Have you ever been to a longhouse? Would you like to stay in a longhouse? Are you curious about how the people in a longhouse go by their daily life?Here in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, the land of the hornbills, there are lots of longhouses that offer that chance. The one I went to and I suggest is called Annah Rais Longhouse.
I got curious straight away when I first met 44 years old Jenny Dudu, the woman who was responsible to make me feel at home during this trip, and enquired about the name of the village. Apparently, the original name was Annah Raih, which means a ‘village in a valley’. Villagers later proposed to call the village Kampung Senah Negeri, which practically means the same thing. However, the Government refused to approve it as Negeri can also means ‘state’. The misspelled name of Annah Rais was finally granted. Would you believe me if I told you that this village history goes back 280 years?
Located 63 kilometer from Kuching City, a 1 hour and 45 minutes drive away, Annah Rais is a village surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and trees. It has more than 600 residents within 137 households. When you take the trouble to come here, you will be rewarded not only by feeling the nature under your feet and around you, but also by meeting the warm people from the village. Try to say “Ani agah nga” or how are you? For sure they will reply back!
Thomas and I arrived at this unique and fabulous place on a late afternoon last June, and we were immediately welcomed by Jenny, who brought us to Karum Bidayuh Homestay, a homestay situated at the far side of the village. I can honestly tell you that my first impression of the village upon arrival was just normal. However, I discovered how amazing it is from the moment I started walking. I noticed that the roofed longhouse had a small garden at the corner with different types of vegetable: pumpkin, tapioca, corn and more. Besides that, a long platform covered entirely by suspended bamboo, and in the houses, friendly villagers. Even though they were busy doing their craft work, they still turned to say hi, and smiled. I found this to be good and unique, don’t you agree?
After a few more meters of walking, we met the homestay owner, Miss Karum. Her homestay is so beautiful, made of wood and with a tin roof. The wall was painted green and I could not believe my eyes that her homestay was so clean. There is a sofa set along with a television and some traditional local art hanging on the wall. Karum is a nice woman who welcomed us with all of her heart. She showed us around the house, took us to the small and tidy kitchen, to the toilet, and lastly to our rooms on the upper floor. The rooms are simple but really comfortable and from my window, I could see the beautiful longhouse area. Since that night it was raining, I can’t really tell you about the sky, but the air was really fresh. Take advantage if you go there: breathe easy and a lot, expelling all the toxins you store in your body.
That evening, Karum cooked for us a very delicious traditional food. We can assure you she is really good at cooking, I am sure you would enjoy her food too. The dinner consisted of a chicken soup with pumpkin, some local vegetable called ‘tepuk’, tapioca leaves and white plant. Once we finished with dinner, Karum shared her local rice wine with us, made by herself! I can tell you it is the nicest rice wine I have ever had, really smooth and a bit sweet.
If you give it a go, I advise you not to over drink it as rice wine can make you drunk without you realizing it. Karum told me she sells the rice wine at an affordable 10 RM per bottle, so don’t hesitate to buy a bottle or two for back home.
Apart from rice wine, Karum also makes a traditional tea known as ‘Bakah Baras’ in Bidayuh Biatah language. She told me that this tea was originally made from a special tree that can only be found in the forest. To make that into a tea, first the trunk needs to be dried in the hot sun, and later cut and split into small bits. After that, she cooks one or two pieces of it together with pandan leaves to make it into a tea. Bakah Baras is good for health, especially for diabetes, cholesterol and blood flow. Since it can only be found in Annah Rais, people in the city call it the ‘Annah Rais Tea’, a drink inherited from generation to generation. If you interested about this tea, I suggest you contact Karum, and no worries, its cheap at only 5 RM per plastic bag.
Full with energy from the dinner and excited about our trip to the waterfall the next day, Thomas and I slept really well with our windows opened: no need for air-con there!
For information and bookings, contact Miss Karum or Jenny at Karum Bidayuh Homestay – tel. (+60) 0168981675 – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or check their website at www.longhouseinborneo.com
Furthermore, to know about what happened the day after, read Thomas account on the jungle trekking to the waterfall at http://asianitinerary.com/annah-rais-trek-to-the-waterfall/