One of the most memorable experiences Sarawak has to offer is a visit to a longhouse, where you can observe a unique way of life and enjoy legendary Dayak hospitality. These thriving communities, whole villages under one roof, are not relics from the days of tribal warfare - they are the preferred way of life for a large percentage of Sarawak's rural people, particularly the Iban, the Bidayuh and the Orang Ulu.
Nowadays, most longhouse dwellers are hard working farmers, and wear practical modern clothing for work and leisure. However, if you visit as part of an organized tour group, they will take great pride in wearing their traditional costumes and regalia and performing elaborate dances and welcoming rituals for their visitors. On an organized tour, visitors will be offered tuak (rice wine) and entertained with traditional music and dancing. Guests are expected to join in the fun. After the entertainment is finished there are a number of options, depending on how adventurous you are. Some arrange for visitors to eat a traditional longhouse dinner and sleep on the ruai (covered verandah), whilst others have guest houses nearby for those who prefer more privacy.
Visitors who stay more than one night can get to see Iban culture at first hand, visiting the rice fields and pepper gardens, and learning how the Iban makes use of the rainforest for all of their everyday needs. The Iban are a very sociable people, and many can speak English, so some fascinating conversations are guaranteed.
There are four main areas for visiting Iban longhouses - the Skrang River, the Lemanak River, Batang Ai, and the middle Rajang River. Most tour groups will generally visit the first three, which are half a day away from Kuching, whilst independent travellers usually opt for the Rajang area around the town of Kapit, a half day's travel from Sibu.
Another interesting possibility is a trek through the beautiful Bario Highlands, staying overnight in remote Kelabit longhouses. Visitors with little time to spare can visit a Bidayuh longhouse on a day trip from Kuching, or an Iban longhouse from Sibu or Miri. However, overnight stays are strongly recommended, to get the most from your visit.
Getting to Kuching is easy with direct international flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Jakarta, Osaka-Kansai, Seoul-Incheon, Tokyo-Haneda, and connections to most of the major Malaysian cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, and Johor Bahru.