Bidayuh Longhouse in Mongkos

The Bidayuhs are one of the biggest tribes in Sarawak with more than 150 thousand members. Because of their proximity to the capital city of Kuching most of them no longer live in the traditional Longhouses. These days large villages called kampongs take their place, which is why I was very happy to have the opportunity to visit one of the last remaining Bidayuh longhouses.

Each year one or two families in the longhouse host the Gawai Dayak celebrations

Each year one or two families in the longhouse host the Gawai Dayak celebrations

Malaysians love their flags ;)

Malaysians love their flags ;), in the foreground baskets with offerings for a good harvest

The longhouse is located in the center of a newer kampong which grew around it over the years as space inside the main structure run out. The village is called Kampong Mongkos, and the longhouse in it is probably the best preserved Bidayuh longhouse in Sarawak. Since nearly all the longhouses on the Indonesian side of the border have been replaced by villages this one is probably the last place where you can still see a large and functioning Bidayuh longhouse.

Outside view of the longhouse, and some of the village building in the background

Outside view of the longhouse, and some of the village building in the background

Some of the other tribes in Borneo still dwell mostly in longhouses but since each tribe has a slightly different way of building their longhouse (or tallhouse in the case of the Melanau tribe) this particular building is very important.

During Gaway Dayak offering are made for a good harvest, the baskets contain all the basics for fieldwork, the tools, the seeds and food

During Gaway Dayak offering are made for a good harvest, the baskets contain all the basics for fieldwork, the tools, the seeds and food

You will notice that the main floor of the communal part of the building is divided into three sections. The bamboo part near the outside of the building is the sitting and sleeping platform for guests. The central bamboo floor is used for dancing during festivities and the smallest hardwood part near the doors of the individual Bileks (individual family unit/apartment) is used for utilitarian purposes (eg. carrying freshly cut meat and other unclean tasks).

DSCF3136

the Ruai, the division into three sections visible on the floor

During the harvest season a long strand of rattan is hang in the middle of the ruai (hall) which serves as a hand hold for people threshing rice padi with their feet. As the individual grains brake off they fall in the bamboo slats from which the floor is made. Below the longhouse mats and baskets are spread out to collect them.

Sleeping/sitting platform

Sleeping/sitting platform

There is a hostel in the village right next to the longhouse and home stay is also possible so if you are in Kuching visiting it is well worth taking the effort to travel to Mongkos and spend some time with the friendly folks there. I visited the village with friends from another village near by, so after taking some pictures we moved on to celebrate Gawai Dayak (Dayak festival) in the village and later in other villages…things got a bit hazy there so I will leave that for another time.

Traditional leaf decorations, in the background people resting from the previous nights party

Traditional leaf decorations, in the background people resting from the previous night's festivities

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5 Responses

  1. i love you long house can you send me lot about bidayuh longhouse kampung mongkos i mis you all kampung mongkos friends

    • Sorry I only went there twice and I don’t have any more info on the place than I have already posted. It is a nice place to visit and see a proper Bidayuh Longhouse though. Maybe next year I will visit it again but this year I have other places planned. So many places to see in Sarawak so little time off (from work) 😦

  2. Well if you really want to experience what a real longhouse is like you really need to deep into the hearts of Sarawak. Places like Batang Ai will be a good start. Here is a link to help you find out what longhouse is really all about actually…

    • I understand what you are trying to say, but keep in mind the Mongkos longhouse is real it was built a long time ago and the wood was taken from an even older longhouse. There is also plenty of jungle around the area and it is one of the best places to visit for gawai. But having said that I have also visited some of the places in Batang Ai and I like the area as well.

  3. batang ai is iban. mongkos is bidayuh. 2 different tribes, two different styles.

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