Sunday, October 04, 2015

Belimbing Bidayuh Longhouse - A unique homestay experience

IT derives its name from a local fruit called Gerumbing by the Bidayuh.

This fruit, also called Belimbing by the Malays or known as star fruit (local) in English, is sweet although not very fleshy. It can make a nice decoration on the table, especially if we can have the red ones.

Pink Gerumbings are also available in Sarawak.

Because star fruits are abundant in their area, one of the Bidayuh sub-ethnic groups within upper Padawan had named their village Kampung Gerumbing about almost a century ago when they were still pagans.

Gerumbing was eventually replaced with Belimbing when the villagers moved to the new location, about 60km from Kuching. The original site was about 15 minutes by foot from the present one.

Kampung Belimbing is divided into two sections — one  is called Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing, the first Muslim Bidayuh Longhouse community settlement in Kuching Division.

This longhouse has been quite a popular countryside homestay to travellers or tourists who love the rough ride and rustic life. Backpackers in particular, will appreciate it.

The facilities are not for city dwellers but people who love nature and the green belt. The location is appropriate for people wanting to spend a few days in a typical countryside village and explore the surrounding attractions.

The road leading to the village itself offers scenic views of mountains, lush tropical forests and natural greenery.

Staying with a host family at the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing homestay is also an opportunity to experience the lifestyle and culture of the Bidayuh Muslim community.

Visitors, especially foreigners, can learn about the Bidayuh Muslim culture and also pick up their language in a friendly home atmosphere.

Besides, the very reasonable rates make this homestay an affordable short-term housing alternative to guesthouse or apartment.

Day-to-day life

There are 22 participants and 22 rooms in this longhouse.

Programme coordinator Raie Omar said homestay visitors could share the day-to-day life, traditional Bidayuh Muslim meals and special social activities at the village.

According to him, the programme includes activities such as jungle trekking, Rafflesia tour, bamboo raft safari, Bidayuh longhouse culture and cultural performance.

Raie said the Rafflesia site is about 2km away, adding that experienced guides would show the way to latest rafflesia bloom.

The Rafflesia is as unusual as it is spectacular. Much of the flower’s biology remains a mystery to this day. It has no specific flowering season, no roots, leaves or stems.

Scientists are still unsure how the seeds of a Rafflesia germinate and grow.

What is known is that it takes several hours for a flower to open fully. There are usually five thick and fleshy red-coloured petals, covered in lighter coloured spots, warts and blotches.

The Rafflesia only blooms for three to five days before it starts to blacken and rot. Raie said Rafflesia near Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing normally blooms in June or November but visitors could  still visit the site to the see the plant for themselves.

Along the jungle trek, there are also opportunities to observe the many types of medicinal, flowering and bamboo plants herbs, as well as wild local fruit trees and other flora and fauna.

Raie said the Kampung was equipped with several infrastructural facilities such as a multi-purpose community hall, a baruk, a sundry shop, a sportsfield, public phones and toilets.

He added that all activities, including cultural performance, would only be organised upon the visitors’ request.

“We have a cultural club which train dancers to perform upon request. Although we are Muslims, we still preserve our Bidayuh culture and our traditional attires are still Bidayuh-based.”