Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Sarawak Dayak Art of Beads


Beads... Synonyms to the Dayak heritage on arts, crafts and cultures.

Dayak in Sarawak compromising of more than 20 ethnics has lot of creatives souvenirs to offer. Tattoo, is now well-known by the tourist, amazingly some of them fly for hours just to realize their dreams to have the Dayak Tattoo on their bodies.

I was first think that the souvenir sold at souvenir shop was too expensive. The price that could be the vampire to the tourist. However, it was change when I myself try to reveals on how the make it. I try to trail my best friend (actually is my wife) on her hobbies on the beads. My goodness... I will never ask about the price again! Another question coming in, either the returns is worthy compare to the times she spent for one product! Fortunately, she make some extra pocket money for this. Today, she even can "export" it to a friend in West Malaysia!

Beads are made as a small components with a small hole inside it. The smaller it is, the more expensive the souvenir will be, means more time to spend, more tidy, more beautiful and of course more quality.

Other than the products that I attached on the photos below, beads can make to anythings; tissue holder, wallet, decorative photos, bottles, bags, bracelets, rings etc......

The patterns normally depend on the creativity of the designer. It is more to the nature, living and non-living organism, which link the connectivity between the original believe of the Dayak to their creator. With the change of times and modernization of civilization, they try to harmonize the patterns with the sensitivity of other religions.

However, the beauties of the Dayak art of Beads is still maintain.

A creative chili key-chain, as well as cross for the Christian.

"Ngepan", an Iban traditional costume for the ladies. It can cost about RM 300 to RM 500 per set.

Comparison on the size of the beads to the size of a cigarette. No doubt, it needs time and patient to weave it to an accessories.

This small key-chain may cost only RM 2-RM 5.00. There is no standard price on this...

The "marek" or necklace... Only cost about RM 50-RM 80.00. Depend on the creativity of the designer.

This small multi-purpose basket may cost until RM 100.00. Expensive? Try to do it yourself!!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kg Sok Longhouse - Built for the last

The general view of the Melanau Longhouse, Kg Sok, Matu.

Longhouses in Sarawak

Longhouses in Sarawak is normally synonyms to the Dayak tribes compromising of three major ethnics, Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. When talk about longhouses, many will thinking of the naive settlements on the naive civilizations. It is also link the longhouse to the semi-nomad ethnic in Sarawak. No doubt, many have bad impression on Sarawak, labeling Sarawak as a poor state in Malaysia. In fact, most of the youngsters now shy to confess that they are living in longhouse.

In tourism perspective, longhouse has become the icon for Sarawak, promotes this multi-culture state as one of the most visited state in Malaysia. I myself believed that most tourist came and visit Sarawak for its culture and natural beauties. So, how bad the impression is, the tourist must have the desire to come back to Sarawak for the second, third or fourth visit.

For the Dayak longhouses, Iban still have thousands of longhouses, new and old which is still well maintained by the younger generation. Bidayuh and Orang Ulu which compromising of lot of smaller tribes as well has their longhouses which is still in place to proud of. However, for Melanau, longhouse is an extraordinary...for the youngsters. In fact, I do believed that other ethnics, how develop are they or how fast their civilization is, longhouse is an early form of settlement. For modern settlements, they adopt the concept to terrace houses, shop houses, etc... The concept of the longhouse is still there which proof that the modern civilization recognized that longhouse is a good concept. Hence, the longhouse youngsters shall not shy to confess that they are living in a longhouse. The only leaking in the long houses in Sarawak is the infrastructures. This mostly of the scattered location where Government difficult to provide the infrastructures. Whatever it is, Government should look into how to develop the infrastructures to them. After all, I do believed that Government has the experts that we can relied to. Am I talking too muc? I dont think so...

The Different between Dayak Longhouse and Melanau Longhouse

The front view of the Kg Sok Longhouse. It is believed that modification being made to the structures. The main entrance originally on the side of the longhouse. (Note: My scetch on the difference between longhouses of Iban, Melanau and Bidayuh Selakau will be attached later)

I never been to any types of Orang Ulu longhouse. As such, I just can compare the Melanau Longhouse and Iban longhouse which are well-known by the others. For a visitor like me, which on and off visit to the longhouses, the only different between the longhouses is the "ruai". Longhouse are normally compromising of four components; "tanju", "ruai", "bilik" and "dapur". The same design for the Melanau longhouse. However, Melanau longhouse has their "ruai" right in the middle of the longhouse where on the right and left of the longhouse are the "Bilik". This means that "tanju" which is normally in front of the Iban's longhouse, are built at the back of the Melanau longhouse. This is my judgment based on my visit to this two ethnics longhouse. Its however might a better description for the original concept of the longhouses by the experts. As I tell you earlier, I am just an on off visitor to the longhouses.

