When did you start working as a water taxi driver and then tour guide?
I have been a water taxi driver for over 30 years. I did not finish primary school and did not go to high school. I needed to find a job then, so I started as a water taxi driver when I was just 13 years old with a small engine boat. In those days there weren’t a lot of water taxis and it was good living, as more people lived in the water village compared to now. I have been a tourist guide for about 10 years, to extend my business and also to make new friends from all over the world. At first, I didn’t know any English, so I learned from tourists and the people I met. The important thing is not to be afraid to learn and ask. That is the main thing.
How did you get started and find the tourists?
It actually began when I started bringing students studying at CfBT to see monkeys at Kampong Ayer. Then I was invited to Jerudong International School to show them how to make traditional kites, which uses a special lightweight bamboo called “Buluh Temiang”, although it is unfortunate now because there is a shortage of this kind of bamboo in Brunei. When I was at the demonstration, they also suggested I should do tours around Kampong Ayer.
How did you learn what tourists would like to know and see?
Before I started the tours, I did my research first, exploring the river to see what is there and where to bring the tourists. Along this Brunei River and mangrove areas there are a lot of animals to see, not only Proboscis monkeys, there are also fireflies, different types of birds, lizards and crocodiles. So far I have brought many international tourists and am fortunate they enjoy the experience and feature me on their websites or blogs, they place my contact details there, so I get more business. I only have Bruneian tourists come when they are with foreign friends, so I hope in the future more locals will come as I think everyone should experience the river.
What about when you conduct tours on Kampong Ayer?
Usually if I bring tourists, I first ask them what they want to know or where they want to go. If they want to know more about life in Kampong Ayer, I would bring them to my house – I will prepare food and drinks, serve them with Bruneian traditional cakes which my in-laws make for them. There are a lot of industries and places in the water village, such as where we build our own boats, which I think more tourists would be interested in seeing. They are just not well advertised, so hopefully this will improve with more tourism development. Homestays are also a great way to let tourists experience the Kampong Ayer lifestyle, such as how families live and dine together. In the future I would also like to develop a homestay for people to come and share our lifestyle more fully.
You have thirteen children, are any of them interested in working in tourism?
Yes there might be, my second son and also my daughter have studied tourism so I hope one will follow in my footsteps. There is much of the water village that can be explored and it would be good to have local Kampong Ayer people trained to be tour guides, as they know the place better and what it holds.
If you interested in exploring the river or visiting the water village, then you can contact Aslan on:
Tel: +673 8183489