December 17, 2010

The Oldest Longhouse in Heart of Borneo

 The Dayak Borneo Cultural Adventure 2010

6th December 2010 10 a.m.

We arrived in a hot and humid riverine village of small houses nestled amongst coconut trees. A small hut housed the gendang group and gong music enthusiastically floated through the air. Our leaders were stopped at a small entrance and Datuk Seri was asked to chop a wooden pole placed across his path. That was a traditional Dayak welcome I have never seen before!!

The Ancient Embaloh Longhouse at Sungai Ulok Palin in the Kapuas Hulu Regency is breathtaking! Any one who had told me about this ancient longhouse would be viewed by me as "bragging" or describing a Hollywood movie set. But when I actually arrived at the place and took my first step and  climb up the 200 year old belian (original) notched stair case up the ancient building (from Dutch period) I was already transported into another anthropological world...a micro  world within my own cultural space. It was my own AVATAR!!

The Gendang group - young men who have taken a day off from their farm to welcome the Dayak Cultural Adventurers from Sarawak.

After several of the VIPS had cut the  ceremonial poles of entry the rest of the group started to enter the compound of the longhouse.

Dr. James Alin from Universiti Sabah going through the welcome shed  in the compound before arriving at the real longhouse.

A pretty young lady in beaded blouse and skirt continuously dances to the beat of the gong. She keep smiling as I took photographs of her. She looks like one Tutom from Rumah Aling in Ulu Medamit.

the stilted Embaloh Longhouse from the outside. Most of the stilts or support pillars are 200 years old. It would really have been nice if we could spend more time here for photography.

However there was so much to see and do in this longhouse. And the handicrafts were also offered for sale by the various families. A day spent here would not have been two short. Our stay was only two short hours before we had to move on again.

Climbing up the 300 year old belian notched ladder (the main entrance to the long house). If there was a war this opening in the floor would be sealed. The ladder would be too heavy to carry away.

This is an exciting moment - dehusking hand made wooden mill. It takes days for women or men to dehusk a bag of rice. Usually polished rice has to be dehusked twice using this dehusker.

A young woman serving tiny lemang. That helped satiate my 11 o'clock low blood sugar situation. It was so hot I literary poured water over my head (cowboy style).

One of the pencil drawings of the Embaloh Longhouse presented by a very happy Chinese artist who came to stay with a family.

There was indeed a lot to learn. So much history and development have been seen by the longhouse dwellers and recorded in their social and cultural minds.

Their culture of preserving their longhouse style of living and their love for their traditions are admirable. With support from the Indonesian Government this longhouse will continue to be a real tourist attraction centre for many years to come.

As we drove away - all 22 vehicles - I exclaimed to my driver  and an ex- Headmaster Matthew Benson (in the manner of a keen school girl) - "I have not seen everything yet...and we have to leave....!"

So my friends - that's one place you have to visit at least once in your life time!


Daniel Yiek said...

Love the belian stairs

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Daniel
these are getting very rare nowadays. I hope one day you will be able to visit this gem of a longhouse.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

William said...

Where is this place? I wanted to go also!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

His this on the new road from Lubok Antu across the b order to Nganga Badau and after Lanjak National Park.....2 days' journey from Lubok Antu by 4 wheel.

Next year another similar adventure will be orgnaised by the organisers but may be another overland route would be taken. I have already shown my interst and if the time is ripe I might go again.

So interested keep asking me!! Be in touch.

Anonymous said...

I take my hat off to people who are willing to risk their lives to learn about other people and their about leaving your comfort zone! Madam...well done!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous...yes it is true many people do not wish to leave their comfort zone for the unknown. Some are even afraid to go to a place where there is no flush toilet!!


Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...