The History.

Its written:
"Rumah Panjang Melanau ini, berusia lebih daripada 100 tahun dan ia adalah pada masa ini merupakan yang tunggal di Sarawak bagi masyarakat Melanau di seluruh dunia. Mengikut sejarah, asalnya rumah panjang ini hanya mempunyai 4 pintu yang dibina sekitar 1872 dan pada tahun 1888 bilangan pintunya telah ditambah menjadikan 26 pintu kesemuanya sehingga sekarang. Ruang Ruai berada di tengah rumah sebagai tempat beristirehat.

Rumah panjang ini dibina secara bermuafakat oleh penduduk setempat ia berukuran 210 kaki panjang dan 40 kaki lebar. Pada asalnya, struktur asasnya diperbuat daripada kayu belian sementara atap dan dinding menggunakan daun rumbia.

Sebelum agama Islam, penduduknya berfahaman animisma (Liko). Menurut kepercayaan setempat, kerja-kerja baikpulih bangunan ini hanya boleh dilakukan oleh penghuni yang dilahirkan di rumah panjang ini sahaja dan sesiapa yang melanggar adat ini akan ditimpa masalah."


The longhouses was believed to be built 135 years ago, when the Matu Melanau still practicing the ancient believed known as "Liko" by the locals. It can be prove by the old grave meters away from the longhouse. Nowadays, most of the Matu Melanau are Islam. Even though there is no clear proof that this longhouse built as old as the claimants, the original structures are made of belian (ironwood) logs as the main columns. I don't think that the "Engineers" or the "Architects" really wants this heavy and over design columns as their construction materials. In fact, Matu is a swamp area where they cannot find any belian in their jungle. They nearest supplier shall be from Selangau where the river plays his major roles for the transportation.

Starting from two "bilik" in 1873, its grew to 13 and later to 26 and it is still counting.

The Hope

The wooden gateway to the longhouse, which welcome the visitors in Melanau Language.

The Kg Sok Melanau Longhouse have being gazetted as a historical heritage under the State Museum Department. Located in a remote area of Mukah, the longhouse used to attract tourists from over the world. As reported in a local newspaper, not less than 2,000 tourists came referring to their guests book.

Sadly, most of the interior part of the longhouse now had been damaged with the passing of time. As it is getting older, the only Melanau Longhouse left in Sarawak is rotting away. Hence, special attention really needs from the authority concerns.

The Melanau architecture of gateway, published in Melanau language that I cannot understand. However it might means " Bon Voyage".

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Lost Town of Penakub Bazaar

Penakub Bazaar is located about 10 km from Mukah Town. This quite town believed was one of the famous and potentially to be a develop town. However, it was before roads was constructed. The kampongs surroundings depend very much on this bazaar to buy and trade their needs. I just can imagine how busy it was, the panaromic view of its wharves and jetties, maybe it just almost similar to the Malacca Port. I am thinking too much.

With paved roads were constructed, connecting all the kampongs, the peoples choose to go to Mukah for shopping. So, this small town was slowly abandoned. The traders slowly moved their business to the town which gives them more returns and customers. The only busy time for this town is during Chinese New Year. As usual, I am not a best story-teller, the photos below will gives clearer descriptions.

Empty road, empty shop houses, and empty business. This former busy town on his heyday has lost his reign.

Almost the whole row of this shop house in Mukah town is belong to the traders who was originally from Penakub. It must be due to better business..And they are now among the most successful traders and become the respected leaders for their community in Mukah.

The almost abandoned wharves and jetties at Penakub Bazaar. It was once important for the surroundings kampongs, but now road transport become more popular.

As usual, the rural are the strong supporters for BN. Please notice the flood level on the asbestos roof.

Mulong or sago logs on the access road to Penakub Bazaar. As other places in Mukah, sago is an important industry.

More and more developments for Penakub Bazaar. But it cannot afford to stop the locals from moving to other places, mostly to fast developing of Mukah Town. The folks and business is greatly dwindling.

