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Kampong Ayer, the world's biggest water village in Brunei

Kampong Ayer, the world's biggest water village in Brunei
For centuries Kampong Ayer, the world's biggest water village has withstood the vagaries of nature and time to emerge as an important landmark and trade centre of Brunei.

Situated over the Brunei river in the heart of the capital city, the village has over 4,000 houses, schools, police stations, clinics, markets and mosques constructed on stilts.

In local language, Kampong means village and Ayer water. The population of the village is around 30,000, most of them fishermen but there are also government officers and others working in the public sector.

Kampong Ayer is equipped with basic and modern infrastructure. It receives a substantial annual budget from the government due to its status as a national landmark, says village head Haji Ahmed.

Kampong Ayer is the world's biggest settlement on stilts and has been existence for more than a thousand years, Ahmed said.

Archaeological findings reveal that Kampong Ayer regularly shifted its location for the comfort, safety and security of its inhabitants, until finally setting at its current emplacement.

The houses are physically unique with their simple yet sturdy nature and modernisation has brought major changes with older materials being replaced with wood, zinc and concrete for the roofs, columns and walls.

Wooden or concrete bridges link the houses. Each house is supplied with electricity and clean water.

There are police stations, a fire station, clinics as well as primary, secondary and religious schools.

Transport lines, sanitation, garbage disposal system, petrol stations, grocery shops, tourist centres, a community hall and a postal service are some of the other amenities available.

People of the village use boats for transportation, the affluent use motor fibre boats and others wooden boats, said Nor Azme, project supervisor in Brunei Tourism.

"Boat making is still carried out on a small scale for the repair of fishing boats and water taxis. Boats with motorised engines are now used as water taxis," Azme told PTI.

Economic activities in Kampong Ayer mainly focus on fishing and the production of handicrafts has created job specialisation in different villages.

This has resulted in the villages being named after the products and economic activities found there.

Fishing was usually carried out in the waters of Brunei Bay but there are some villages still active in fishing such as Kampong Saba and Kampong Setia, which use traditional equipment like balat (fish trap), tugu (enclosure) and andang (net).

Kampong Ayer was mentioned by the foreign visitors as the "Venice of the East" or "Floating City". Its distinctiveness has led the settlement to become one of the country's major tourist attractions.

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