Lazy days in an Iban longhouse (Song)

Trip Start Jul 03, 2007
Trip End Sep 06, 2007

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

After leaving Sibu behind (Hooray!), Josh and I headed up the mighty Rejang river to Kapit where we hoped to hang out in coffee houses, mingle with locals and generally manage to wangle an invite into a longhouse.

Lucky enough for us the invitation was not a long time coming and we got chatting to one of the locals on the express boat en route to Kapit (note to other travellers - no need to pay for children under 12 on passenger boats and long distance buses in Malaysian Borneo, even though people will try and charge you anyway!). Our new friend introduced himslef as Franklin, an Immigration Officer who had been working in KK, returning back to his family for a couple of months.

After explaining our plan (he thought we were crazy and wondered why we didn't just try and go through a tour company), and some general chit chat, Franklin invited us to stay with his family in their longhouse. Yippeee result!

He warned us that out of festival season, many of the longhouse residents vacate the longhouses, whilst they are working in the cities and towns, leaving many longhouses nearly empty, and only a few families would be resident at Franklins when we arrived. This didn't bother us in the slightest as we figured it would be much better to get an experience of 'real' life in the longhouse without all the shows etc put on for the 'tourist' version.
We spent a few fab lazy days chilling out with our hosts, eating gorgeous food, swimming in the river and generally being looked after. Whilst Franklin had mentioned that they had taken some German guests before, they had not had any tourists for nearly 5 years and we were the first to stay it was a real experience for all of us.

The one thing which did take some getting used to was the shower, which consisted of an open room with large containers to collect rainwater - plan being to wear a sarong and pour the water collected rainwater over your head. Easy if you have two sarongs for the occasion. Tricky if you have one and some poxy travel towels and nowhere to get changed! Managed to shower a couple of times in a swimsuit but they did wonder why we did not shower 3 times a day..

Whilst Franklin's English was really good and many of the younger people spoke a little, communication with the elders and young Aaoow (?!?!) was generally by guesswork; lots of speaking in our own language, smiling and shrugging of shoulders (with Aaow you could also just communicate in animal noises and she found this hilarious!) 'Chicken and Duck' they called it.

They did want to take us to the rubber plantation to help collect the rubber they were collecting but unfortunately as it rained every day, this was out of the question. We did however go with them to mark out the new paddy field which involved prayer, a sacrificial chicken and staking out ground. I think they were planning to come back to slash and burn the area to make way for the paddy in a few weeks.

Glad to say the people were completely different to those we met in Sibu and even the rowdy drunk ones we met when we visited another longhouse were all in good spirits and extremely hospitable!

Met some great people and made some new friends would definately hope to come back another time (which they did make me promise to when i have a husband!). They even offered to make us some Iban wear if we come during festival season.

There were almost tears when we took the longboat back to Sibu (and not just cos of where we were headed!)
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