What better time to look back at my visit to Malaysia’s rainforest than when the winter’s first snowstorm hits Saskatchewan? While it’s been a few years since my visit, it feels like yesterday when I browse through my photos and travel journal.
Malaysia is a great place for North Americans to visit for a number of reasons. Since it came under British rule for many years, English is widely understood and in larger centers, you’ll even find lots of English signs. The official langauge is Malay, but in Sarawak and Sabah English has widespread usage.
More than 15% of Malaysian forests are primary forest biodiverse habitats. There are 1671 identified species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds according to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre–of these, nearly 14% don’t exist anywhere else on earth.
Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is a two-hour boat ride away from the Batang Ai National Park, where I’d visited the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre with its population of Orang Utans. This sanctuary for the “wild men of Borneo” as the Orang Utan are also known, rehabilitates these creatures for release into the wild.
While proximity to the park and rainforest are part of the reason for the resort’s location, the area’s history is also important. Generations ago the local Iban people fought fiercely against the white Rajahs to try to maintain their customs. Today, it’s considered to be the heart of the Iban territory.
The resort is built in the style of a longhouse, which is the traditional communal living style of home for many of the people in Malaysia. To me, the interior has the long, long hallways we usually find in hotels, along with guest rooms. What’s different is the Ruai–or wide open area between the bedrooms and the deck.
Traditionally, single men and visitors slept in the Ruai. It was also, of course, a gathering place to visit and tell stories, while having a view of the river. Since friends and enemies both had to arrive by waterways, this was important!
There was another reason for having the longhouse face the river though, which was to keep the spirits of the river happy.
Our evening walk along the Batang Ai Resort boardwalk took us about half a kilometer into the rainforest, where our guide pointed out some of the trees and flowers. While I’ve used a lot of cinnamon, it was the first time I’d seen the tree it comes from. Although I’m not fond of tapioca, it was another tree I was surprised to find in the jungle.
And of course, there were also banana trees with their huge leaves. I’d already found, in the cities, that my favorite food from street vendors was fried bananas, or Goreng pisang in Malay.
This YouTube video will take you to Batang Ai Longhouse and let you meet some of the local people.
Visit Batang Ai Resort
Address: Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia Phone: +60 83-584 388
My thanks to Tourism Malaysia for hosting me on this once-in-a-lifetime visit! See: http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/ca