July 4, 2011

Living under one roof

Being a Malaysian is just so amazing. We have so many different cultures and races. I grew up with a fascination for the island just across the sea. Its diversity, its coulourful culture and tradition, just attracts me. One of the things that I long to see there is a ‘longhouse’. For those who grew up there, it’s a normal thing. But me, being a Semenanjung girl, it just amazes me how so many people can live so peacefully under the same roof.

The 250 years old Annah Rais Longhouse is one of the oldest longhouse in the island of Borneo. Its structure is made from a type of hard wood known as “Iron Wood” which can only be found in Borneo. There are 2000 over Bidayuh living in the Annah Rais Longhouse and 98% of them are Christians.

It was pouring heavily when I arrived at the longhouse. However, the tour guide provided us with some umbrellas to cover ourselves. Sadly, I couldn’t manage to capture good photos holding an umbrella in one hand and a camera in another.

A myth that I grew up with was that a longhouse is a really really really really long horizontal house. However, this visit changed my perception.

This longhouse is suspended above the ground using Iron Wood. The area between the houses above and the ground below are used to kept livestock and animals. This is an old tradition used to keep enemies away as the livestock and animals acts as alarms.

The longhouse is a combination of many different apartments or 'bilik' connected via a main terraced street. There are biliks on the left and right, biliks that you have to climb up, biliks that you have to climb across. All of them connected together with an area called the 'verandah' made out of bamboo.

We are greeted with a small glass of ‘tuak’, a traditional local-made rice wine served by a very sweet lady.

First stop, Rumah Panggah. This is a like a ‘community hall’ where people gather for festivals, gathering, rituals, events, etc… One of the traditional rituals is when a boy becomes a man; he must sleep in the house.

This is the centre area of the house where they used to burn sacrifices and conduct rituals. You will notice the firewood used just placed below the cage of skulls. The long bamboo strips with the layer of skin tied to it was previously a drum. At a corner of the house, several long tree stumps are placed thru the floor of the house to the ground below. The layer of strips is then pulled tightly over the tree wood to form drums.

The canon underneath was given to the ‘Tuai Rumah’ or headman long time ago as a peace treaty by someone (sorry, I can’t remember).

No, the skulls are not placed in cage to prevent them from escaping, but it’s to prevent people from stealing them. Yes, I did touch it :) and they are real.

A 2-in-1 equipment. As a pounder to pound stuff and as a stool…

We visited a ‘show unit’…actually it was just an unused house that we had the chance to view.. Sorry for the blur pictures as it was pitch dark inside, only illuminated by a single bulb.

The kitchen area. A tiny place for washing, heating up and a bamboo lamp.  

The fire area is on the floor. The fire wood area is located on top the fire area as this keeps the wood dry.  If you look closely, there are bamboo placed together with the firewood. These bamboo acts as refrigerator for dry food stuff. 

The large jars on the left are refrigerator for wet food stuff.

Tiny stairs to go to the area upstairs where extra rice/ harvest is kept.

This is how the room looks like from the back to the entrance.

This is how the room looks like taken from the entrance to the back. The mats on the floor are sleeping mats where the whole family sleeps.

My camera battery died after that so didn’t manage to capture any pictures. After leaving the house, the tour guide took as for a walk thru the whole village. Its really big.

David, our tour guide is a fantastic tour guide. He explain about everything, the houses, the equipment used, the furniture, the tradition, the people. the culture, the food ate, the plants that grow along the way and so much more... My Kuching friend scolded me for paying so much to visit a longhouse when he can actually bring me there. But for me, I am paying for the experience and the knowledge imparted by the tour guide which my friend could not have provided. 

Some other things beside the longhouse is the Sugar Crush. This is how they made sugar in the past. Sugar cane is place under the log on the right. Another person rolls the log from left to right to crush the sugar cane. Cool huh?

This is the river then leads to the city of Kuching. In the past, a trip to Kuching using a sampan will take at least 7-10 days. Now, with the development and building of roads, it only takes about 1.5 hour.  So what’s stopping you for a visit?

The visit to the Annah Rais Longhouse was an eye-opener. I can now consider myself slightly more Malaysian then before :) 

If you want to stay overnight, check this out. Mr Edward, the homestay coordinator is a nice round man :) I wish I had the time for an overnight stay :(

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