However, birdnest industry suddenly becomes more important in Mukah Division. This high rise buildings or "Bird's Hotel" is growing everywhere including of Penakub Bazaar area.

Some of the bazaar renovated to "Birds' Hotel". Business is no more. So, the bird's hotel gives more return.

The only building which is still well maintain. The symbol of chinese early settlement at Penakub Bazaar

This old man...maybe the second, third or fourth generation of Penakub Bazaar. Its remind me to the Baba Nyonya in Malacca. He even can fluently speaking in Melanau languages.

Another view of almost abandoned wharves.

Anyway to bring back the title? Most of the kampongs surroundings now prefer to go to bigger town for shopping...but I do believe there is still a small hope!

Oh ya... I miss some of the information, there are a lot of Penakub name in Mukah. So, don't get confused on this lost town....

Sunday, February 15, 2009



For last few weeks, everybody was busy on to safe their valuable belongings and life. A great flood, believed to be the worst since 50 years gave a big impact on the social-economy to the locals either in rural or urban areas. (A Newspaper Cutting on 31/1/2009)

A view along Jalan Balingian-Kuala Balingian after the flood disaster....
"Rezeki Datang Bergolek"

The estuary of Mukah... The fishermen busy loading their returns. After a few weeks live in fears, they are happy, they pocket a thick bundle of money, I guess...

A fish monger came to my house yesterday, brings his fresh water fish and prawns. "Ikan pahit" (Above), "Ikan Paloi" (Centre), "Udang Galah" (Below). Surprisingly, they catch it without any special tools. Its really happened in Malay parable, "Rezeki datang bergolek"...

For the last few weeks, we have no choice other than to buy the “Ice-Fish”, sell by the stingy fishmongers. I tell you that Mukah is not a good town to live. For those who thinking on saving, living in Mukah is not the right choice. Even though you can buy and enjoy the fresh fish and vegetables, it is not as cheap as what you heard five years ago. A bundle of vegetable, say “midin” that I can buy as cheap as RM 1.00 in Kuching, I have to pay double for a less quantities. The same thing happened to other needs.

It was even more terrible when water supply was cut off for at least one or two days due to flood on water intake. Everybody start quarreling and complaining for the hard time.

For a fishing-based town of Mukah and his smaller brothers’ town surroundings, the fishermen have nothing to do other than praying that God will stop the disaster. It is not surprise as the last three weekends was a busy weekends for my Church. In fact, I have to seat at the extra bench at back of the church to accommodate this extra-ordinary Christians. I guess that this should also happen to other religions and to the Mosques and Temples.

For the last few days, thanks God. The fishermen resume their routine activities, the farmers resume their planting and supply the foods for the locals, and I myself now have extra time to resume and updating my blog. Thanks God.

When I visit the wet market, there are plenty of choices for fish. Everybody seems busy on buying and selling. The estuary of Mukah River is busy on the fishermen’s tug boats, loading their return with smiles. Everybody seems happy, the fishermen pocketing thicker money, the fishmonger pocketing even thicker money, and the fish buyer (like me) can smile a little bit for a fresh and cheaper price of fish. Hey…sea foods are my favorites.

I was surprise when a fishmonger came to my house yesterday, promoting his fresh fish and prawns. Woww, the sell it on very cheap price compare to normal days. He is actually a part-time fishmonger, mongering the fish in weekends and my supplier for prawns. Furthermore, he is an Ustaz in a Government agency, among my best neighbor. I take that opportunity to interview him a bit. He informed me that it was a happy ending day after the disaster for the kampong folks. Prawns and fish are floating due to climate change. The no needs special tools to catch; some of them just used their hands and simple tools to catch it. Some even on the road side drain. It was really as what describe in a Malay parable, “Rezeki datang bergolek”!

In fact, most of the rural kampongs like Balingian and Kampung Sau are the heaven for prawn. Everybody in Mukah knows that these two places are the pool of prawns where people as far as Kuching and Miri came here for prawn fishing. It is not a surprised, due to climate change; the locals get free income from the flood disaster.

And finally the sad flood disaster, where everybody was terribly affected are now smiling. A happy ending day.

The fishermens are busy on their returns. An amazing income after the disaster. Now, the should thanks God for the disaster.

Yahoo.... It might be the word said by the "Umai" processor in Mukah Wet Market. Umai is a special dish, fresh raw fish served with special ingredients. Mukah local Sushi..

