Real kampung boys
Scared of the blonde toddler monster
Chickens wander everywhere. Blotchy cats strut as if they own the place. Pigs snort loudly demanding food. A lady squats peeling tapioca roots for their dinner. Kampung boys and girls peep out from doorways. They are frightened of young Rohan - the blonde-haired toddler with bright yellow shoes. They retreat into the safety of their homes. An older man stops to chat with us. Other villagers greet us warmly. Many of the local men wear boardshorts without shirts.
Mr Edward is our host. He greets Mum and Dad with a glass of rice wine. Us kids get soft drinks. Edward's cousin has kindly moved out of his house for the night so that we have a two-bedroom "homestay". Lots of people here at Annah Rais village are related to Mr Edward.
Pola leads us towards the river. He points out fruit trees and herbs along the way. Banana, Starfruit and wild ginger. The durian tree is much taller than we expected. I have never tasted durian fruit in my life. No way! On the trip out from Kuching the driver stopped to load up six durians into the back of the van. He
loves them. They were stinky! Not for me.
Piles of firewood are stacked up beside the road. Sylvester is the knife man. He cuts off the stem of a stringy fern. He explains how to make it into rope and build a roof. Later, Pola cuts some some bamboo for cooking. He prepares "bamboo chicken" and serves it with "bamboo rice". We crack open the bamboo to eat the rice. It is a unique dish that is quite tasty. Everyone else seems to like it.
We paddle around in the river shallows. Dad digs his foot into the sand to escape the heat. Ouch! It's scalding - the heat is coming up through the earth.
Geothermal energy. It heats the rock pools well. A natural spa - just beware super-hotspots.
Pola leads us across the river on a local-style bridge. It is triangle-shaped and made entirely from bamboo. It looks shaky and it wobbles a bit as I cross. Mum finds the bridge crossing rather scary. So, Dad helps her across.
We keep going to a crystal-clear stream with a mountain backdrop. Rapids tumble down to a deep pool
Spear at the ready
with a sandy bottom. Dad grabs a vine and swings over the water Tarzan-style. Crash! The whole thing snaps off and dumps him. He be no Tarzan!
Meanwhile, young Rohan is happily tossing rocks into the water. Benji picks up the largest rock he can find. Kaboom!
The blowpipe is taller than Dad. It has a pointed Spear at one end. I can barely lift it off the ground. Edward's son shows us how to aim and shoot. Mum and Dad both hit the target. Benji has a few shots. The darts don't have poison tips. No-one is injured.
We are invited to the "head house". Indeed, there are "heads" in here. A dozen skulls from the old days of headhunting. We are reminded that the skulls are 200-300 years old. Phew!
The villagers take great pride in their community. We find lots of tropical plants growing here. Dad identifies the showiest plants as hibiscus, jungle flame and Heliconia.
The Bidayuh people have done a wonderful job of preserving their culture and making it accessible to all. We thank Mr Edward for sharing his village with us.
Simon drives us back to Kuching city. His family has roots in Singapore but he lives in Kuching. We ask him about the roaming chickens - how do the villagers work out where they belong? He says the chickens know who their owners are and the owners can tell them apart. They all look the same to me.
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