I was in Kuching after a second visit to Semban village when a few of us decided perhaps to squeeze in a short visit to a authentic Iban Long house in Batang Ai, Sarawak. I have heard about long houses but this would be my first time visiting one. Our guide guranteed us this is an authentic long house, as authentic as one will ever find. “Okay…wow me I told the guide”. Nothing like Anna Rais longhouse it seems.
It took us several hours drive from Kuching to the jetty at Batang Ai. Along the way, we stopped at a few places for lunch and toilet breaks. One of the stop overs that I really liked was a place called Lachau. A row of shop houses with local farmers trading local farm produce at the sidewalks. It had a sense of rusticity and romanticism to it. An atmosphere of a lonely, sleepy town.
There are several shops in Lachau stop area that sells parangs and other sorts of ‘uncommon’ things. Naturally, their parangs caught my eyes. For as cheap as RM40, one can buy a massive parang, complete with handle and sheath. These parangs were hung on the wall, together with other ‘touristy’ items like woven baskets, wooden walking poles, gongs and drums. I had a look at the parangs and I have to say that while they look absolutely nice from a distance, upon close inspection…they are really made of cheap, not trustworthy materials.
Checked with my guide and he told me that the parangs, in fact, most of the items on sale in the area are mass produced in neighboring country. It is an industry there to produce such things and then being sold in Sarawak. Well, as far as parang goes, it would probably look nice on a tourist wall at home but I hope they don’t decide to hang it at the waist for a walk in the jungle. Oh boy…will they be disappointed.
We finally made it to the Batang Ai jetty. The Batang Ai reminded me of Kenyir but more ‘volatile’ version of it. I was told that it is ‘seasonal’ but when we arrived, the waters were choppy and the wind was relentless. How bad can it be? Well, bad enough to capsize one of the local long boats there!
It took the boatman a good hour to get his outboard engine working. After that, we loaded our stuff onto 2 boats and started our 45 minutes long boat ride to Kampung Ukom in Batang Ai.