Sunday, June 3, 2012

Meet the folks - in Borneo

One of the requirements for being a jolly good Fellow, is presenting a paper at a conference. Seeing that the MELTA (Malaysian English Language Teaching Association) Conference this year is in Kuching, Sarawak, we signed up!

But who goes to Borneo just for a conference?

So we have taken a few days leave to have a look around before the conference starts.

The Orang Utan

'Orang' is the Malay word for person.

If you come to Borneo, of course you have to see these folks!

Through the hotel concierge (called Foster), we hired a personal tour guide (called Amadi, a friend / relative of Foster of course) and an air conditioned car.

Amadi is very familiar with the good folks at the Orangutan sanctuary, knows them all by name. He has been doing this kind of guiding for yonks, very knowledgeable about all things Sarawak, and is a good guide for this situation. (We have learnt that this is a very worthwhile way to do the tourist thing in places like this.)

When we first got there, this one female was hanging around having breakfast at the feeding station. More and more crowds (mostly Chinese) showed up and pranced around in front of their cameras - with the Orangutan in the background.

Then the park ranger chap suggested everyone might like to move on to feeding station number 2, up the path in the jungle, where his coworker was calling the other primates and offering them food. Amadi quietly suggested we stay where we were a bit longer.

Soon we were rewarded as the mother and baby Orangutan came down the road.

The park rangers worked hard to keep the crowds the mandatory 5 metres away from the pair. The mother kept stopping and looking around - it must have been pretty annoying for her. Amadi pointed out that just because she was walking slowly, it didn't mean that was as fast as she could go.

She went off the road and into the nearby trees, and the baby climbed off her back and swung up and down the trees, putting on quite a show. At one stage he tried to swing from a tiny branch and it broke off, giving him an obvious shock. But he always had one of his other limbs attached to something else.

And Mama was always within reach.

So then we went down the track to feeding station 2.

The park ranger was still on the platform (in the distance) calling, but the orangutans never did show up. At 10am the park closed and everyone had to leave.

The Village People

So then we went to see the cultural village - a kind of village set up for tourists to invade. It is all about the "Longhouse", and I must admit that it was not the kind of longhouse I remember reading about years ago.

It is essentially a  village built up on stilts and all joined together by a bamboo street.

There are lots of houses built along both sides of the bouncy bamboo walkway. Amadi (who has a thing for numbers a bit like our Grandson Sebastian) told us there are 'about 73 doors' in the longhouse, and some 2 000 people.

In between the houses, some of which have two floors, there are community areas. Each house has an internal cooking area, and an outside one like this.

A group entertained the tourists with a bit of a tune played on cooking pots.

One house is built up higher than all the others - this is the Head House. A place where traditionally only the men - village leaders - can go.

Inside the Head House we saw this cannon - ceremonially presented to the village as a respectful gift (and never 'fired in anger') years ago.

And, yes - those are skulls.

A basketful of skulls of conquered warriors from yesteryear.

Amadi knew about the special one, the skull of a more powerful warrior that is polished and kept hidden up high above the others. He grabbed a chair so that Peter could climb up and look.

Amadi's ('spiritual') brother runs a kind of restaurant in the village.

 As the crowds of tourists had mostly thinned, we entered this lovely cool bamboo room for a specially prepared lunch.

We were served with leaf-wrapped packages of sticky rice, and then there was a beautiful baked fish, some delicious chicken that had been cooked in a bamboo tube, and various vegetables.

All washed down with some locally-made rice wine.

The chaps sat down for a bit of a chin-wag, as the rain poured down.

I was amused watching the games the village girls were playing.

The village is very close to a lovely stream and hot springs. The plan was to go there next for a bit of a dip.

Pleasant spot, but rather too many other tourists for us to enjoy it!

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