Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

This post recounts a trip I made to Brunei Darussalam in 2011. Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the East, for its sprawling suburbs built on the neighbouring estuary…

Tamu Market, Bandar Seri Begawan

Tamu Market, Bandar Seri Begawan

After visiting the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, I crossed a canal to Tamu, the food market, where women and men in grubby scarves and shirts traded fish, fruit, vegetables and anything else. Occupying a thin strip of land between the forested mountain and a waterway, the women of the market sold their goods while men brought in the latest catch on their boats.

Tamu Market, Bandar Seri Begawan

Tamu Market, Bandar Seri Begawan

Chinese Temple, Bandar Seri Begawan

Chinese Temple, Bandar Seri Begawan

I walked back across the CBD, past Brunei‘s main Chinese temple, to Kampong Ayer, or “Water Village”. Here, entire suburbs sprawl out, built on stilts over the water. Traditionally built to make use of marshland, these houses now accommodate 20,000 people, mostly fishermen. It is the largest such village in the world, and the ramshackle wooden planks are used for boardwalks, floors, roofs and walls of houses, schools, mosques, police stations, banks, cafes and shops. It is simply another swathe of the city that just happens to be built over water.

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Of course, 20,000 people living over the water means that the H2O is more like H2Ugh, and every now and then you can hear the splash of some miracle fish that has survived the muck of the suburb’s waterways. Under the searing heat, and in full view of Bandar’s opulent mosque, people go about their daily business.

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Music plays, (Taylor Swift and Celine Dion seemed to be favourites), kids play, mothers chat and cook, men carry out repairs on their houses. On the surface, it all just seemed so remarkably normal. Again, I was confounded – if I squinted, I could almost imagine this as the slums of  Brunei, but then opening my eyes again revealed people walking home with department store bags full of purchases, and the roofs were punctuated with satellite dishes to receive Malaysian, Singaporean and American TV channels. And then you would hear the plop of someone who had just used their toilet…

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan

Have you been to Brunei? Or have you visited a city built on water, somewhere else?

Comments (4)

  • Adam @ Round the World we go Reply

    I have to confess “H2O is more like H2Ugh” did make me laugh reading this!

    October 18, 2015 at 10:04 am
  • Andrew Reply

    I’ve never really seriously thought about Brunei as a destination. I guess for something different as a stopover it would be worthwhile. Did you fly Royal Brunei? There’s nothing like a good floating village!

    October 21, 2015 at 11:33 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Yep, I flew Royal Brunei – it was not bad… and yeah, definitely do Brunei as a stopover, maybe a day or two at most! Although I’m sure there’s some stuff to do outside of the city…

      October 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe To DuniyaMail!
Weekly Travel Inspiration, Photography and News.
Join the adventure here!
Subscribe Now
close-link