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.
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 Since nearly all the longhouses on the Indonesian side of the border have been replaced by villages this one is probably the last place where you can still see a large and functioning Bidayuh longhouse.
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.
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).
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.
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.