Between Sibu and Bintalu is a small place called Mukah. The town of Mukah is fairly non descript, but when we found out that there was a small village just outside with a traditional longhouse that you could stay in we were really keen to visit. We booked a room the night before and Ms Diana, the owner, advised us that as she was holiday she would arrange for one of the neighbours to be there to welcome us.
Four hours on a coach and a short taxi ride later we arrive. As soon as we walked across the rickety bridge to the front veranda we knew we had made the right decision to stay here. The house is situated in a small village of circa two hundred people. The houses, all wooden and all on stilts to keep them out of the swampy ground and rivers running below, are painted in lovely muted pastel colours. The only sounds are the local children, chickens, birds and the occasional small boat chugging up the river. Pure tranquillity.
We are shown to our room, given the keys and then left to our own devices. We are astonished that we’re the only people staying here. We have the entire longhouse to ourselves. We really appreciate the trust that Ms Diana has given us, particularly as the ground floor of the house has been turned into a mini museum with historic artefacts, musical instruments and valuables openly accessible. Really interesting but not ideal when you have a one year old crawling, clambering baby on the loose!
After walking around the village and chatting to some of the local folk (conversations opened again but the fact that we are travelling with a baby) we settle on the veranda to play ball with ‘the boy’. It was then that I noticed six or seven people walking across the bridge towards the back gate of the longhouse. Then more appeared, all with cameras around their necks. It was a tourist coach who had stopped off to visit the longhouse museum. Fifty pairs of eyes staring at us, but as they removed their shoes at the front door they were more interested in the star attraction ‘the boy’ rather than then museum. He was yet again pinched on the cheeks, cuddled, photographed and showered with attention.
Only a week previously we’d been walking around the longhouse village in the mountains, cameras around our necks, looking at the local families sitting on their veranda’s and now the shoe was on the other foot. It’s a strange feeling being stared at when you’re going about your own business and it’s certainly going to make me more sensitive to walking around other people’s environments.
Top tip of the day:
We’ve found ‘the boy’ to be a great ice breaker on our trip and we often find ourselves chatting to other parents after starting a conversation about their baby. We’ve met some really interesting people along the way and people have been very generous.
After chatting to a family with a baby in the longhouse village they offered us a lift into town.
I realise this trip was a couple of years ago now, but we’re thinking of taking an 8 month old with us to a wedding in a long house in Mukah and travelling round Borneo. I’m undecided and nervous about not having her vaccinated for measles and risk of malaria.
I would love to email you to get your thoughts more on the area etc and safety and travel there with a baby.
Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org