Day 242: Local Life

Fri. 12th April 2013

Little poserIt is time to say goodbye to the Eco Lodge and as we look at the site plan in reception, we see we could have done many more activities. We had seen (and heard) the locals canoeing on the little lake outside our room at 6:45am yesterday and there is also paintballing, archery, a pool table and football pitch. For all our moaning at the basic facilities it is a great place for the local children to experience the outdoors.

Could be anywhereOn our way back to Kota Kinabalu we stop at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort on the coast to the north of KK. This is a posh five star resort with pool and beach access which is a world away from our accommodation this trip, but it looks like any other 5* resort anywhere in the world. Great to chill out but not so good for communing with the local culture. The only difference with this resort is that it has a 64 acre ecological space housing an orang-utan sanctuary attached to it, which is home to orphaned baby orang-utans.

Swinging through the treesFirst up is a video showing the work the sanctuary does to rehabilitate baby orang-utans before transferring them to Sepilok Reserve in the East of Borneo (where this trip was supposed to visit before the itinerary was changed). There are currently four babies aged between two and four years old, being rehabilitated and we hope to see at least some of them at feeding time.

Watching and waitingAfter the video we all head off along a jungle path through a gate in a mesh fence to the feeding area which is up yet more steps (why??) and our still weary leg muscles moan at us. By the time we get close to the feeding platform there are already two babies there swinging in the trees right above us and we are warned not to stop beneath them in case we get a warm shower!!

Time for a breather and some foodWe could have watched the babies for hours as they swing from tree to tree showing off what looks like a newly found ability as sometimes they misjudge a branch and a rustling in the undergrowth can be heard as they regain their balance. There is a feeding platform where they stop to eat before going off to play again. If the platform is empty, macaque monkeys come and raid the food supply carrying away more than they can manage to eat. One cheeky monkey was just scampering along a rope away from the platform when an orang-utan began to deliberately swing the rope until the monkey flew off. The babies come so close to us and are quite used to being close to the wardens and even climb on their legs or arms. Quite a different experience to Richie in Semengoh wildlife centre, Sarawak where there is minimal human contact as part of their rehabilitation back into the wild and they were further away from the tourists. The full grown orang-utans are huge so you would not want to get too close.

Parents downstairs, girls upstairsAll too soon it is time to leave as we have a quick turnaround at our Shangri La hotel in KK (not as posh as Rasa Ria!) before leaving at 5pm to head to Mari Mari cultural village and evening show. We have less than an hour to drop our bags off and change. Even so with the horrendous rush hour traffic the journey takes three times as long as normal and we are late arriving.

Ingredients for cooking in bamboo canesLuckily the first part of the experience is to be guided through five different traditional houses set out in a village specially built for tourists. In each one there is a demonstration of a different aspect specific to each tribe. The first stop is a Dusun house and a demonstration of making rice wine and a small taste, closely followed by a tot of whiskey. There is also a demonstration of how to cook food in bamboo canes.

Trophies of the Headhunters (fake)In the Rungus Longhouse we were shown how to start a fire with just bamboo firstly scraping some of the bark to make wood filings as the tinder, then through friction make a spark to light it. We did not have a chance to try. Next was the Lundayeh House we were shown how they made clothes and rope from tree bark. The clothes were thick and very heavy. Inside their house there were fake sculls to represent their historical headhunter days.

Ready for a weddingThe Bajau House was all decked out ready for a traditional wedding and a demonstration how to extract flesh and juice from a coconut. Our trainee tour guide knew all about this one from her grandfather. We also could try our hand at a blowpipe to blow a dart into a straw head just the way they used to do as head hunters.

Trampoline jumping for a prizeFinally in the Murut Longhouse there was a trampoline made from bamboo set in the centre of the floor on wooden springs. Competitions were held on this to jump and retrieve prizes which were local cigarettes. We could have a go at bouncing but I dared not jump too much with a dress on! The houses are all made from bamboo but with different layouts inside as required to fit their environment, such as on stilts over the river or wet ground. One thing that seems consistent is that the single girls have the upstairs rooms and in one case the ladder could be removed and kept in the parents room overnight to stop her sneaking out. The tour of the different houses was very interesting and I would have liked to have seen them in daylight without the rain but sadly this was not possible.

Bamboo danceThe tour was followed by a display of dances ending with a bamboo dance which the audience could try. There were a row of thick bamboo canes on the floor held at each end and moved from left to right firstly touching the cane on the left then the one on the right and two dancers had to jump over the canes without treading on the moving canes. It looked like you needed to be quite coordinated to avoid having your foot squashed.

DSC01336 (2)This was all finished with a dinner of local foods and the mandatory tour of the gift shop, where some rice wine was purchased and polished off on the half hour bus trip home. A few of the girls tried to persuade me to get a tattoo but as Dave said later – there was no chance of them succeeding and Dave was not surprised that I did not even get a henna tattoo that was on offer tonight.


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One Response to Day 242: Local Life

  1. The orangutans were so cute.

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