A holiday in Sarawak is not complete without a visit to the longhouses that are the traditional dwellings of many of the natives here such as the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. A longhouse is a terraced street of separate dwellings covered by one roof. A tuai rumah (headman) is the head of the longhouse. Every family has their own separate bilik (room). Communal activities are carried out on the ruai (verandah). Male visitors will spend a night on the verandah whereas female visitors are invited to stay in the bilik or room.
Longhouse communities normally wear practical clothes like jeans and T-shirts. They only wear their traditional costumes during festivals like Gawai Dayak or the Iban harvest festival and also during weddings. Tour groups are normally greeted with a glass of tuak or rice wine and a welcome dance. After that, they will tour the longhouses and will be entertained by various cultural performances. You are usually invited to join in the dancing. Visitors can spend a night at the longhouses or in a nearby guesthouse.
If you do decide to stay overnight at a longhouse, just be aware that you’ll have very little privacy. It is a communal experience.
How to get there
By Road and River
The distance to your longhouse depends on where you’re going, but a common programme, run out of Kuching, picks you up at your hotel for the 2-hour drive to a jetty by a major river. After that you may go up or downriver by longboat for one or two hours to reach the longhouse.
The highlight of this tour is an overnight stay at a traditional longhouse.