My curiosity was paid off precisely when my first step down the bus in one of Bandar Seri Begawan Bus Terminal platforms. Unexpectedly, my journey around Southeast Asia took me to Hassanal Bolkiah’s land.
A step later, I was already in “Afmal Restaurant” near bus terminal to enjoy a portion of “bakso” (Indonesian name of meatballs). Needed something fresh in my mouth to relieve tangling after an overnight stay without bathing in Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 (KLIA2). Freshness of “bakso” which I ordered became more meaningful when there was a little conversation with restaurant owner who come from Purworejo, Central Java, Indonesia….It means that He is from similar province with me in Indonesia.
After being full, I rushed to get out of terminal area through “Bebatik” alley to main road (the road name is Mc Arthur Street). Right on other side of Mc Arthur Street, you will find Brunei River which is very clean. And right in the middle of Brunei River, standing a famous village throughout Brunei. It’s called Kampung Ayer.
I always observed every motorboat which splitting Brunei River wide. There was no other way to get to Kampung Ayer, I had to ride that motorboats.
Rushing toward Brunei River edge, I waited a motorboat arrival which heading to small port in front of me. After leaning, that motorboat was immediately filled with 2 other tourists. This boat was very fast in moving and never waited long for get passengers in river edge.
A thing that you need to know is every Singapore Dollar can be used as payment tool in Brunei Darussalam with similar value with Brunei Dollar. So, 1 Brunei Dollar is same with 1 Singapore Dollar in value. But in many transactions, Brunei residents only accept payments in Singapore’s paper money and refusing Singapore Dollar coins. But in several transactions also, this coin can function….I hope you are lucky in using Singapore Dollar coins there….hahaha.
With a 1 coin of Singapore Dollar, I finally arrived in Kampung Ayer Cultural And Tourism Gallery. This gallery is located in front of village. Free entrance made me so happy when filling a guest book in reception desk. Warm greeting from a Malay-speaking receptionist made me feel like I was in my home.
Kampung Ayer itself was the center of Brunei’s government until end of 19th century. Therefore, The Brunei Sultan established his palace here. Another role as an important port in Brunei makes Kampung Ayer as the administrative center for commercial activities in Brunei. Every signing of important government agreements with other parties is done here.
The appeal of Kampung Ayer as government centre made 50% of Brunei’s residents live there in the 1900s.
At exit door, I began to be stunned with neat ranks of houses in Kampung Ayer. I didn’t waste my time then visiting the village. Residents friendliness made me reluctant to quickly leave Kampung Ayer.
But soonly, I realized that I should immediately look for lodging to stay that night. Online searching for lodging that I did was never got a result. It maybe happen because Brunei Darussalam tourism isn’t been famous in Southeast Asia region.
I decided to pull over by waiting for a motorboat in boat shelter. Didn’t wait a long time until a motorboat was picked me up. Together with a man and his son who are Kampung Ayer residents, I headed to edge of river. Looked like that man had an important agenda, it could be seen from his way in a very neat and smooth dressing.
He: “Where are you come from?” He firstly greeted me with a smile.
Me: “I’m from Indonesia, sir”. I gave a smile and I shook his hand.
He: “Which part of Indonesia?”
Me : “Jakarta, Sir”.
He: “What profession are you doing here?”
Me: “Oh I don’t work in Brunei, sir. I am just traveling now”.
He: “Brunei is very quiet. Why do you visit Brunei? “
Me: “Oh, Brunei is very religious, sir. I deliberately go to Brunei because I intend to travel around Southeast Asia. Glad to be in your country “.
He: “Wow, it’s good to go around Southeast Asia. You don’t need to pay the boat. I paid for you”, He gave 3 Brunei Dollars to motorboat driver.
Me: “Thank you, sir, nice to meet you,” I felt shy, even though I was very happy to ride a free boat.
A little conversation with a local before I finally leaned in river edge.
Let’s….Looking for dormitory!