Bawang Assan headhunter village homestay

A short 45 minute van ride out of Sibu is the Bawang Assan village, of the Iban people. Like most tribes on Borneo they were into headhunting until as recently as WWII… and it was mentioned that in very remote locations there may even still be the odd beheading. All in the name of good fun, of course. But don’t worry, tourists aren’t a target – it was (is?) only worth taking the head of another warrior, as it was to prove your worth. Depending on which tribe you were in you needed to have taken 1-5 heads in order to be considered worthy of marriage. Thats right – the poor men were following orders, and it was the women who were really the bloodthirsty ones! The guys just did the head hacking bit.

Anyway they were the best hosts and I have no idea how much rice-wine we had as we went around the village greeting everyone (including the chief), but it was a lot! Apparently there aren’t many wooden homestay longhouses left upstream, they’ve been using concrete recently as its cheaper. So get in to Bawang Assan if you want to see real 100 year old wooden longhouses and be a part of a peaceful village community for a night or two. Just don’t bring alcohol. We didn’t because we were warned that the guy who wrote the lonely planet guide brought a bottle and with the generous hospitality of the villagers it was multiplied many times over. Travel photographers don’t have time to spend a week drinking and wandering around longhouses in our underwear!

backdoor, cat, headhunters, Iban, longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, raised wood walkway, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden house

Iban backdoor, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

 

golden rice fields, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, paddy, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden house

Rice paddy, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

hardwood, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, old, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, unpainted, village, vine patterns, weathered, wood, wooden house, wooden windows

Old longhouse windows, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

communal living space, headhunters, Iban, inside longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village

Communal longhouse, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, longhouse, making, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, mat, Sarawak, Sibu, straws, tribal, tribe, village, weaving, woven

Mat weaving, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

dark, Door, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, old religion, pagan, ritual, Sarawak, shaman, Sibu, sign, tribal, tribe, village

Shaman door, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, motorbike crossing, river, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden boat, wooden bridge

Wooden bridge and boat, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

basket, decapitated, fight to the death, headhunters, human skulls, Iban, longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, real, Sarawak, Sibu, skulls, tribal, tribe, village, warrior

What headhunters do best, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

boat landing, headhunters, Iban, jetty, low tide, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, mud, pier, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden houses.

Boat landing, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

dance, gongs, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, music, Sarawak, Sibu, traditional, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Music and dance, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, music, rapid gong playing, rhythm sticks, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Rapid gong playing, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

By popular demand, here’s one actually including me! Photo taken by Macartay, Iban Longhouse Homestay Co-ordinator.

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, my gong-playing cameo, Sarawak, Sibu, traditional, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Strange looking gong player, Iban headhunter longhouse, Malaysian Borneo

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About James Williams

I am writing this blog to help people put the media in perspective; to think and stand up for ourselves. No one else is going to!
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4 Responses to Bawang Assan headhunter village homestay

  1. Maggie Kyle says:

    A bit spooky James- but AMAZING old wood… and its great to see a photo of you (looking well and I am sure smiling)
    Maggie

  2. The wood is Belian hardwood, the only wood on Borneo capable of being submerged for a long time (I don’t really capture it in the photos but most of the village was under water and there were boardwalks instead of paths). It is highly prized and very valuable now since there isn’t much left.

    I think by that stage I’d had so much rice-wine (tuah) that that was as much smiling as I could muster without stuffing up the gonging… and you don’t want to annoy headhunters! :-)

  3. jumbo says:

    Thanks! Great info on the longhouse stay. I plan to go there this weekend. I am actually from Sibu, but have not been there before, can you believe that?

    • Sama-sama, Jumbo. Ask your hosts if you want any extra cultural performances and they’ll be able to employ some of the villagers for you for some ringitts. I didn’t find out they can do more performances until I was leaving! Cheers, James.

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