Day 229: Eat Drink And Be Merry

Sat. 30th March 2013

They should all be doing the same stepToday it is a long drive to an Iban longhouse where we will be staying tonight. We load up into three minibuses before breakfast and hit the road to get at least an hour along the road before our first food stop. We stopped at a small roadside outdoor café where you could watch them cooking up the noodle soup or fried noodles that some of us ordered. Others settled for toast which comes in ready made sandwiches with very sweet orange coloured banana jam, or others just a tea or coffee to get the day going.

BreakfastWatching our route on my phone we first went south almost to the border with the Indonesian part of Borneo and ran parallel to it for a while heading east. This took us along the main road, which was mainly single carriageway with occasional overtaking lanes and wide verges, though some quite dense jungle off to both sides and few houses. We then turned north as there is no direct route and the main road does three sides of a square. The second stop after another couple of hours was a comfort stop but there were also stalls selling food and snacks. Dave tried the deep fried banana but I went for the deep fried batterball type things with vegetables, 20p for a small bag with a few of each in it, freshly cooked and very tasty.

Lunchtime treatFor lunch we pulled into a gravel area in front of some shacks with corrugated roofs which contained a number of food stalls and a seating area full of tables and chairs. We could not resist the freshly grilled fish which was delicious, much better than UK fast food.

Afternoon tea Iban styleFinally after seven hours we arrived at our destination, which was the Iban longhouse, which comprised of about thirty houses all joined in a row with a huge covered area in front of them used for community gatherings and celebrations etc. Each house has three levels, an upstairs which we did not get to see, the ground floor and a lower ground. We went into number 9 and the ground floor was a long narrow room, where one third of our group were to sleep on thin mattresses on the rushmat covered floor. There was also a seating area with room for more beds at the back. Downstairs was another big room where the children appeared to play and maybe sleep and a door out the back to a walkway. Across the passageway each house has a dining area with a kitchen behind and toilets and shower room behind that. Each of the thirty houses looked to be the same. Apparently the families take it in turns to house visitors but the girls stayed in number 7 and we all ate in their kitchen.

Longhouse communal areaWe however, after the initial disappointment of not sleeping in the longhouse, had a more comfortable time in the house of the man in charge which had an open area downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. The shower was interesting as it is a big bucket which you fill with cold water from a tap and use a scoop to pour water over yourself to wash. The bathroom is like a wetroom so the water runs down a drain in the corner – it is very bad form to use the big bucket as a bath!

Enjoying a cold showerAfter a snack we headed off for a walk which involved wading through streams to a waterfall close by and a dip in the cool water. As we are in a Muslim country and staying away from urbanisation we were told that shoulders and knees were to be covered and for swimming the ladies should wear shorts and t shirts so I had to borrow Dave’s spare swimming shorts! The locals do not wear any sort of local dress although a few of the older ladies do wear sarongs.

Great spread for dinnerWe all sat around on the floor for supper, and first were offered a glass of their rice wine, which tasted a like a cross between sherry and white wine, but very good. The spread of interesting foods for supper was great with a huge choice, we just had to try everything (I did pass on the cooked banana flowers) but the dried fish, pumpkin and boiled sugar cane stems were the best.

Once finished we moved back to the area in front of the houses for the evenings activities and began by watching a video of their annual event where they do dress in traditional outfits to dance and sing, complete with subtitles for the songs, karaoke style. This was followed by each of us heading for the microphone to introduce ourselves and tell a bit about ourselves (after being given another tot of the rice wine). The lady compere then translated our words for those who did not speak English.

All dressed up and ready to danceThis was followed by a display of local dances two male and two female, even though one of the ladies took some persuading to dance, accompanied by local musical instruments. Mr John who performed a warrior’s dance with a traditional sword was excellent, but a bit of a worry given how much rice wine he appeared to have already consumed. The dancers were not in traditional dress like we had seen on the video so was not so spectacular, but still impressive with the delicate hand movements.

Ladies turnIt was then time for yet another tea break with the yummy rice flour chocolate pancake type things we had eaten earlier for our snack. This is not helping the diet today as all we seem to have done is sit or eat, with only a short walk. No time to relax as the next activity was us trying the dances and the lady compere insisted it was compulsory. It was actually quite fun, but I must admit the ladies dance was easier and I think Mr John had an evil streak making the men’s moves complicated! They did however have a glass of rice wine each before their dance. We had been warned by Stacey not to encourage the drinking as one of the mottos of Intrepid is responsible travel, however we found they did not need any encouragement and it was us that kept saying no thanks.

Poco pocoThe lady compere was great but with a wicked sense of humour. The next “activity” was some mathematical problems, which the engineer in our group was a wiz at, and the prize – a small glass of rice wine. Various other quizzes followed with questions and puzzles being set by both groups. By midnight we were ready for bed, as we knew we had an earlyish start in the morning, but our host had one more activity up her sleeve. Everyone had to dance the poco poco, which the locals love. This is a type of line dance and should have been easy to pick up but the mixture of tiredness and rice wine made us seem to have two left feet. We had all been looking forward to our homestay and had had a great day enjoying the local culture, especially the food and the dancing not to forget the rice wine!

This entry was posted in Asia, RTW Trip and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *