Think of a place. Any place. That’s what I’ve been asked to do. Without even putting any thought into it my mind is conjuring up an image. Is it somewhere I’ve been? Yes. Is it somewhere I’d like to go again? Possibly. Is the image a true representation of where I’ve been or a construction made in my mind from various fragments of a 24 year old memory. I don’t know.
All I do know is I’m stood high up on a hill, on a roadside. The road sweeps on up the hill to my left before turningup and over the crest. To my right the road drops down before turning back on itself as it makes it’s way down the hillside. It cuts through a terrain mostly of relatively flat grass. I think a mast of some kind is nearby. Possibly near where I’m stood or maybe slightly further up the hill behind me. Maybe some trees too as you follow the road up. The hill is empty going down. As you out look and across, there is more land working its way up to another hill.
Down in the valley going as far as the eye can see from left to right is a river. A wide river. But not an empty river. People live here. There are homes, houses on the water. Not just one or two but possibly 10’s or hundreds. Maybe even more. I’m having to rely on my memory. It’s a village. The houses themselves are made of wood and are not actually on the water so much as they are above it supported by wooden stilts and joined together by wooden walkways. On the top there is corrugated iron for a roof. While the houses tend to look similar, they are not identical, there is a definite character to each building.
The village is a sprawling mass. It’s hard to imagine the sort of people who would live here. Are they affluent? Do they live here by choice? Do they have nowhere else to go? Whatever, it has a uniqueness which in some ways seems to give it a beauty all of it’s own. Even it’s name, Kampong Ayer (literally water village) seems to have a literal beauty. I think it’s the way it just rolls off the tongue with ease.
Not far from Kampong Ayer lies the county’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The home of one of the richest men in the world. The Sultan of Brunei. Back in 1990 it very much felt like Brunei was a place of different worlds and cultures colliding. Some parts of the country were obviously home to extreme wealth but other parts definitely saw sight of extreme poverty. A lot of the modern architecture had a style all it’s own yet the western influence was not hard to see.
24 years later I would very much like to go back to see how much the west had continued to invade it and how much of it own unique character was still in place. I would like to find the hill I was stood on to see how much of the view I remembered remained.
What I have written above is purely based on a 24 year old memory. Go here for more information and pictures of Kampong Ayer to see what it’s really like. It’s interesting to me to see it is pretty much how I remembered it, although I didn’t trust my memory of its size. I knew it was big, but perhaps couldn’t appreciate quite how big.