For 1300 years, people have inhabited the stilted water village of Kampong Ayer. Since that time, it has been dubbed the Venice of the East, but in many ways its bizarre water structures are in a league of their own outside of comparison to the classic Italian city.
Today, Kampong Ayer is not only still standing, but it is blossoming. More than 30,000 people live in the city, bringing the total population to 10% of the entire country of Brunei. Although it is classified as one village, it is actually a cluster of 42 smaller villages, interconnected by 18 miles of foot bridges. Although the buildings sit atop stilts on the water’s surface, the village has electricity and even air conditioning.
Kampong Ayer connects Brunei to its past, as people in the area have been living on and off the water throughout its history. According to many accounts, Magellan visited the village in the 16th century, and is credited with coining the phrase “Venice of the East.” Even though many of the structures seem small, the village is also equipped with hospitals, schools, shops and restaurants.
Visitors to the area are especially taken with the village’s long, wooden speedboat water taxis, that ferry passengers between distant points across the world’s largest water village.