Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hidden gems of Long Tanid, Lawas

THE monotony of long-distance travel was beginning to numb our minds and weigh heavy on our eyelids as our Isuzu pickup stoically rumbled along the rough gravel and dirt road that wound its way up the undulating landscape of Long Semadoh in rural Lawas District.

We were about three hours drive from Lawas town, on our way to the Lun Bawang village of Kampung Long Tanid, one of 11 villages situated in Long Semadoh just before Ba Kelalan.

As our trusty ride crested the hilltop, the sparse wall of shrubbery that lined the road parted to reveal emerald green rice fields, bordered by mist-crowned mountain forests that marked a beautiful contrast to the crystal blue skies overhead. Sitting serenely in the centre of the patchwork of fields was our destination.

“This view is what Long Tanid is known for. Many people stop at this spot to take photos of the rice fields and mountains,” said our driver, local resident and homestay coordinator Balan Berauk, as he slowed the Isuzu down to allow us to soak up the postcard-perfect landscape.

Compared with Bario and Ba Kelalan, the highlands of Lawas tend to not feature as much in the travel plans of tourists and visitors passing through the northern regions of Sarawak — which is a shame as they have much to offer.

Life here harks back to simplier and kinder times where everyone seems to know everyone else on a first name basis. Being a good neighbour is a way of life.

Hospitality is not just reserved for blood relations as the local Lun Bawangs tend to pride themselves on being warm and generous hosts. It’s not uncommon for anyone who drops by for a visit to be invited to stay for a meal.

The landscape is still scarcely touched by the visceral scars of logging and oil palm plantations, in turn, supporting a wide range of wildlife and biodiversity and acting as water catchment areas for the many clear rivers and streams that cascade down the hills.

“What’s so special?” some may ask.

After all, it could be argued these things can easily be found elsewhere in the state without having to travel as far inland as Long Semadoh, where modern conveniences like mobile telephone and Internet communications are practically non-existent and most locals still rely on generators and micro-hydro dams for electricity.

But take a closer look, and you might be very surprised at what you may discover hiding in plain sight.

Local ingenuity

First-time visitors to Long Tanid may find themselves doing double takes when they see the European-style houses dotted throughout the village. In fact, a few of those houses would not look out of place on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.

Amidst the green grass fields, grazing buffaloes and wooden houses with the traditional roofs in the shape of a wooden mortar used to separate rice grains from their husks, one can find brick houses with French-style windows, plastered ceilings and solid hardwood doors.

According to Balan, this unique situation came about when one of the village’s sons – a lawyer who lived in Lawas – built a house there that incorporated a European style design.

It didn’t take long for the idea to catch on in Long Tanid and other residents began following suit. This was also helped by the fact that a number of the locals are skilled carpenters and construction workers.

Many of the designs were inspired by pictures, published in a particular home magazine and those found on the Internet. However, the westernization is limited mostly to outside appearances, Balan shared, adding that the insides of houses tend to follow local conventions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Hidden gems of Long Tanid, Lawas