Thank you to everyone that's written us messages on the board again. It always makes us smile when we have a new message!
Again internet issues mean that the photos are to follow this blog entry, but never mind! So since returning from seeing the world's largest flower we had a couple of things on the itinerary, one being to find a new hat for Adam. After several days of searching we at last found one for the grand total of 6RM (1pound). The hat is now 5 days old so fingers crossed this one may make to the end of the trip. There will be a photo of Adam in his new hat and photos of a few that didn't make it!
Well, after finding a hat we were free to start moving again. We spent about 3-4hours in a van going to an Iban longhouse near to Batang Ai. En route to the long house we stopped at a pepper plantation and saw not only where our pepper comes from but also loofers! The journey wasn't all by van the last part was a 35min long boat ride down the river. The boats are incredibly low in the water and handmade by the Iban people. Before engines they paddled all the way and this was their only transport. Technology has reached the jungle though now so we got there quicker!
The longhouse which we stayed at is home to 24 families. Each family has their own set of private rooms. The chief's family has the largest set of rooms of course but everything else in the longhouse is shared out equally, jobs, land, food etc. The living area in the longhouse is communal and has bamboo matting on the floor and very little else. There is also a veranda, which again is communal. The Iban's were headhunters once upon a time (the orang ulu and bidayuh tribe were also headhunters). Headhunting ceased 65years ago, however the chief being 90 would have bought back at least one head as a man could not marry unless he had proved his worth in this manner. We did see a couple of heads hanging in the longhouse and these are still used in certain ceremonies, yet most of the tribe have converted Christianity and have a pastor living amongst them.
We stayed in the guest house next to the longhouse and one member of our party likened it to the barracks for the prisoners which are used in "Bridge Over The River Kwai". You'll see what they mean when we've uploaded the photos! Despite the accomodation we had a fantastic time. Four members of the longhouse danced for us in full traditional costume, then we joined in, we drank tuak and tried bamboo dancing. After trying to sleep through the roosters continual wake up calls from 4am (why did they put him next to the guest house and not under the longhouse with the other animals?) we tried our hand at blow pipe shooting. The aim was to hit two Papaya that were attached to a tree. Adam was much more successful than Ruth but still only got the one, no prize this time! Following the blow pipe we went for a walk with a member of the tribe who showed us how to tap a rubber tree, a leaf like sandpaper and two different kinds of animal trap. All in all the longhouse stay was a fantastic experience.
On returning to Kuching we went to the Sunday market, the market clearly starts on Saturday afternoon and continues through to Sunday lunch time. The market is pretty much the only place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables so we made the most of it and both have a new found love of dragon fruit. We also believe that Adam may have now attempted to eat the largest banana in the world! Seriously, we've never seen anything like it!
Not satisfied with just seeing one tribal longhouse we paid a visit to the cultural village where we saw seven differnt types of longhouse. None of the longhouses here are actually lived in by anyone, but people do still create objects using traditional methods. We managed to buy some Tuak from a little Iban woman which she had made herself in some very large and old jars. Ruth managed to have some fun here playing a handmade xylophone and a traditional stringed instrument called a sape. The best part of the visit was the 40min dance show. The dancers performed a variety of dances from the various tribes. Quite impressive was the man lifting a 20kg mortar with his teeth and dancing around the stage with it still in his mouth! A pretty good afternoon out, aside from the palm cookies made from sago (flour that is made from the bark of palm trees).
Today we fly to Miri and from there we will be visiting Niah caves and then heading across into the remote Kelabit highlands where once you have landed you can only reach other places by foot. We're really lookng forward to seeing some more longhouses and being out of the cities.
We hope that you've enjoyed reading this. Please ignore any typos! As usual we're rushing to put something up here! We look forward to hearing from you.