I have to be honest. I’m a pampered city girl and I love my modern city creature comforts.
But I was excited about staying in a jungle longhouse, which is the dwelling type for the indigenious people of Borneo, called Dayaks.
I mean, I don’t know, funny little things in life excite me, even if they fill me with dread or distaste on another level. (Like, I was really excited about being admitted to the hospital for a major operation ages ago.)
So, similarly, I was really excited when I saw the room that I was going to be sharing with Nanny Wen.
It was something different, so it was like an adventure. I was surprised to see beds and a fan. I had expected to sleep on thin mats on the floor or something like that.
The fan is actually more for discouraging mosquitoes than for providing coolness. Sarawak at night is cold and dry, almost like being in an air-conditioned room.
Unfortunately, our room only had one electrical outlet, so we had to decide between using the fan for mosquitoes or charging our laptops and phones at night.
Both our phones were flat by the end of the day because we had used it to Plurk and Tweet all day.
Nanny Wen asked me, “Would you rather sacrifice your phone or sacrifice yourself to mosquitoes?”
I thought for two seconds and said, “Sacrifice myself.”
She laughed. But I think she had the same sentiments.
Besides, I had brought three kinds of insect repellent with me, and Nanny Wen had Tiger Balm and lavender essence.
I am terribly spoilt.
We were hosted by Mathew Ngau, an acclaimed sape (traditional lute) master who owns a village and built this longhouse by himself. He also makes his own musical instruments and handicraft items.
Sorry, bad photo.
Longhouses are usually built on stilts and feature steep, narrow logs for steps.
It’s quite scary when you try them for the first time, especially the descending part.
This leads to the bathroom area. We were told that Mathew had specially built tile walls for the bathrooms just for us. Before this, the walls were made of bamboo leaves or something like that.
There’s no hot water!!! I nearly died trying to shower at midnight when the air was really cold.
Cute doggy standing guard outside the bathroom!
The front of the longhouse might be pretty and green like a well-kept garden, but the back is a jungle.
This is where Mathew grows food for the village.
They have their own supply of rice, vegetables, fruits and fish. Once in a while, they will trade for other meats at the market.
This tree had begun to fruit, but the durians won’t be ready for consumption till August. Sad. =(
Crossing a little log bridge to another segment of the jungle:
We came to a tilapia pond, where Mathew allowed me to feed the fish off a little wooden bowl.
Nanny Wen and I were thrilled about pretending to be farm girls.
Back at the longhouse, we were greeted by cute doggies!
The dog on the left has a crippled leg. It was run over by a vehicle. I felt so sad for it seeing it hop around on three legs. =(
There’s also a very attention-seeking cat the longhouse. Friendliest cat I ever saw. She would go up to strangers and wait to be petted and fussed over.
After our jungle tour, we had two hours to rest before dinner, so I took a shower and got down to work. I had to write my Star Blog entry for Monday’s update.
It started raining right after I finished my shower, so it was really comfortable and cool lounging in our shabby room. Nanny Wen slept while I worked. O_o
Because of the rain, our van got stuck as we were driving out to dinner, so the men had to get down to push.
Nanny Wen and I got down to take photos. Haha!
We were on our way to attend the Gawai closing ceremony. Gawai is a Dayak festival to give thanks for a good harvest and to ask for blessings for another good year of harvest.
We would be fed two dinners that night. Once at 6:30 pm and once at 8:30 pm.
Thinking back, now, I realise that for the three nights we were in Kuching, Nanny Wen and I had two dinners every single night! OMG.
But Kuching is a really great place for food. Everything is good and cheap (especially the hawker fare and Dayak cooking) and I have developed serious cravings for many dishes that can only be found there. Can’t wait to go back again!
Oh, yes, I have yet to recount my experience of sleeping in the longhouse.
Um… two words: INSECT CITY!!
At night, all the insects come out to play. I decided not to spray insect repellent on myself cos I can’t stand the smell, but I had brought repellent sachets which can be placed beside your bed.
I guess it worked because I didn’t get bitten. But I could still see all kinds of strange insects flying around the room all night.
After washing up and staying up a bit to chat with the guys and drink a bit of tuak (native rice wine), I went to bed at 2:30 am.
The communal area just outside our rooms where we hung out:
I set my alarm for 4:30 am because we had to leave at 6 am to drive to our mountain race.
I got woken up several times by varieties of insects noises during my first hour, but I did manage to get some sleep.
But at 3:50 am, I woke up for the final time and couldn’t go back to sleep. There was this stupid fly that wouldn’t quit buzzing around my ears, even after I put the repellent sachet right next to my ear.
I lay in bed, trying to get back to sleep, but sleep eluded me. After half an hour, I gave up. At 4.20 am, I got out of bed to wash up and get ready for the day. (Anyway, we only had one bathroom, two toilet cubicles and one wash basin to share among six people, so someone had to start early.)
With only about an hour’s sleep, I looked forward to doing my 10km mountain trek. Awesome.
But it was good. I mean, I wasn’t traumatised or anything by the humble accommodation and insects.
I did feel a little grossed out at finding insect shit on my bed. There was this small lump of wet, black shit which smelled disgusting, which my index finger accidentally discovered, to its dismay. There were also several lizard droppings scattered around.
The scary thing was that they weren’t there in the day when we checked in. I only found them at night after we got back to the longhouse, so I was kinda worried all night about lizards shitting on my face while I slept.
But it was interesting and cosy. I’m sure if we’d had the chance to stay there for a few more days, I would have gotten used to the insects.
And, maybe, next time, I will sacrifice my phone for the fan.