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A day with the jungle teacher- Part I

Raman explaining the usage of some of the plants we say during the walk

I enjoy organizing groups to Raman’s place in Gombak. I now consider him as my jungle teacher. A person who knows his jungle well enough to rely on it for most of the things he and his family needs. Raman suggested a short jungle walk, so I recruited some friends who I know will be interested for the experience.

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Learning jungle craft with friends

Together with some friends, we walked into Raman’s cultural classroom

A lady acquaintance who runs an NGO promoting traditional crafts of the indigenous people kept mentioning the name Raman to me after a few attempts to find out who can I go to get a parang handle and sheath made. After a few meetings with Raman, I have come to the conclusion that he is more than a craftsman; he is a real life teacher that specializes in jungle craft skills and knowledge.
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Jungle skills with the Ibans of Batang Ai, Borneo

Our Iban guides with the parangs on their waist ready to setup camp

This was my first experience seeing the Ibans bush skills in the jungle. We have walked a good 3 hours to our campsite, along one of the local Iban’s usual hunting grounds. With our packs down on the ground, our guides started to scan the area for a good spot to build shelter and kitchen areas. The chief guide then gathered the rest of the guides…murmurs a few words and they all disappears.

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Making river prawn trap using a face net ( military face veil)

Some of the river prawn caught and cooked

A face net or face veil (some people call it Shemagh) can be used to make a simple trap for river prawns. There are several methods to catch river prawns with a net like this. During a trip to test out my minimum kit , I decided to try making a prawn trap similar to the bigger ones used on rice field waterways.
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The many uses of bamboo by the Bidayuhs of Semban village

The Bidayuhs in Semban is really resourceful with the natural materials found around them

It is amazing how the Bidayuhs in Semban, Sarawak make use of bamboo in their daily life. Its been known that bamboo has a thousand and one uses. I have seen bamboo being used to start fire, cook food, obtain water, carvings, weapon, traps and so much more. But during this second trip to Semban, I learn new uses of bamboo.

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‘E’kak’ the bamboo container that holds food for months

E’kak stacked together with split bamboos

‘E’kak’ is a container, made of bamboo is used by the Bidayuhs in Semban to keep their smoked food (game meat usually) for months, at times up to more than a year. Here, local guide Glen lets me have a closer look at the ‘E’kak’.

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Traditional utensil crafts used in Bidayuh kitchen, Semban Sarawak

The variety of hand woven baskets for a variety of tasks

Traditional crafts and utensils like plant leaves for food wrapping, palm fronds as food basket and bamboo platters are all still part of everyday life in the Bidayuh village of Semban, Sarawak. Each time I visit this beautiful place, I am amazed at the resourcefulness, determination and practicality of the people. In a way, I think they are masters of bushcrafting in their own right.

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‘Bleh-teh’, man made bee hive/ nest in the village of Semban, Sarawak

It’s a win-win relationship between villagers and bees in Semban

The villagers of Semban, Sarawak make their own artificial bee hive/ nest from natural materials found in the jungles around them. Placed under their wooden houses and huts, the bees in return provide their ‘landlords’ with honey and hard work pollinating the flowering plants in the farm.

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Traditional furnace of the Bidayuhs in Semban, Sarawak

Here is a video of a traditional furnace which belongs to the Bidayuhs in Semban Sarawak. Local guide and villager Glen and his father was kind enough to setup the furnace just to demonstrate how their old furnace works. The feathers on the ‘plungers’ are not from chickens but from a particular type of raptor.

Many apologies for the poor sound recording.

Old tools of the Bidayuh in Semban; Part VIII

The fibers from Ijok palm tree has been used as cordage for generations and is still being used today

Some of the old tools that belong to the Bidayuh villagers in Semban are so old; they date back generations to the time of Rajah Brooke. During our visit there, we got to see traditional Bidayuh sugarcane crusher, old hunting weapons, hand powered forge and even an old rifle.

Continue reading Old tools of the Bidayuh in Semban; Part VIII