Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Monday, January 21, 2013

Now that we're out of the tourist areas, we're searching for something real (despite the longhouse disaster). Excited by the idea that Borneo is a wild and untouched place (a tad romantic perhaps) we longed for some interactions with people (and not just our fellow travellers, nice though they are).

We talked with our couch surf hosts in Kuching about this. They've lived in Sarawak for 2 years and both have jobs that take them to the are outreaches of the province. As a result, they've had some amazing experiences.  Sharing the true CS (couch surfing) spirit, they agreed that taking tours to fabricated longhouse villages with cultural 'displays' and 'shows' were NOT the way to find something real. But if not booking, how do you get this? “Just go to Kapit and someone will find you” was their cryptic suggestion.

Well, we went to Kapit, and were wandering around one evening and finally found ourselves in conversation with a man from Kuala Lumpur. He gave us all sorts of good information on things we needed to know. He then suggested that we go to Rorna's (the woman with him) house to see how her mother weaves with a traditional Iban loom. Seemed so out of the blue and strange – of course we agreed. Phone numbers were exchanged and a time was set for the next evening. 

Then came the longhouse disaster and we were almost ready to cancel. Thankfully, we didn't!

Met by Rorna and her friend Siti, we piled into the back of their pick-up and went to their house. Best friends since childhood, they are both teachers in Kapit. They were giggly and friendly and we liked them immediately.  When I asked them if they did this kind of thing often they laughed and said it was their first time!

When we arrived, we saw the looms in various stages and we got a little demonstration of weaving. Rorna's mother does everything in the traditional way from setting up the loom, preparing the designs, dying the fabric and weaving. She takes the thread and bundles them together and wraps different sections in waxed thread to resist the dye. Then, using natural bark and leaves she creates dyes to colour the string. I couldn't believe how beautiful the designs were. I'm a bit ashamed to say, but much of the 'native' weaving I've seen I find a bit tacky (although I respect the process immensely). But this was truly beautiful.

Soon we were old friends, and when they saw how much we liked what she made, they pulled out some beadwork and other traditional clothing and started to dress Brian and I up in it (much to their and our amusement). Then the tuak (teh-wack) came out (a rice liquer that Iban people make). I find it quite nice to drink – much better than some other rice wines we've tried). I also had a go at trying out the looms (not a great idea AFTER the tuak). I was so afraid of making a

Emails were exchanged and a photo of us all dressed up was uploaded to facebook before we even made it back to the hotel. What a crazy world we live in!

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