Sarawak, a land that is blessed with rich culture and surrounded by beautiful nature attracts an influx of tourist every year. Its gorgeous mountainous landscape filled with thick rainforest draws people from far and wide. What makes Sarawak truly unique, besides its charming nature are its people and the simple lives they lead. And one of the best ways to observe and mingle with the locals is by going on a culturally induced journey to the Sarawak Longhouses.
Usually found deep within the rainforest, the longhouses is where the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu people call home. These indigenous tribes are still very much connected to their ancestral roots in the way of living. Built on stilts and made entirely out of wood and bamboo, it is often two or three hundred feet long and forty or fifty feet wide. Here you will be able to find about 100 different families living under the same roof.
The journey to the longhouses is an adventure in itself as some may require trekking a distance through the tropical rainforest and meandering upstream by a boat while some are accessible by roads. Whichever route you choose, it is filled with interesting sights to see along the way and your journey will be certainly be worthwhile.
The indigenous people who are known for their friendly hospitality are always happy and eager to entertain visitors in their home. Traditional dances and ceremonial gongs are played as a welcome gesture on the day of your arrival.
Adorned in their traditional outfits, they move gracefully to the rhythmic sound of the beats which is a beautiful sight to behold. As you are being entertained by the spectacle, a feast is prepared and local rice wine ‘tuak’ is served. The feasting and dancing usually would last till dawn which is why it is always recommended that you stay a night or two in order for you to witness and experience fully the simple life led by these humble people.
Relying on the earth’s natural resources in their daily lives as well as placing their beliefs and customs in the surrounding nature, these indigenous people are respectful to their natural surroundings and its inhabitants. Called ‘the protectors of the land’, they take it upon themselves to safeguard the jungle from threats of development and deforestation. It is rather enlightening as well as interesting to see how much these people care for Mother Nature and it teaches you to appreciate the abundant beauty there is that city dwellers often miss out on.
Known as one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sarawak, there are many home-stay programmes which allow you to experience living among the indigenous people. One of the famous home-stay programmes is at the Annah Rais Longhouse. Guests will have the opportunity to learn how to hunt using a blowpipe, swim in uncontaminated waterfalls, learn the cultural dance or the traditional music instruments and soak in natural hot springs in the surrounding jungle.
The Kampung Benuk home-stay programme also has a number of activities for you to explore. Besides the many fun adventures that you get to enjoy, the home-stay programme gives you an insight on the sacred cultures and traditions of the Bidayuh tribe which has been observed over the years. Hotels and tourist operators across the state also offer tour packages which include one or two nights stay in one of the Sarawak longhouses.
Your time spent at a longhouse is guaranteed to be one that is not only memorable but educational as well. Although modern development has added its touch into the lives of the people, they still managed to keep their heritage intact and preserve the teachings of their ancestors. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that should not be missed.