So on this happy ending story, on my today 30th birthday, I' am thinking of following my friend to joint the locals for the Prawn Fiesta in Balingian..... At least, I will really enjoy my birthday seafood dinner tonight... Woww.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matu – The Floating Town

Matu Town - The natural floating town (2009)

Business during flood...Good return to this kid...

This is just a story of one of small town in Sarawak, an isolated swamp town in the central region with unique culture and where flood is a yearly event.

Matu is situated about 200 km from his Divisional mother, Mukah which means that it is as far as about 400 km from Sibu Airport. Ironically, a travel from Sibu to Matu is much cheaper by rivers compare to by land and of course the cost of transport is much cheaper.

There are almost no building built on the ground, most of them are built on stilt which reflects that the locals know well known that they will face flood for every year. And it was. Except for Government building, which are properly constructed through proper investigation on the flood level, other buildings includes the shop houses are built on stilt. Another interesting part about this town is that most of the buildings are constructed using wood materials. However, the locals are born to be architect on naturally. Most of them are creative and can even construct and decorates their houses uniquely.
You will find no other design in any part of Sarawak maybe!

Once, Matu was the administrative centre of Matu and Daro District. That is the information that I get from the locals. In fact, the local council headquarter are located in Matu. Their District Office is a unique landmark, and constructed much advance than other District Office in Mukah Division. It is not a surprise if the colonize declared Matu as the administrative centre. However, due to natural disaster, flood has slow down the development of Matu. Daro has better opportunities, no flood and the choice for most travelers where they could easily get river transports to other bigger towns for shopping. What left now are the wooden shop houses which built maybe for last 50 years, at least!

The road webs, I means the paved road is connected the whole kampongs in Matu. Of course these are one of the efforts by their long-term service parlimentary, YB Datuk Haji Wahab Dollah and the one term hardworking assemblyman, YB Abu Seman, who works very hard to develop Matu. Of course I am agreed. If Sibu as the example another floating town in Sarawak was once the second largest town in Sarawak, so Matu should also no problems on this. The only thing is, it is an isolated area with very basic products to serve for business.

When great flood attacked major towns in Sarawak early this year, Matu of course has nowhere to escape. Surprisingly, the floods attacked are not giving any big impact to the towns. Where other towns are busy counting on their lost, Matu is one of the relax town during the floods. Their advantage is because they get used of it. The business runs as usual, the only thing is the change their mode of transport. In dry season, cars are the main vehicles, however during landas season; boats and small sampan are becoming more important. In fact, they used sampan on the road! Their vehicles? They parked it on the roads and bridges! Nobody disturbed or try to steal it because everybody on that area are facing the same problems.

It was a great view. I was there during the floods to buy a packed of cigarettes. They people are happy as there is nothing happened. They still can move here and there to do their routine activities mainly on land fishing. The parents not worried by the flood as their houses are much higher than the flood level and their children are mostly know how to swim. They are well trained. The children are happy; they can get extra income by running the “perahu tambang”. I can guarantee you that the fares are not cheap. My RM 9.00 cigarettes becoming RM 11.00 per packed plus the boat fare. That is fare for one passenger. Anyway, we need their service, and we have to pay for it. But I think, the children are happier because they get holiday, play in the water as I was when I was a kid. So they deserved for it.

The adults take the opportunity to catch crabs and prawn. This one I really cannot understand! However, I conclude that the crabs and prawns might be drawn due to the floods. That is one type of prawn, which the Mukah Melanau called it “Mang” which they catch it only by hand. It is amazing indeed! The price for the “Mang” informed not to be less than RM 30.00 per kilo. I myself not yet try how delicious it is but I believe it must be a special dish. So, actually brings them more luck.

For Matu folk, I really appreciate their patient. When I ask an old man on why they are not keen to moved, he said, “Matu is the only land we have, where we born and where we will be buried. Our community has got used of it, and our children have being train to face it. After all, it only happened once a year and actually not affects much on our daily needs.” I believed he is honest on his answer.

So, why I am travelling to the flood area where flood was happened? It was simple; I do my community contribution for the peoples. I smiles and proud, when they thanks me and waving their hands when it was done. Anyway, it gives me an idea of building my own floating house at my kampongs one day. But not to stay at this floating town, never!

Matu Town in normal days...