Mengkak Longhouse from afar
The four-seater boat that visitors use to reach thelonghouses from the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort
If nature and multi-ethniccultural experiences are your cup of tea,then Sarawak has plenty of them tofascinate you.For someone who at timesfinds nature overrated and is notparticularly enthusiastic about ethniccultures, I still welcome a trip toexplore Sarawak again with pleasureand excitement. Perhaps, it was due tothe chance to check out Hilton’s only jungle property, the Hilton Batang AiLonghouse Resort.Our main destination this timewas Batang Ai, to visit the Ibancommunity at the Mengkak Longhouselocated at the mouth of SungaiEngkari.The Ibans form the largestpercentage of Sarawak’s population. Indays of yore, they were reputedly themost formidable headhunters on theisland of Borneo. Ibans today arefriendly and hospitable. They arerenowned for their traditional weavingssuch as the Pua Kumbu, woodcarvings,beadworks and silver craftings.Longhouses are built on stiltsabout a metre above the ground. As thename suggests, Borneo longhouses arelong and narrow consisting of severalrooms. Each family occupies a room.One longhouse typically accommodatesbetween 20 and 50 families.There’s a large communal living space, between the balcony and bedrooms, known as the
, running down one side, and separate living quarters for each family along the other side. The
is the place where the longhouse folks gather for an evening chat or carry out activities likemaking handicrafts and farming apparatus.
A TASTE OF IBAN HOSPITALITY AT THE MENGKAK LONGHOUSE
Upon reaching the longhouse, we spotted three sarong-clad Iban ladies doing their laundryand bathing in the lake, which is a normal routine for the longhouse folks.Ah, I wished I could jump into the inviting cool lake to join them.No, don’t get me wrong.It was intensely hot that day and I was drenched in sweat, especially after travelling under theblazing sun for close to an hour. To reach the Mengkak Longhouse, we had to endure a 45-minuteride in a four-seater motorised longboat from the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort.