KUCHING : “A most memorable experience!” That was how Alice van Den Ham described her visit to a traditional Bidayuh longhouse about a year ago.
Alice, 44, who lives in a town called Amersfoort in the Netherlands, was in Sarawak for a week-long holiday with her husband Jack Homann, 48, and their two daughters Stijn and Emma aged 15 and 11 respectively just before the Movement Control Order was imposed nationwide last March.
Among the places they visited was the Annah Rais longhouse in Padawan, located some 100 kilometres from Kuching.
They also visited various other attractions in and around Kuching, such as the Bako National Park, Sarawak Cultural Village and Semenggok Wildlife Park but discovered that their visit to the Annah Rais longhouse was the most interesting and memorable one.
MORE THAN 100 YEARS OLD
The Annah Rais longhouse, located in a Bidayuh settlement at the foot of the Borneo highlands near the mountains bordering Indonesia’s Kalimantan, is made of bamboo and is over a hundred years old. It is one of the finest longhouses still in existence in Sarawak.
Alice told Bernama in a WhatsApp interview that she and her husband were very impressed with the uniqueness of the longhouse and the way of life of its occupants.
“We were greeted warmly and served tuak (a local rice wine) that tasted like red wine. We really liked the atmosphere there,” she said.
She said they also bought two bottles of tuak which she and her husband drank while relaxing at the Ma’asa Jungle Homestay in Kampung Semadang, Padawan, where they stayed for three nights.
“The Bidayuh people were gracious hosts and their village is the perfect place to discover their culture and learn about their fascinating way of life,” she added.
At the longhouse, they toured the panggah, a Bidayuh house where the skulls of enemies captured during the headhunting era are “exhibited”. The family also took a dip at the famous Annah Rais hot springs.
The Dutch family also visited Bau, which is about 35 kilometres from Kuching, and went kayaking in the Semadang river, a tributary of the Sarawak river.
“The kayaking was also a very good experience. We really loved the beautiful scenery along the river and the pristine state of the river,” said Alice, who is a bank manager.
The family also met the “endangered” Ring Ladies of Kampung Semban and learned how to perform the traditional Bidayuh dance.
Only a few Bidayuh women are still practising the tradition of wearing coiled rings on their forearms and legs, which are a part of their daily attire as they have been wearing the rings from a young age.
“Our homestay experience was also fairly new to us and we did not really know what to expect. Nevertheless, it really surprised us and we can say that we saw the real Sarawak this way. Cool to see how people live there,” Alice said, adding that she and her family also enjoyed eating the local seafood and Malaysian delights such as satay.
Homann, who is an IT engineer, said he and his wife would definitely promote Sarawak among their relatives and friends back home and recommend a visit to the longhouse.