Tourism Malaysia

Enjoying a liberality of headhunters in Borneo

Enjoying a liberality of headhunters in Borneo

Rumah Bundong is a 60 year-old, 50-door longhouse nearby Kapit in a Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is inhabited by about 40 families of Iban ethnicity, who are famed, among many things, for headhunting.


Yes that’s right—headhunting—and 40 families means there are a lot of them. Still, I’m speedy to learn they ceased a use around WWII since I’ve inaugurated to stay with them for dual nights and honestly we don’t wish them removing any ideas.

When we initial arrived during Rumah Bundong, one of a initial things we saw were skulls moving from rafters in front of a headman’s bilik (door). Whether it was a warning for uncontrolled guest or a hideous commemoration for tourists, who knows? In any box we shortly took tiny notice of it since there were so many other things to take in.

Skulls unresolved from a rafters during Rumah Bundong. Pic: Joanne Lane.

The longhouse was located about an hour’s rough expostulate from Kapit and opposite a cessation bridge; in many ways a thespian attainment that combined to a experience.

A ruai (verandah) connected a 100-metre prolonged structure with doors heading to particular family areas. The verandah was a village area where women dusty grains, divided a fish catch, worked on handicrafts, disposed children and chatted. The organisation also grouped together to smoke, mend fishing nets and carve hooks. There was a genuine clarity of a close community.


I was given accommodation for a price with a headman, Tua Rumah Bundong Tajok, and his family. His married children lived with their possess families in a array of bedrooms in a same quarters, while singular members slept in a loll or nearby a guest buliding – a loft above a vital area.

The 100 metre prolonged widen of a Rumah Bundong longhouse. Pic: Joanne Lane.

There was electricity, a television, they had mobile phones and lived in simple though gentle rooms. An latrine was used for soaking and toileting, though many people bathed down during a river.

Few in a family spoke English though it didn’t matter. The headman’s mother and daughters prepared tasty dishes of beef and vegetables that we ate communally on a kitchen floor. It was smashing to be enclosed in family life and not treated differently and we dived into a bowls with everybody else.

The initial day we spent personification with a headman’s grandchildren, showering in a tide and exploring to get a clarity of a rhythms of a longhouse. Most people were farmers and spent a days operative in a fields. There was also a propagandize on site for younger children. In a afternoon a workers would lapse home and accumulate on a verandahs.

On a second day we accompanied a headman, some of his family and a dozen workers to their fields. We set out during dawn, walking for 30 mins opposite hillsides and rivers to strech what seemed to be a array of burnt out, hilly paddocks.

It didn’t demeanour too earnest to me though we guessed they contingency have recently privileged them for replanting – a charge for today. While we sat eating breakfast one of a comparison men, lonesome liberally in tattoos, constructed a duck and cut a throat. When he dipped a feathers in a blood and set them in a plate of food—perhaps to magnify a work—visions of headhunting came to mind again.

The lunch time feast after a sweaty morning in a fields. Pic: Joanne Lane.

However it was shortly transparent a duck was a lunch. The headman burnt a feathers in a glow and began to ready it. Meanwhile a organisation started creation holes in a belligerent with poles and a ladies trailed behind stuffing a pockets with rice seeds.


After examination for awhile we assimilated a women and was shortly scratched, sweating and lonesome in ash. It was tough work. When we pennyless for lunch a women gave me a prolonged sleeved shirt, pants and a conical tillage shawl for protection.
We feasted on chicken, rice and vegetables in a hovel by a tiny stream. Before returning to a fields we all jumped in a H2O to cold off. As a midday object came out in blazing excellence we wondered if we could crawl out gracefully, though we didn’t wish to let a side down.

By a time we were finished we satisfied we had warranted my acclamation and behind during a longhouse was invited into homes, had food pulpy on me and treated as partial of a community.

On my final day a debate organisation visited a longhouse. Each was given a sip of tuak, rice wine, and food to eat and there was song and dancing. we was seated with a headman’s family via this and it seemed an confirmation we had turn partial of a family even only for those few days.


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