In search of Iban tribes

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July 14th 2013
Published: July 14th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

I had always wanted to see the Iban tribes in Borneo and decided to fly to Kota Kinibalu (KK), Borneo for a long weekend trip in February 2012. Unfortunately, I was not well prepared; other than my flight and hotel, I hadn’t made any other arrangement as I was on a business trip prior to my departure and the repetitive emails sent to a travel agent was not properly attended.

I must have taken it for granted as when I travel in other South East Asia countries, it was quite easy to rent a car with a driver at the airport. To my surprise, I could not find any in KK! I then realised I was in Malaysia where labor is in shortage. Anyhow, I took cab going to Novotel, a newly opened hotel at the new area of KK. After checked in, I learned that the hotel didn’t have an excursion desk. Thankfully, I found one at the ground floor at the mall adjacent to the hotel, and they could arrange a sunset river cruise in the afternoon for me.

I was picked up by a bus along with participants and were taken to Kota Klias, approximately 2.5 hours from KK. Once arrived, we were served tea and snacks before boarding the boat. Yes, we got to see the Proboscis monkeys (whose got funny looking nose) in the wild but my tele lens was not long enough to capture them clearly unfortunately. We came back again to the restaurant and waited for the sunset, before headed back to the river to see the fireflies in the dark. The evening river cruise was quite rewarding as I got the chance to see those sparkling fireflies resembling the decorative in a Christmas tree and was quite eerie actually. Sadly to say, I was not able to capture this in photograph (even the guide told us not to bother trying doing so). We also spotted a baby crocodile floating near a river boulder. We returned to the restaurant for our dinner and headed back towards KK.

The next day, I was determined to find Iban tribes so I booked another flight to Miri, a small town in Northern Sarawak (KK was in another state, Sabah). It’s a small town with 300,000 population near Brunei. Apart from known for its oil, timber and oil palm industry, Miri is also a popular scuba diving destination (but I had not intended to go for scuba diving during this trip). I had made the arrangement for a visit to an Iban tribe village upon arrival from the travel agent in KK, so I was picked up at the airport by my guide who then took me to the Iban tribe village about one and half hour drive. When we arrived at the village, I had not expected to see a modern, wooden long house, and later on were explained that ever since the long house caught fire a few years before, it had been rebuilt. I had expected a traditional wooden long house with some people still wearing traditional costumes and was explained that I needed to take a half day boat ride via river and stayed over night if I were to do so. I met a few Iban people who explained to me that some of their relatives were on the Indonesia’s Borneo side, upon knowing that I was Indonesian. A lady called ‘grey hair’ or ‘uban putih’ was found making a woven basket and explained a lot of her relatives went to the rice field in the morning (the place was
Grey Hair or Uban PutihGrey Hair or Uban PutihGrey Hair or Uban Putih

weaving a basket
rather empty). She said they -- approximately 200 people living in two long house - all were related.

Next destination was Petroleum museum, a temple and a fisherman village, which used to be much larger. I visited a layered cake shop where I had a chance to see how the cakes were being made. Actually, if I had a lot more time, I could have visited a lot more places in Miri as there are caves at a few National Park. As it was a day trip for me, I took an evening flight back to KK. The next day on Sunday, I took my Silkair flight back to Singapore which unfortunately got delayed for 7 hours.

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