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