On August 19, 2009, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzadin Waddaulah, the Crown Prince of Brunei Darussalam, the oil-rich ancient kingdom on the rainforest-covered island of Borneo, officiated the launching ceremony of a new and significant tourism product in the heart of the centuries old Kampong Ayer (Water Village) located just across the downtown area of Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery (KACTG), managed by the Brunei Tourism Development Department, is the country’s latest tourism product meant to enrich the experience of visiting the famed Water Village of Brunei.
As stated by the Minister in charge of tourism in his speech, Kampong Ayer is a must-see attraction for the majority of tourists visiting Brunei, as it is its most unique treasure with centuries of recorded history and having the distinction of being the world’s largest village on stilts, with some 30,000 people living in generally comfortable circumstances across a collection of 28 villages stringed along a stretch of the Brunei river, a tidal inlet from the Brunei Bay, only minutes away by boat from the capital’s downtown areas.
Most tourists, however, do not get a chance to learn more in-depth information about the background, history, traditions, society, and arts and crafts of this extraordinary settlement, dubbed in the 16th century as the “Venice of the East” by an Italian navigator.
The KACTG has, therefore, been built to remedy this situation, offering visitors an interactive touch-screen information display, five mini galleries containing background information on Kampong Ayer from its historical origins until its present day, as well as a number of photographs and museum artifacts on display. Handicraft displays, live craft-making demonstrations, and a souvenir kiosk will allow visitors to bring back memories and mementos of their Kampong Ayer experience.
Built in the style of a grand Kampong Ayer house, and with a distinctive observation tower that will give visitors a bird’s eye view of the Water Village and its surroundings, the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery is going to be a new landmark for Bandar Seri Begawan and a point of pride for Kampong Ayer residents.