A holiday in Sarawak is not complete without a visit to the longhouses that are the traditional dwellings of many of the natives here such as the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. A longhouse is a terraced street of separate dwellings covered by one roof. A tuai rumah (headman) is the head of the longhouse. Every family has their own separate bilik (room). Communal activities are carried out on the ruai (verandah). Male visitors will spend a night on the verandah whereas female visitors are invited to stay in the bilik or room.
Longhouse communities normally wear practical clothes like jeans and T-shirts. They only wear their traditional costumes during festivals like Gawai Dayak or the Iban harvest festival and also during weddings. Tour groups are normally greeted with a glass of tuak or rice wine and a welcome dance. After that, they will tour the longhouses and will be entertained by various cultural performances. You are usually invited to join in the dancing. Visitors can spend a night at the longhouses or in a nearby guesthouse.
By Road and River
The distance to your longhouse depends on where you’re going, but a common programme, run out of Kuching, picks you up at your hotel for the 2-hour drive to a jetty by a major river. After that you may go up or downriver by longboat for one or two hours to reach the longhouse.