Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What It's Like to Stay in an Iban Longhouse on Borneo

Similar to the Native American reservations here in America, native tribes maintain ownership of certain plots of land on the island of Borneo.

One such tribe, the Iban, inhabits the jungles outside of Kuching in Malaysia, and makes its home in community lodging facilities known as “longhouses.”

The name is a pretty accurate description of their appearance. Picture a long, rectangular "motel" with side-by-side rooms and a common-area patio that runs the entire length.

This is essentially the setup for the longhouse, except the outside common area is enclosed, and beyond that is an outdoor patio.

Each room houses a single family and consists of two rooms, the bedroom and the kitchen.

The bedroom also doubles as a living room when the mattresses are removed from the floor and leaned against the wall.

Through Planet Borneo, you can visit and/or spend the night in a longhouse. This writer chose to do the latter, and it was an incredible experience to see the traditional and communal way in which the tribe lives.

Entering the longhouse is like walking into your grandfather’s toolshed. Hand-made nets and machetes, woven palm baskets, and fermenting rice wine (tuak) are the finished products, but signs of craftsmanship and resourcefulness are around every corner and on every shelf.