting country, gas was really cheap, it was around $0.30 per litre in Brunei dollars ($1.00 Brunei = $0.74 Canadian). As a result of all this cheap gas, almost everyone drives an SUV in Brunei and the whole city feels like a transplated American suburb with "Southeast Asian characteristics". Unlike other Asian cities where there is a vibrant downtown area full of energy, the downtown area was completely dead, devoid of people and any sort of energy. We would later find out that most of the people did their shopping in suburban malls and suburban shophouses.



A map of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei for reference.


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My cousin's house was located on a hill in a suburban area so each time we drove to town we would have to take this rural road.

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On the same road leading to town, we see the embassy of Singapore, called "High Commissions" in the Commonwealth countries.

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The first destination that we went to was the Brunei Museum, and there wasn't really anything interesting in there nor could we take any pictures so I didn't even bother to mention it in the introduction to this post.

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After that we entered the downtown area in order to rent a boat for the day to explore the Kampong Ayer (Water Village). In the downtown area we see one of the tourist attractions of Brunei, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque which was built in 1958 during the reign of the current Sultan's father.

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Next we walked around and bargained with boat owners for the best price of renting a boat for the day to explore the Kampong Ayer (Water Village). The Kampong Ayer is located directly across from the downtown area and is home to 39,000 people who live on houses built on stilts on top of the Brunei River.

Some pictures of the private water taxies the ply the river. Most of them are just glorified speedboats.

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Because of the wealth from the oil, all the houses that are built over the river are all modernized and have amenities like power, water and satellite television!

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Our water taxi driver even took us to the house of one of his friends to show us how a typical home in the water village looked like. We see that they have all the conveniences of a modern home, except that their home isn't built on dry land.

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A wider picture of the water village community at large.

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A floating mosque in the water village.

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A school for the children of the water village.

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Here we see the children being picked up by their parents with their boats. Because the weather on that day was unstable we had to shelter under the school to wait for the rain to pass before we headed on our way.

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We even stopped for gas at the local Shell station for the boat's engine.

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After we got gas, our driver proceeded to bring us down to river into the jungles to see wild monkeys.

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The current Sultan's Palace as seen from the river.

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Going down the river.

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Next he brings us to the edge of the river to the jungle to try to spot some wild monkeys.

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We see a wild monkey on the tree in the centre of this picture.

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The jungles near the river.

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More monkeys.

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Leaving the jungle area to go back to town.

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The downtown area. Because of all the suburban malls, its virtually deserted. Its quite a contrast from my mom's time as she said that it was very busy and crowded way back in the 1960s.

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A unique looking monument located on the riverside to something. Because it was so hot I didn't bother to see what it was for.

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Being a LEGO fan since I was young, I was suprised to see these pirated China-made LEGO sets at a store.

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2 comments:

pyauki said...

It's really weird seeing a downtown area so void of life. It really isn't anything like here in Vancouver.

It's pretty cool you rented a water taxi for a day to explore the Kampong Ayer. Did you tell the taxi driver that you wree tourists and want to take a look around? It seems weird to me that he would take you to a house of his friends so you can see the daily life. It's awesome, but kinda weird to me.

Monkeys are awesome.

I've seen those fake LEGO sets as well. They overall look pretty legit, but I doubt it is as good as actual LEGO.

UTA said...

@ Downtown:

The downtown area is so dead because of all the suburban malls. Its weird how they adapted the American style strip mall to their local conditions. For example on many streets in Malaysia and Southeast Asia you see rows and rows or shophouses, which have shops on the bottom floors and offices/residences on the top. In Brunei, they built the shophouses inside a strip mall so that instead of facing a busy street, all the shophouses face parking lots.

@ Kampong Ayer:

Because most of the residents of the Kampong Ayer have their own private boats, I assume all the water taxis know exactly where to bring tourists. The only other Westerners in Brunei are ones that work for Shell and I think they are either all from the UK or Australia.

The Malay people are generally really friendly and easy-going so its not surprising that they would bring us to visit his friend's house.